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Category: Music

Visitor’s Guide to the 2022 Staunton Music Festival

This month, Staunton Music Festival’s annual 10-day summer concert series will bring over 90 world-class chamber musicians to Staunton from all over the world. Festival goers will enjoy amazing classical music spanning the past 600 years. Works include those by Baroque composers like Handel, powerful new material on the subject of Holocaust survivors, and everything in between. 

The festival includes 24 concerts, informal recitals, lectures, and other special events. Here’s how to hit some highlights of the Staunton Music Festival programming as well as find food, lodging, and fun in Staunton in your downtime. 

Photo by Leslie Kipp

How do I purchase tickets?

Purchase tickets for individual concerts or buy a discounted Summer or Annual pass. Prices vary by concert, but noon concerts are typically free. There are discounted tickets for military, college, and youth.

Festival highlights

Many people won’t be in town for the entire 10-day festival. So, here are some highlights:

Photo by Leslie Kipp

Friday, August 12

  • 7:30 pm Handel Extravaganza: from the Rhine to Rio: The 2022 festival opens with Handel’s orchestral and vocal music, plus special Brazilian guests at intermission. Trinity Episcopal Church | $22-$32
  • Stick around for the 10:00 pm Nightcap #1: Brazil: If the Handel intermission whets your appetite, indulge in more Brazilian flair with the José Luiz Martins jazz quartet. McCracken Hall at Trinity Church | $20

Wednesday, August 17 

  • 3 pm: Meet Award-winning composer Chen Yi, a Pulitzer Prize nominee and leading female Chinese-American composer. She will discuss her music, stylistic influences, and trends in contemporary music of China and the United States. Central United Methodist Church | free admission
  • 7:30 pm (with preconcert talk at 6:45): Wednesday’s evening Take Five concert will be intriguing and fun. It even includes some jazz. Music by Beethoven, Gabrieli, Brubeck, and others. Trinity Episcopal Church | $22-$32

Friday, August 19 

  • 7:30 pm: Baroque Inside/Out promises to be one of the festival’s most popular concerts. Celebrate the richness and extravagance that made Venice the musical capital of Europe during the Baroque. Featured works by Monteverdi, Castello, and Gabrieli. Trinity Episcopal Church | $22-$32
  • 10 pm: Nightcap #2: Grand Tour lets those who can’t get enough Baroque music slip away for an exclusive event with complimentary drinks. McCracken Hall at Trinity Church | $20
Photo by Leslie Kipp

Saturday, August 20

  • 7:30 pm: Memories and Roses is an intriguing and intense program featuring music by Strauss, Beethoven, and others, culminating in a dramatic performance of composer and pianist Marc Neikrug’s “Through Roses.” “Through Roses” is a dramatic theater piece told through the eyes of a Holocaust survivor, acted by John Harrell. The edgy work is directed by Ethan McSweeny. Trinity Episcopal Church | $22-$32

Where should I stay?

If you’re from out of town, treat yourself to elegant lodgings within walking distance of the concert venues as well as dining and shopping. Check into a tastefully updated room with historic details at the Blackburn Inn. The inn features an onsite spa, so make sure you book a massage or skin treatment while you’re in town. Other elegant and historic lodgings like Hotel 24 South or Frederick House provide access to Staunton’s shopping, dining, and walkable downtown.

Where should I eat?

Staunton’s Shop and Dine Out Downtown program closes Beverley Street to vehicular traffic on the weekends, so there are a lot of convenient places for fine dining or a quick bite. You’ll find fare ranging from gourmet pizza and burgers, Mexican, elevated comfort food, gelato, and much more.

Breakfast

Lunch

  • If you’re looking for an elevated burger, try the offerings from Remedy Burger or Table 44, which pairs its burgers and sandwiches with pimento and bacon fries. 
  • Chicano Boy Taco loads its house-made tortillas with fresh meats, toppings, and sauces.
  • Byers Street Bistro serves Southern food with a twist and boasts a tasty cocktail menu.

Dinner

What can I do between concerts?

The Staunton Music Festival is pretty packed, but you’ll still have time to explore the town between shows.

