In Virginia 2006
this year, we asked our readers to choose their favorites around Virginia
in 10 selected categories. The votes are
in and as usual, the results are interesting and sometimes surprising.
Here are the results ...
Jeb Hockman, Contributing Writer
admired virginian: thomas jefferson
In welcoming 49 Noble Prize winners in
1962, President John F. Kennedy said, “I think this is the most
extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge that has ever
gathered at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas
Jefferson dined alone.”
Jefferson’s lifetime accomplishments
have never been matched. He was the principal author of the Declaration of
Independence and wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. He
served as the second governor of Virginia, and as the second vice
president and third president of the United States.
His legacy lives on in the buildings
he designed —from his beloved home, Monticello, to the State Capitol in
Richmond to the Rotunda at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville,
which he founded in 1819. Jefferson was also an inventor, an
archaeologist, a paleontologist, a surveyor, a violinist, a lawyer, and a
horticulturalist who introduced new crops and farming methods to the
Today, 180 years after his death on
July 4, 1826, Thomas Jefferson still holds a special place in the hearts
of his fellow Virginians.
nascar driver: Elliott Sadler
Stock-car racing has been a Virginia
tradition since the dirt-track days of the 1950s. So it’s no surprise
that the Old Dominion has produced some of NASCAR’s greatest drivers,
including 31-year-old Elliott Sadler of Emporia.
With his movie-star good looks,
Southern gentleman manners and fierce competitive spirit, Sadler is not
only the favorite driver of many of his fellow Virginians, but also one of
the most popular NASCAR personalities among his fellow drivers and fans
Tutored by his Uncle Bud and his dad,
Herman, both of whom were well-known racers on Virginia’s short-track
circuit before he was born, Elliott climbed behind the wheel of a go-kart
at age 7 and has never looked back. It’s fitting that he drives the
Roush Racing No. 38 bright-yellow Ford sponsored by M&M Candies
because when you ask anyone around his hometown, they’ll tell you
Elliott is one of the nicest and sweetest guys around.
In fact, friends from home and fans
from around the country converge in Emporia each year to eat bologna
burgers and get up-close-and-personal with Elliott and his whole family at
the Sadler Barn. The next barn party is Sept. 7 and complete details are
posted at his fan club Web site: www.sadlerfanclub.com.
Hiking/Biking Trail: virginia creeper trail
Stretching over 33 miles from Abingdon
to the North Carolina state line through some of the most rugged and
picturesque country in the Eastern United States, the Virginia Creeper
Trail is a favorite for hikers, bikers and horseback riders.
The trail began as a Native American
footpath. Later, European pioneers, including Daniel Boone, followed the
trail heading west. In the early 1900s a railroad was built to haul
lumber, iron ore, supplies and passengers. Because the steam locomotives
struggled up the steep mountain grades, the train was nicknamed “the
The last train ran in 1977 and the
tracks were removed. Today, the old roadbeds, trestles and bridges are
again a quiet trail where no motorized vehicles are allowed. Along the
way, there are numerous bike-rental and shuttle services, food, lodging
and specialty shops that make a visit to the Virginia Creeper Trail an
enjoyable experience for anyone who loves the outdoors.
For more info on the trail, write to
Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, Rt. 1, Box 303, Marion, VA 24354 or
pick-your-own produce: Puryear’s Farms
Nothing tastes sweeter than a red,
ripe strawberry picked fresh off the vine. Folks around Halifax County
anxiously await those few weeks in June when the berries blush red and
Patsy Puryear Harris and her family open up their fields for picking.
Puryear’s Farm is just two miles
south of South Boston at 3199 Heuell Matthews Highway. Three generations
have farmed the land. Ms. Harris’ grandfather ran a dairy and grew
tobacco. Today, she, her mother Rebecca and her brothers Sammy and Grayson
devote around 40 acres to a wide variety of vegetables, including an
acre-and-a-half to strawberries.
People from miles around travel to
Puryear’s Farm Market to take home delicious sweet corn, tomatoes,
squash, cantaloupes, watermelons and other produce fresh from the fields.
The market is open seven days a week — Monday through Saturdays from 7
a.m. until 7 p.m. and 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays from mid-May through the
Christmas holidays. Puryear’s Farms sells not only in-season fruits and
vegetables, but also jams and jellies, hand-stitched aprons, stained glass
and unique gifts.
musician or band: the statler brothers
The Statler Brothers of Staunton were
the premier country-music group for nearly 40 years. They began their
careers singing backup for Johnny Cash. During that time, they recorded
their first hit record, “Flowers on the Wall.” Other hits followed,
including “Class of ‘57” and “I’ll Go to My Grave Loving You.”
The Statlers not only won numerous Grammies, CMAs and other awards, their
concerts always played to packed houses and they even starred in their own
TV variety series.
For many years, thousands of fans
gathered at Staunton’s Gypsy Hill Park for the Statlers’ annual July
4th celebration and free concert, “Happy Birthday, USA!” The Statlers
formally retired as performers in 2002. Today, the three original Statlers
— real brothers Harold and Don Reid, and Phil Balsey — still call
Augusta County home. The fourth member of the group, Jimmy Fortune, moved
to Nashville to pursue a solo career.
