Thursday, January 28, 2016

Fairfax County readies for its Annual Chocolate Lovers Festival

It's that time of year again. As January and it's late-month whopping snow storm comes to a close, it's time to get revved up for the month of flowers and chocolate. As customary, Fairfax County gets ready for its annual Chocolate Lovers Festival. 

Image credit: Pixabay CC0 Public Domain
For more than 20 years, Fairfax County has celebrated chocolate with this festival, which takes place in Old Town Fairfax. This year's event will be held on Feb. 6 and Feb. 7. It looks to be a very family and kid-friendly event. I haven't been to this one yet as I just realized last year it was an annual event that typically takes place the first week in February.

According to the official website, some events are free, others do have a fee. Features of the weekend include the popular Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast, Bake Sale and Face Painting. This event is scheduled to be at Fire Station #3 4081 University Drive. (Cost is $8 per adult and $4 for children ages 4-10. Kids age 3 and younger are free). 

The annual Taste of Chocolate event will be on both Saturday and Sunday at Old Town Hall, 3999 University Drive. Various chocolate items will be for sale from more than 15 vendors. Admission to this event is free, but to taste samples, you must purchase Pogs at $1 each, which can be traded for merchandise.

Image credit: Pixabay CC0 Public Domain
On Saturday and Sunday the perennial Chocolate Challenge and Silent Auction takes place. See local chocolate artisans at work and then watch the celebrity judges make their decisions. Cast your own vote too. Adults $1, children under 18 free. Nutrition Kitchen, 3950 University Dr. (Note there are no strollers allowed, but there is designated "stroller parking"). 

Chocolate and a Movie takes place on Saturday night, between 7 and 9 p.m. the (what else?) classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (the original starring Gene Wilder) will be shown. There will also be a Golden Ticket winner who will win a mini iPad. Admission $5 per person and includes a Golden Ticket. To attend the movie, pre-registration is required by February 4.       
Other events include puppet shows, construct a cupcake and even a mock trial, “The Chocolate Caper Mock Trial" will take place. For a full list of events see the festival's event page. Looks like there are a lot of cool educational and history-related events going on over this weekend too. 

Additionally, a free shuttle called "The Chocolate Express" will run visitors between event locations from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

History and facts about the Ben Lomond Historic Site in Manassas

The Ben Lomond Historic Site is located in Manassas, Virginia, about 25 miles of Washington, D.C. A lot of history has taken place in this town, but it is perhaps best noted for the two major Civil War battles that took place within its borders. In July 1861 the First Battle of Bull Run took place and not too long afterward, the Second Battle of Bull Run occurred in August 1862.

Located just a few miles away, the Ben Lomond Historic Site played a pivotal role during the war.

History of the Ben Lomond home

Dating back to 1830, the land was originally owned by Robert “Councillor” Carter III, a man who inherited extensive land grants throughout Virginia from Robert “King” Carter, a major land baron. Originally the property was named “Cancer Plantation" (12 of Carter’s 18 properties were named for zodiac signs)

Benjamin Tasker Chinn (a grandson) inherited the land. Within two years Chinn built a grand two-story Federal style home, along with a dairy, kitchen, smokehouse and slave quarters. After Chinn married Edmonia Randolph Carter, his new wife renamed their plantation “Ben Lomond”. Eventually the Chinns moved to another home and rented out Ben Lomond to a family named the Pringles. 

Horrors of war

The Pringles experienced firsthand the horrors of war as the Civil War arrived to Manassas. The Confederate Army took Ben Lomand and turned it into a hospital. During this occupation, the Pringles were confined to living in one upstairs bedroom. 
View from the bedroom the Pringles were confined to (minus the car and road)

The home served as a field hospital for more than a month after the First Battle of Bull Run and then would go on to serve as a military hospital for many more months, according to the Prince William County website.

In 1862 the Confederate Army evacuated Ben Lomond and the Federal Army subsequently took over the house.

Visiting Ben Lomond Historic Site

It is hard to imagine what the interior of the home looked like in its original grandness because during the Federal Army’s occupation, the home’s furniture and contents were destroyed. Although, during a 2014 tour, I asked and was told the doors, windows and mantles are original to the home. They are really stunning.

Today the house is interpreted as it would have been during military occupation.

The rooms are preserved and set up as Civil War era hospital rooms. The tour is informative and you learn a lot of interesting information, along with really getting a feel for how it was for both the soldiers and the Pringles. 

Both armies left graffiti on the walls, and these etchings left by soldiers remain on the walls of Ben Lomond today. Most of the graffiti is covered with special paper to protect it, but the museum does keep some examples visible for visitors to see.

The original main house, slave quarters, dairy and smokehouse still stand today. The kitchen no longer exists. Visitors are welcome to explore the grounds. During the warmer months, there is also a rose garden to enjoy (the garden is not original to the house).

If you are in town visiting the Manassas National Battlefield, I recommend stopping by, it’s not too far from the Battlefield, being located just off Sudley Road at 10321 Sudley Manor Dr. Manassas, VA 20109. The museum is opened seasonally, from May to October (Thursday through Monday) or by appointment (703-367-7872). Additionally, there are a few special events offered throughout the cooler months too. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

9 interesting facts about the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Every year on the third Monday of January, the United States honors and celebrates the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. in his commitment to civil rights and social change. A firm advocate of non-violence, King affected the lives of many.

The newest memorial located on the National Mall, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was opened in August 2011. An estimated 1 million people per year visit this site on the Mall.

Interesting facts about the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial


1. Congress authorized the memorial in 1996. A competition was held for the design with more than 900 entrants sending in designs. A ceremonial groundbreaking took place in 2006, and construction began in 2010.

2. The memorial was realized due to the efforts of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, to which King belonged. This idea was conceived around a dining room table back in 1984.

3. The memorial sits on four acres. Its centerpiece is a statue of King. The 30-foot sculpture was created by renowned artist Master Lei Yixin.

4. Opened to the public in August 2011, the dedication was originally scheduled to occur on Aug. 28, the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. However, Hurricane Irene caused a delay and the memorial was instead dedicated on Oct. 16.

5. The memorial is made up of the sculpture of King, which is a part of the Stone of Hope, which emerges from two large granite boulders pictured below. These two boulders represent the Mountain of Despair to lead visitors to the Stone of Hope. This design was inspired by King’s famous speech with his words, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”  

6. Surrounding the Stone of Hope and Mountain of Despair is a large wall which has numerous quotes from Dr. King. The wall is 450 feet long.

7. The King sculpture originally contained the phrase, “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness”. This was a shortened and paraphrased version of the original quote and was moved in the last phrases of construction because it was decided the "Out of the mountain..." quote should be seen as visitors entered. 

However, there was no room to make the switch of the two quotes. Famed poet Maya Angelou said the paraphrase made King appear as an “arrogant twit", saying it, "minimizes the man", reported the Washington Post in August 2011.  Angelou noted King was anything but arrogant. 

This photo was taken a few months before the controversial phrase was permanently removed.
8. The paraphrased quote remained in place until summer 2013 when it was removed. Today, as you can see in the photo below, the sculpture does not contain any version of the quote. 

9. The King Memorial was built adjacent to the FDR Memorial and sits along the Tidal Basin. From the memorial, both the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials are in eye’s view. 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is located at 1964 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C. (commemorating the 1964 Civil Rights act). The memorial is open every day and NPS rangers are on site from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.
This photo shows most of the MLK memorial (except the wall which you can see one small part of off to the right)