  • Discover Staunton’s historic architecture and beautiful greenspaces with a walking tour. Pick up a map at the Visitor’s Center or check out these posts on the Beverley, Wharf, and Newtown historic districts for what to see and do. If you have time, ride Staunton’s historic trolley, a fun way to get a tour of downtown. Stops on the line also include Gypsy Hill Park and the park-like Thornrose Cemetery

Summer Music and More at Staunton’s Heifetz Institute

Heifetz International Music Institute educates young musicians in their artistic growth and treats the community to a variety of world-class listening opportunities. Here’s some background on the program and a peek at what’s on stage this summer!

What is Heifetz?

Heifetz was originally founded in 1996 as a 6-week summer experience by concert violinist and teacher Daniel Heifetz. In 2012, Heifetz moved its location to Staunton and opened the doors to 62 students. Now, 26 years later, the program is much, much larger. Students receive instrumental as well as performance and communication training.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, 40 Heifetz faculty members virtually served 100 students across 9 time zones. They streamed concerts to over 500,000 viewers through YouTube, Facebook Live, and the Violin Channel. And this year, more than 150 students are studying in Staunton!

Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts

Celebrate music with this year’s annual Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts, which extends through August 6th and offers both chamber music and multi-genre selections! Performers include Heifetz faculty, special guests, and 127 string musicians from 9-27 years old. Choose from over 50 concerts. Concert offerings can be either free or ticketed, but since children under 12 are invited to attend all concerts for free, there’s no need to hire a sitter!

  • Stars of Tomorrow (Francis Auditorium, Tuesdays and Thursdays, ticketed): This series is packed with incredible performances by extraordinary Heifetz students, visiting alumni artists, and Heifetz piano faculty.

  • Market St. Musicale (South Market Stage at Grace Christian School, Fridays, free): These afternoon shows include powerful performances and conversations with the musicians.
  • Junior Division Showcase (South Market Stage at Grace Christian School, Saturdays, free): You’ll be amazed by the talents of Heifetz’s youngest students, aged 9-15.
  • Celebrity Series (Francis Auditorium, Friday evenings, ticketed): These 75-minute programs bring top performers to Staunton and will feature works by various artists. There’s a happy hour event before each concert that will feature regional wines and foods.

  • Heifetz Hootenanny (Page Terrace, Saturdays, ticketed): This informal series allows students, staff, and special guests to create “one-of-a-kind, multi-genre mash-ups.”You might hear bluegrass picking, Broadway belting, folk fiddling, or rollicking rhythm and blues!”

  • Chamber Music Sunday Matinees (Francis Auditorium, Sunday afternoons, ticketed): Enjoy chamber music masterworks and spotlight performances by students in the Heifetz Chamber Music Seminar
  • Heifetz Grand Finale (South Market Stage at Grace Christian School, August 6): The season’s final concert is a passionate “rousing concert brimming with fire, passion, and virtuosity.” Performances by Heifetz students and faculty are followed by a farewell toast.

Heifetz Ensemble-in-Residence Program (HEIR)

As an alternative to normally scheduled Heifetz on Tour programming, Heifetz provided music during the pandemic with its HEIR (Heifetz Ensemble-in-Residence) Program. Heifetz alumni returned for intensive coaching sessions, public concerts, chances to record music together, and opportunities to provide lessons and partner with area schools. The successful program will conduct two sessions in the fall of 2022. 

Another part of the HEIR program is Heifetz’s Heartstrings program, which connects performers with frontline workers and patients at Augusta Health. This program connects musicians and patients for intimate virtual or in-person bedside performances. Additional ensemble performances cater to larger audiences and bring music and joy to the wider hospital community. 

Crescendo: A College Preparatory & Music Mastery Program

Stuart Hall School and Heifetz International Music Institute have partnered to build Crescendo, a program for students in grades 5-12 that provides academics to prepare students for “engaged lives of curiosity, creativity, and contribution.” The program also provides “intensive music study for violinists, violists, and cellists in an environment that is developmentally appropriate.” Apply now for fall enrollment!

Multimedia Offerings

Check out Heifetz’s multimedia page for videos and sophisticated recorded performances like the Rubato Virtual Concert Hall recordings and the Chock Full O’Bach series.

