VALLEY PIKE: ‘Something Old, Something New (town)’

Posted: May 15, 2013

‘Something Old, Something New(town)’

A fresh theme, or simply a variation on an old one?

In cogitating how best to introduce the latest iteration of an annual labor of love — the Newtown Heritage Festival — I considered the latter. That is, dredging up an old fraternity trick, much as I did last year, and galvanizing your attention with a headline advertising “Free Beer!”

But reversion to puerile sophomorics only works once, and should be discouraged and then resisted as painfully uninspired.

“Calculated redundancy,” after all, only works in political writing, as my mentor of mentors — retired U.S. Sen. (and editorial writer) Harry F. Byrd Jr. — often reminds me. Or when you’re decidedly clever. Which I am not.

Anyway, there’s no need for tired old saws and tricks because the Heritage Festival does have a theme this year.

OK, not an official one, because I just made it up. Which I guess I can do, as I am once again festival president — pretty much by default, as I’m the proverbial last man standing on our committee who is 1) not a public official, 2) not a former president, and 3) willing to serve in that capacity.

The committee’s “secretary for life,” Betty Wymer, has proclaimed me “president for life” — to which I counter by saying rather peevishly, “Only if I live that long.”

But I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah, I believe I was talking about a theme. Well, here it is: “Something Old, Something New(town).”

Alright, so it doesn’t get many style points for originality, but methinks it does capture the flavor of this year’s festival, our 21st, slated once again (and as always) for Memorial Day Weekend.

“Something Old?” Sure enough, we’ll have our “staples” — food and craft vendors on the Commons, some commemorative collectibles (a blue-and-gray Granville Pottery bowl and the third in our series of Civil War paperweights), our down-home Saturday parade, and, at dusk, a fireworks display we proudly advertise as “the best in the Valley.”

And, of course, we’ll have musical offerings all day fresh from the festival stage. This year’s lineup includes headliners Linda Lay & Springfield Exit (for bluegrass fans) and The Robbie Limon Band (for those of you who like an eclectic rock ’n’ roll mix with perhaps a dash of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams blended in) as well as the Back Creek Valley Boys and the Sherando High Jazz Ensemble.

What sets this 21st festival apart, we believe, is the “Something New(town)” element. For starters, there’s the return, after roughly a half-decade hiatus, of a children’s carnival on the grounds of the old Stephens City School. Its four-day run starts May 22.

Also at the old school, we’ll feature a Saturday quilt show and a transportation exhibit whose main attraction will be a 19th-century Conestoga/Newtown-style wagon (sans wheels) on loan from the Luray Valley Museum.

A totally new departure for us this year will be our inaugural Newtown 5-K “fun run.” The brainchild of new committee member Hilary Greene, who owns and operates Chick Fitness on Warrior Drive, the 5-K will be run largely through the back streets of Historic Stephens City. Proceeds will be dedicated to the construction of the town’s Veterans Memorial.

And, last but hardly least, “Newtown” will throw out the welcome mat to writer Jason Wright (“The Christmas Jars” and “The Wednesday Letters”) at an author’s reception on Friday night of the festival. Jason, who hails from Woodstock, will also serve as de facto grand marshal of Saturday’s parade.

The pertinent dates are May 22-25, and if you stop by the house on Valley Pike, I may even offer you a beer. Free, of course, like everything else at the festival save for the “Three C’s” — commemoratives, concessions, and carnival rides.