by Julie Reardon
Despite some unseasonably warm 75 and 80 degree days in February, technically spring’s not here quite yet. But the days are noticeably lengthening and the sun is stronger; in sheltered areas daffodils and crocus are already blooming. They might just be mixed up due to those balmy days, even though we could still get a big winter storm. I personally take comfort in the fact that the snow doesn’t hang around in March the way it does in January or February. Gardeners are itching to get their hands dirty although we know better—we scratch the itch by starting seeds indoors and pruning things that need it until the danger of frost passes. Skunks have been on the move—February is their mating season; and we see the geese and wood ducks pairing up and nesting a little earlier than usual.
This can be a tricky month to plan ahead for outdoor activities, so we’ve included both indoor and outdoor fun things to do and see in the Blue Ridge. Most don’t require much, if any, advance planning. And you’re guaranteed to see lots of daffodils, forsythia and maybe even some early blooming redbuds at the end of the month on the drive out.
Starting with the Warrenton Hunt point to point on March 17, there is no better harbinger of spring than horse racing over fences in the hunt country. The typically smaller and casual point to point races, also known as the pots and pans circuits (because horses race for trophies only, no purses) serve as tune ups for the big sanctioned steeplechase races that start in April. So pick one to attend–there are races every weekend for the next two months. General admission is generally $15 to $20 for the point to points and tickets can be purchased at the gate; although reserved railside party spaces do require advance planning and the good ones sell out early. See schedule below with information and websites where applicable.
For the athletes who prefer to run cross country themselves rather than watching horses do it, check out the Shamrock Shuffle on Saturday, St. Patricks’ Day, March 17. This is a 5K Fun Run at Verdun Adventure Bound in Rixeyville (located about halfway between Culpeper and Warrenton). Participants can walk or run while enjoying the beautiful cross country trail on the property and there is even a 1K Run around the pond for children with post-race activities including face painting. Feel free to walk or run. Verdun Adventure Bound is located at 17044 Verdun Adventure Bound Trail, Rixeyville. $40/person, $70/couple, $25/student | $12 youth 1K Run. Verdun Adventure Bound is probably better known for its socially conscious summer camp youth programs with emphasis on land stewardship although they also offer team building and corporate outings for adults, visit verdunadventurebound.org for details.
If you frequent social media, then you’ve surely seen those paintings done by your friends that tried their hand at creating art while sipping wine. Yes, it’s a thing now. Even if you aren’t an artist, it’s like magic—an instructor to help you, a glass or two of wine and voila, you’re an artist. You won’t believe your eyes at the sleight of hand and other tricks magician/mentalist Savino Racine puts on March 10th at Otium Cellars; he’s a very popular performer and according to the winery, his shows usually sell out. Admission is $20 ($5 discount for Otium wine club members. The paint and sip class is Friday, March 16th at Otium; a winery in western Loudoun County near Purcellville. The friendly staff there invite you to “say Goodbye to winter and “Hello” to spring at a fun, two-canvas painting event. The cost is $52 ($48 for Otium wine club members; the cost includes everything you need to create two masterpieces plus a glass of their fabulous wine to loosen the creative juices. Non-alcoholic beverages are available for those under 21. The magic show and the paint and sip events are very popular and usually sell out. Contact Otium Cellars today to book your spot, as space is limited. 540-338-2027; for more information visit them at www.OtiumCellars.com
Early Spring Point to point schedule
Saturday, March 17
Warrenton Hunt Point to Point
Airlie Race Course, Warrenton, Virginia
Saturday, March 24
Piedmont Fox Hounds Point to Point
Salem Course, Upperville
Sunday, April 1
Orange County Hounds Point to Point
Locust Hill Farm, Middleburg
Saturday, April 7
Old Dominion Hounds Point to Point
Ben Venue Farm, Ben Venue