Looking for a Special Gift?

The Heifetz Gift Shop (107 E. Beverley Street) is your answer to finding music-themed gifts. From wearables and cards to Heifetz chocolate bars and sheet music printed umbrellas, you’ll find a unique gift sure to make someone smile. 

Want to rent an instrument for a budding musician? Heifetz has a large selection of instruments to rent or buy.

And if you’d like to take an unusual route to support Heifetz,  donate your unwanted household items and clothing. They’ll sell them on eBay and use the profits to support the Institute.

Staunton’s Happy Birthday America

For the past two years, Staunton has been quiet over the Fourth of July holiday. But this year, all the fun returns with the annual Happy Birthday America celebration in Gypsy Hill Park. Get ready for live music, a parade, fireworks, games, concessions, and more. Grab your lawn chairs and your sunscreen and dress in your sharpest red, white, and blue for a fun, patriotic day celebrating America’s independence!

History

Starting in 1970, the Statler Brothers brought free summer concerts to their native Staunton each July 4th for Happy Birthday U.S.A. Regularly drawing well over 50,000 guests (and sometimes as many as 100,000), the concerts were massive hits. Some Staunton residents remember years that it rained and the crowds still packed onto the outfield at John Moxie Stadium, unwilling to miss the music. The concerts continued for 25 years and brought in guest stars like Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Reba McIntyre, Charley Pride and Neal McCoy, Conway Twitty, and many more.

After the Statler Brothers stopped performing, Staunton continued to host yearly celebrations at the bandstand. In recent years, cousins (and sons of two Statler Brothers) Wil Reid and Langdon Reid have headed up a relaunched celebration intended to emulate those hosted by their fathers. The event emphasizes patriotic family fun and live music, headlined by their group, Wilson Fairchild.

2022 Schedule

This year’s schedule includes two days of fun. Along with events, there are vendors selling food and merchandise, a carnival area, games for kids, and more. Here’s the 2022 schedule:

Sunday, July 3

6:30 p.m.: Entertainment and Vester Service at John Moxie Stadium. This event will feature keynote speaker Chaplain Col. Joel P. Jenkins, scripture readings, and music by Allison Fitzgerald, Greg Culpen, Amy & Sam Lessley, and Heaven’s Mountain Band.

Monday, July 4

7:30 a.m.: Firecracker 5K Run/Walk around the Gypsy Hill Park loop. Wear your patriotic gear and register here.

10 a.m.: Set up your lawn chair and watch community groups, businesses, athletic teams, and more show their patriotic spirit and decorating skills as they loop through Gypsy Hill Park for the 4th of July parade. After the parade ends, head down to the baseball fields to participate in the parent-child games. Kids should be between 8 and 12 and come with a willing parent.

2 p.m.: Stonewall Brigade Band performance at the Gypsy Hill Park Bandstand. Staunton’s historic 70-member Stonewall Brigade Band is the oldest continuous community band in the U.S. and has been playing in Gypsy Hill Park since 1889. Expect to hear lots of marching music!

2 p.m.: Jack and Davis Reid at John Moxie Stadium (Sons of Wilson Fairchild and the Grandsons of the Statler Brothers!)

3:30 p.m.: Prime at John Moxie Stadium

4 p.m.: Opening Ceremony and Posting of Colors

5:15 p.m.: Spencer Hatcher & the Ol’ Son Gang at John Moxie Stadium

7:30 p.m.: Feature performance by Wilson Fairchild (country, bluegrass and gospel) with special guests, Grammy-winning Rhonda Vincent and the Rage playing bluegrass

9:30 p.m.: Veteran’s Salute / Retiring of Colors / Taps

10 p.m. Fireworks in Gypsy Hill Park

2022 Must See Summer Music Events in Staunton

Picture dancing in the street to some of the best local and regional music and falling in love all over again with Staunton’s wonderful community. Imagine kicking back on a blanket under the stars and enjoying a picnic and incredible jazz. Or imagine relishing the sounds of antique classical instruments while the light shines through the stained glass at Trinity Church. Or how about celebrating the 4th of July with live music and fireworks for the first time in years? Here’s a guide to your Staunton summer soundtrack!