Fans can still visit the Statler
Brothers Gift Shop in downtown Staunton. If they’re lucky, Phil, Harold
or Don may be there to say hello. It’s open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.
For more info, see www.statlerbrothers.com.
antique store: Culpeper Antique & Market place
With over 14,000 square feet, Culpeper
Antique & Market Place is not your typical antique shop. It might be
better described as an “antique supermarket.”
Opened in June 2004 by partners Sam
Miller and Natasha Mat-an in an old furniture store downtown, Culpeper
Antique and Market Place is home to over 60 individual dealers offering a
huge variety of antiques and collectibles.
The store is filled with everything
from art to quilts, books to Oriental rugs, vintage clothing, tools,
jewelry, glass and pottery, clocks, silver, and much more.
As co-owner Mat-an says, “We offer
everything for everybody.”
Culpeper Antique & Marketplace is
open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. at
137 South Main Street in the heart of Culpeper’s historic and quaint
For more information, directions or to
check out some of the great collectibles on sale, visit their Web site: www.culpeperantiques.com.
high school spirit: Fort Defiance high school
How do you define school spirit?
It’s the pride you feel when your football team runs onto the field on a
Friday night. It’s the energy of leaping cheerleaders and the passion of
roaring fans. It’s the sound of the marching band and the smiles on the
faces of the students, parents and teachers.
School spirit is hard to define, but
when you visit a school that has it, you feel it. Whatever it is, our
readers say the school with the best is Fort Defiance High School. Located
just off Route 11, north of Verona and south of Mt. Crawford, Fort
Defiance is home to over 900 Augusta County students.
Dr. Chip Hill, principal, was excited
and pleased to learn that Fort Defiance was chosen the high school with
the best spirit and said the recognition is a great way to begin the
2006-2007 school year.
“Fort Defiance is a wonderful
reflection of the old and new, tradition and new-wave,” Hill noted,
“and it is reflected positively in our student body. We are extremely
proud of our students. They are a great group of young people.”
This fall, when the Fort Defiance
cheerleaders yell, “We are the best!” they’ll have the Cooperative
Living Best in Virginia award to prove it.
virginia author: ann mullen
“The best thing about writing is
that you can let your imagination run wild … and I most certainly do,”
says Ann Mullen.
In 1999, this mother of two grown
children and grandmother left her job in machine technology and moved with
her husband to rural Greene County. There,
she gathered up the courage to do something she had always wanted to do
— write mystery novels.
Since then she has written three
books, What You See, South River Incident, and A Crying Shame. All take
place in and around Central Virginia and feature her main character, Jesse
Watson, a spunky single woman who works for Charlottesville private
detective Billy Blackhawk, a Cherokee Indian. Mullen’s fourth book in
the series, Middle River Murders, will be published this year.
Even though her tales often involve
murders, Mullen tries to keep blood and gore to a minimum. “When people
read my books, I want them to be able to sleep at night,” she says.
Mullen’s books are available in many
bookstores throughout Virginia, on her Web site at www.aftonridge.com,
or by calling (434) 985-1957.
lake: smith Mountain lake
Created in the 1960s by the damming of
the Roanoke River at Smith Mountain Gap, Smith Mountain Lake is a favorite
vacation spot for thousands of Virginians.
The 40-mile-long lake covers over
20,000 acres and boasts 500 miles of shoreline. Swimming, boating, fishing
and golf are just some of the many recreational activities to enjoy.
Much of the shoreline has been
developed with houses, town homes and condominiums — many available for
rental. In fact, Smith Mountain Lake has become one of the Eastern United
States’ most popular retirement communities.
Smith Mountain Lake State Park, near
Huddleston, is a great place to enjoy the amenities of the area on a
budget. It offers rental cabins and campsites, picnic areas, boat ramps
and the lake’s only public swimming beach.
For more information on Smith Mountain
Lake, go online to Web site
www.visitsmithmountainlake.com or call
toll-free (800) 676-8203. If
you are interested in Smith Mountain Lake State Park, call (800) 933-PARK
or check the park Web site: www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/smithmtn.htm.
crab cake: T&T Restaurant & seafood deli
Crab cakes are on the menu at many of
Virginia’s most famous and fanciest restaurants, so it may be a surprise
that our readers by a wide margin agree that none can compare with the
crab cakes served at a tiny roadside eatery, T&T Restaurant &
Seafood Deli in Burgess.
Located just a few miles from the
Chesapeake Bay, owner Tina Jett McCarter bought the restaurant three years
ago to serve the fresh seafood she had grown up enjoying in her native
Northumberland County. Her menu includes scallops, oysters, soft-shell
crabs in season and the award-winning crab cakes.
McCarter makes every crab cake by hand
and won’t reveal her secret recipe — except to say that there are no
fillers used, only sweet, succulent crabmeat. “Mine are the best
anywhere,” McCarter says confidently.
T&T Restaurant is a favorite of
not only locals, but also the many “come heres” who have built
vacation and retirement homes on the Northern Neck.
It’s located at 15017 Northumberland Highway. If you plan to try
one of McCarter’s crab cakes, don’t come around suppertime. The
restaurant is open only for breakfast and lunch seven days a week from
6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.