Festivals, Saunders Brothers, Blue Ridge Mountains … just another day in paradise

By Lynn R. Mitchell

[Editor’s Note: With the unofficial start of summer behind us, here’s a rerun column about the variety of events and activities available in the Shenandoah Valley.]

??????????It’s summer with all the festivals and events that are available in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond so today we decided to spend the day just going where the wind took us. We plopped our straw hats on the back seat — I burst out laughing when I saw them and had to take a picture — and off we went. Our first stop was at our friends’ house near Crimora for a garage sale. After visiting a while and paying for our purchases, we headed to Waynesboro where the first day of the 2014 Extravaganza was going on.

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We were fairly early to this annual event that features spectacular fireworks, ahead of the crowds that began showing up by the time we left. Crafters, artists, games, pony rides, carnival rides, food vendors, and live entertainment … there was plenty to do. We enjoyed talking with local photographer Brent McGuirt (www.brentmcguirtphotography.com) whose stunningly beautiful work showcasing the Shenandoah Valley and beyond was on display. (Check out his Facebook page for his latest works.)

It was great to run into Bill and Jean Ann Bolling who were spending the weekend nearby in the cool of the mountains.

??????????Leaving Waynesboro, we drove up Rt. 250 to Afton Mountain where we stopped at King’s Gourmet Popcorn to pick up some caramel corn for our journey. He was hopping with customers who were picking up a hotdog or any of the other goodies he offers and enjoying lunch at the picnic tables under the umbrellas. Even though there was heavy cloud cover today, it was hot and humid when the sun broke through.

??????????Our journey took us down Rt. 250 to Rt. 6 where we wound around the curvy road through the little village of Afton and on to Rt. 151. Turning toward Nellysford, we drove past all the popular breweries and vineyards as we made our way to Piney River with the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain vistas along the way.

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??????????Our destination was Saunders Brothers Farm Market halfway between Lovingston and Piney River — the place of good stuff. They sell flowers and plants but it’s the produce we go after and today we were looking for peaches and corn-on-the-cob. The place was bustling since it was Meet-Mr.-Saunders Day with live entertainment and family members interacting with customers. Peaches were almost flying out the door, and the corn sold out while we were there. Mr. Mitchell also picked up a jar of Damson Preserves and a jar of Red Pepper Relish. If you’ve never been to Saunders, the produce is freshly harvested from nearby fields and orchards plus the drive there is a winding, scenic trip through some of Virginia’s most beautiful rural countryside. Open Monday-Saturday.

??????????For more about this family-owned business, see my posts from summer 2013 (Nelson County: A trip to Saunders Brothers for Virginia apples and peaches and garden veggies and Saunders Brothers fresh summer produce in Piney River).

??????????Leaving Saunders Brothers, we retraced our tracks to the Rt. 56 turnoff and drove up the mountain toward Crabtree Falls and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Crabtree was busy. The Parkway was not. We hopped on at Montebello and trekked north on our drive to Afton, stopping to take photos and enjoy the scenery that we never tire of seeing.

??????????Newly-paved Blue Ridge Parkway.

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??????????Before you knew it, we were back at Humpback Rock for the second time this week (see Picnicking along the Blue Ridge Parkway). From our view on the Parkway traveling north, we could see hikers who had climbed this popular Blue Ridge destination. The visitor center was packed with travelers and we parked beside cars sporting license plates from Michigan, Delaware, and Quebec.

??????????As the sun lowered in the western sky, it was time to return to the interstate as we drove toward the Appalachian Mountains and our corner of Augusta County. There was a slow-down of traffic in the Waynesboro-Fishersville area of I-64, backed up because of some incident that was completely cleared by the time we got there. We had gone full circle with our day and what a wonderful journey it had been, a reminder of what Virginia has to offer. #virginiaisforlovers

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
July 12, 2014

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