Staunton Jams

After a 4-year hiatus, Staunton Jams is back, bigger and better than ever, hosted by The Judy Chops and supported by a number of Staunton businesses. This free, all-day music and art event will take over downtown Staunton on May 28. Look for 20 acts representing a variety of musical styles to appear at the Sunspots Pavilion, the Staunton Patio, along Beverley Street, in the Wharf, and more.  You’ll see Mojo Parker, Sun-Dried Opossum, The Queen City Porch Swingers, Matt Palmieri, the Beverley Street String Band, The Judy Chops, and more. There’s even an afterparty scheduled at Tempest Bar & Lounge. The event will also showcase artists, vendors, food, street performers, and more. Check Staunton Jams Facebook page for a schedule.

Redbeard’s Summer Concert Series

Want to enjoy delicious craft beer while you listen to music? From now thru September, relax at Redbeard Brewing Company on select Saturday nights for their Live Summer Concert Series. Favorite groups like The Judy Chops, Six Shot Rebellion, The Findells, and Drägön Wägön will headline. Check out the full schedule.

SummerStage at the Blackburn

Spread out your blanket for a night of music under the stars at the Blackburn Inn’s Friday night SummerStage concert series. The concerts will extend through Labor Day and they will showcase talents like David Wax Museum, Danielle Nicole, Chatham Rabbits, Scott Miller, The Judy Chops, and more playing in a wide range of genres. Along with the music, you can enjoy beverages from local vineyards, breweries, and cideries as well as food from the 2nd Draft Bistro. The grounds and bar open at 6 p.m. and the music starts at 7 p.m. See the full schedule and buy tickets.

Red Wing Roots Music Festival

Everyone in the family will get up and dance as the biggest names in folk music appear at Red Wing Roots Music Festival in Natural Chimney’s Park the weekend of June 24 – 26. Get ready to experience to The Steel Wheels, The Jayhawks, Langhorne Slim, Aoife O’Donovan, and many more on stage against the background of stunning limestone towers. Besides the music, festival attendees can expect a beer garden, food and craft vendors, bike rides, yoga, and lawn games for adults and kids alike. Here’s the full 2022 lineup.

Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts

You’re in for a treat with this year’s annual Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts! Choose from over 50 different concerts extending from June 28 to August 6 that range from chamber music, Fourth of July music, and multi-genre selections. See world-renowned celebrity guests in the Celebrity Series and Chamber Music Sunday Matinees. Heifetz students perform in the Stars of Tomorrow Series as well as the intimate Market St. Musicale series that pairs performances and conversations with the musicians. Anything goes in the Heifetz Hootenanny Series, which will occur on Page Terrace. Admission is free for all events for kids 12 and under.

Happy Birthday America

Bring the family to Gypsy Hill Park this Independence Day for the free, family-friendly Happy Birthday America celebration. Have a blast with a 5K race, a lively parade, a parent/child baseball game, vesper’s service, a beauty pageant, and concessions. Rock out to live music from local acts, Rhonda Vincent and The Rage, and headliner Wilson Fairchild. Fireworks will follow the concert. This event is free.

Staunton Music Festival

Musicians will love The Staunton Music Festival’s classical concerts spanning over 600 years. Dozens of musicians will perform in both large and small ensembles in a variety of Staunton venues like Trinity Episcopal Church and Blackfriars Playhouse from August 12-21. Festival highlights include “Handel Extravaganza: from the Rhine to Rio,” which features Handel’s orchestral and vocal music, “Love Stories,” and “Early Keyboard Extravaganza.” While some events are ticketed, many are free.

Music in the Park at Gypsy Hill Bandstand

Monday Nights: Stonewall Brigade Band 

Staunton’s historic 70-member Stonewall Brigade Band is bringing big sounds to your Monday nights all summer. The oldest-continuous community band in the U.S. was originally a marching band, but with the addition of woodwinds after the Civil War, it became a concert band. It first played in what is now Gypsy Hill Park in 1889. Concerts featuring marches and big band classics begin at 8 p.m. Watch for the full schedule here.

Tuesday Nights: Praise in the Park

Head to Gypsy Hill Park on Tuesday nights in July and August to hear Linden Heights Baptist Church’s annual Praise in the Park concert series. You’ll hear contemporary and southern gospel as well as gospel bluegrass. Better yet, there will be activities to keep the kiddos busy while you listen to favorites like Faithful Men, Ed Pettersen & Streets of Gold Quartet, Brian Buchanan & New Life Gospel Band, and Heaven’s Mountain Band & Blue Mountain Sunrise. Concerts begin at 7 p.m. See the full schedule here.

Wednesday Nights: Bluegrass 

Local and regional bluegrass entertainers will visit Staunton on Wednesday nights between July 6 and August 24. Most concerts include sets by two different groups. Get ready for some energetic tunes and banjo picking! Concerts begin at 7 p.m. Watch for the full schedule here.

Thursday Nights: Jazz in the Park

Celebrate hot summer nights with the Jazz in the Park summer concert series. You’ll hear classic jazz standards performed by S.P.L.A.A.A.T. Quintet, Afro Cuban jazz with rumba, salsa, and cha cha music by Jstop Latin Soul, and zydeco, cajun, street parade, and Louisiana funk by The Dixie Power Trio. See the full lineup here.

Nearby Music

You might also check out Waynesboro Parks and Rec’s Thursday night Groovin’ at the Greenway series. This lineup of showcases a variety of styles and lets Waynesboro visitors get comfy outdoors while listening to live music.

Other Festivals and Fun

May 21-22: Staunton’s newest outdoor art festival Art On The Town comes to life at the Sunspots Pavilion in the Wharf. Another great event by the Staunton Augusta Art Center happens September 3-4, where you can join the fun at the 55th annual Art in the Park festival in Gypsy Hill Park. You’ll find amazing art, community spirit, live music, food, and creative activities for the kids. The park boasts lots of parking, shade, and playgrounds to keep everyone happy. (Free)

September 24-25: Join thousands of seriously excited fans in downtown Staunton for themed shopping, dining, performances, and hands-on activities for all ages at the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival. This home-grown fan festival celebrates J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series as well as all things magical and mystical. (Many activities are free, some are ticketed)

Staunton is a Southern Living Best Mountain Town

Did you know that Southern Living Magazine recently showcased Staunton as a top mountain town in its The South’s Best 2022? The list of the best southern destinations celebrates “the people, places, and communities that make [the South] more vibrant than ever.” Mountain towns were chosen for their local shops and restaurants, cozy lodging, and welcoming downtowns as well as their beauty and access to the mountains. Southern Living praises Staunton’s charming downtown, varied dining scene, notable lodging selection, and proximity to Shenandoah National Park. Read on for more reasons why Staunton is such a hot travel destination.

Ogle Staunton’s Beauty

Find a high spot in Staunton and kick back to admire the views. Try Cannon Hill at Mary Baldwin University or cross the historic footbridge to Woodrow Park on Sears Hill. You’ll even find something postcard-worthy when you pause on the Wal-Mart parking lot! From walks through historic downtown, country bike rides, or drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll never be far from a million-dollar view.

Eat Like a King

For a small city, Staunton has a wealth of independent restaurants. You’ll find everything from sophisticated Southern gourmet meals at Zynodoa and Table 44 to French pastry at Réunion. Get your fill of steak and seafood at Mill Street Grill and Blu Point Seafood, or opt for global fare at Gloria’s Pupuseria and Gonzo’s Pollo.

Find a Festival

Staunton is a wonderful home base for festivals throughout the year. 

  • Join us for the initial BaroqueFest, a three-day immersion in the very best music from the 17th and early 18th centuries. This festival takes place April 8-10.
  • Friday nights from Memorial Day to Labor Day come enjoy an outdoor concert series on the grounds of the Blackburn Inn and Conference Center. SummerStage kicks off May 27 with Hootenanny.
  • Jam out to The Steel Wheels, The Jayhawks, Langhorne Slim, and other notable names in roots music at the Red Wing Roots Festival at nearby Natural Chimneys State Park. June 24-26.
  • Enjoy selections from hundreds of years of classical music at the 10-day Staunton Music Festival. This festival welcomes over 70 acclaimed professionals from around the world to perform in 30 events and opens on August 12.
  • Browse the juried work of local and regional artists at the Staunton Augusta Art Center’s annual Art in the Park. The 54th annual event will occur in Gypsy Hill Park on September 4-5. 
  • The Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival will return in person this year on the weekend of September 24-25. Head downtown for lots of magical fun as businesses and citizens 

Learn Something New

Learn the history of the presidency and early 20th-century life at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum. Get a hands-on education at the Frontier Culture Museum, where costumed interpreters work historically accurate farms. Make time to view the exhibits at the Beverley Street Studio School Gallery and the Staunton Augusta Art Center.

Access the Outdoors

We dare you to visit the Shenandoah Valley and not take one of the best hikes of your life. Staunton is close to the Appalachian Trail and dozens of beautiful hikes in Shenandoah National Park and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Venture west into George Washington and Jefferson National Forest for more exciting hiking opportunities. Hikers can also stretch their legs on miles of trails in Montgomery Hall Park and Betsy Bell & Mary Gray Wilderness.

Visit Southern Living to see more parks, businesses, and towns that made this years list. Look forward to casting your vote for the South’s Best 2023.

Experience Mardi Gras (Staunton-Style)

You might not find yourself in the Big Easy this Mardi Gras, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate right here in Staunton. Decorate your covid mask, grab your beads and a cocktail, and have fun. Here’s our guide to feasting, frolicking, and Fat Tuesday fun.

The Clocktower Eats and Sweets

The Clocktower is celebrating Mardi Gras with a Fat Tuesday live music performance by Boxcar Speakeasy, a 5-piece New Orleans-style jazz group. The band will play from 7 – 10 p.m. on March 1. You’re also going to want to take advantage of the drink specials, a lineup of Bourbon Street-inspired goodness like the king cake martini (vanilla vodka, Bailey’s, fireball whiskey, and creme) and the Bourbon Street smash (bourbon, banana liqueur, bitters, vanilla syrup, and lemon). Order dinner, too. They’re serving cajun shrimp and grits, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and more.

Mill Street Grill

Celebrate Mardi Gras at Mill Street Grill from now through March 1 with lots of delicious Cajun and Creole specials. Nosh on oysters Rockefeller, steak and crawfish creole, paella, blackened catfish, crawfish etouffee, pan-fried frog legs, and more. On March 1, the music of Staunton’s own Rhythm Road will start at 6:30. No reservations are necessary and the music is free. Come early and start your evening with a cocktail or a selection from the extensive beer and wine list.  You’ll also be able to order from the rest of Mill Street’s menu, which offers steaks, seafood, chicken, salads, sandwiches, and pasta, including a vegetarian Cajun vegetable pasta.

Barren Ridge Vineyard

Don’t miss the Mardi Gras celebration at Barren Ridge Vineyard on Saturday, February 26. You’ll have the best time ever eating traditional Mardi Gras food, drinking Barren Ridge wine, and two-stepping to live music from The Virginia Central Blues Society and Boxcar Speakeasy. There’s also a silent auction, and attendees should wear their masks, beads, and best Carnival-season costumes! Proceeds from the event will support Blues in the School, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring students to learn the blues. Bringing the blues into the classroom helps students learn “while breaking down racial barriers and opening dialogue about cultural diversity.”

Byers Street Bistro 

You might have missed National Margarita Day, but there’s still time to head down to the Byers Street Bistro for a round of cocktails featuring one of their specialty drinks. Pucker up with the Pretty in Peach margarita, a mix of tequila, peach schnapps, pomegranate liqueur, lime juice, sour mix, and a salt or sugar rim. Another tasty bet is the Buttah-Scotchaha-Rita, a tangy concoction of tequila, Buttershots, orange juice, sour mix, and ginger ale with a salty rim. Compliment your cocktails with a menu full of shareable appetizers, salads, gourmet pizzas, handheld burgers, sandwiches, and treats like shrimp tacos.

Vic’s Eats

Head over to Vic’s Eats and grab your favorite Mardi Gras dishes from gumbo to jambalaya to even little tiny king cakes.

The Well Balanced Paw

Your pups can even celebrate this year at The Well Balanced Paw. Stop in with your four-legged friend to grab tiny king cakes all weekend long. While shopping listen to the sounds of Mardi Gras and if you allow your doggie to be adventurous; try dog jambalaya!

Want to watch Mardi Gras live in New Orleans? Here’s how.

Want to host a party and bake a prize into your own purple, green, and gold cake? This king cake recipe has 4.5 stars.

For more events, check out Staunton on Tap!

Black-History Month in Staunton

The Black experience is essential to understanding Staunton and the surrounding areas. Read on to learn about how to celebrate Black History Month and other events in Staunton. We’ve also noted important places and citizens and gathered resources for gaining a broader understanding of our city’s Black history, culture, and contributions. We’ve also included a list of area Black-owned businesses.

Festivals and Events 

Black History Month at Mary Baldwin

Join the Mary Baldwin University community this February to celebrate Black History Month. The school will host a full lineup of events including lectures, research presentations, concerts and other performances, readings, open houses, trivia, and much more. Here’s the full schedule.

For more Black History Month events around the state, check out the schedule on the Virginia Tourism Corporation website.

Juneteenth Celebration at the Frontier Culture Museum

In recent years, Montgomery Hall Park has hosted an annual Juneteenth celebration as a way to celebrate the end of slavery. Last year the celebration moved to the Frontier Culture Museum. The celebration has included food, live entertainment, children’s activities, information booths, voter registration, health screenings, and more.

African American Heritage Festival

In recent years, Staunton’s African American Heritage Festival has been canceled due to Covid. Hopefully, it will return in the near future! Expect plenty of music and entertainment to keep you busy. Visitors will also find presentations by historians, art by regional artists, vendors, and community outreach and resources. Area churches gather for an “under the tent” worship service on Sunday morning, and everyone can enjoy an afternoon of gospel music. This free, annual two-day festival in September is the largest and oldest in the Shenandoah Valley. The event is open to the public and everyone, regardless of heritage, is welcome.

Area History

Before the Civil War, many farms throughout the Shenandoah Valley relied upon the labor of enslaved African Americans. In 1830, only about one-sixth of Staunton’s African American population was free to work as blacksmiths, shoemakers, laborers, domestics, and barbers. After the Emancipation Proclamation, opportunities grew. By the end of the century, Staunton had 26 Black-owned businesses including grocery stores, cabinet-making shops, cobblers, restaurants, barbershops, laundries, and more. Within 10 years, there were nearly 50 Black-owned businesses in Staunton. These included a newspaper, hotel, restaurants, a meat market, an insurance company, a jewelry store, and professionals such as doctors and a lawyer.

Black-Owned Businesses Today

According to WHSV, while many businesses struggled, area Black-owned businesses were “nearly twice as likely to fail during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Want to support a local Black-owned business? Check out a regularly updated list of Black-owned businesses in the Shenandoah Valley compiled by the Black and Brown Owned Businesses-Shenandoah Valley Facebook page. The Newsleader identified some in Staunton.

Museums and Research

Booker T. Washington Museum and Library

The Booker T. Washington Museum and Library contains photographs, articles, books, yearbooks, and memorabilia like sports trophies and letterman jackets. It is housed in the Booker T. Washington Community Center, Staunton’s former segregated high school. The school educated Black students for 30 years before Staunton’s schools were finally integrated in 1966. The school served as both an educational space and a public meeting place for the African American community. It hosted social events, voter registration, and adult night classes. The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2014.

Frontier Culture Museum’s West African Farm Exhibit

The Frontier Culture Museum’s living history farms educate today’s visitors by recreating the past. The West African Farm exhibit “explores the cultural contributions of African captives who were brought to Virginia in the 1700s.” Captives from many ethnic groups came from all over Africa, but many were Igbo from the West African Coast. The West African Farm demonstrates how free Igbo people lived in Africa in the 1700s. Visitors can learn about history, architecture, farming, cooking, folklore, pottery, weaving, and more.

The museum maintains an archive of lectures developed during the Covid shutdown. They explore various topics, but several relate to the area’s Black experience. Visit YouTube to see Unfree Labor in Early Virginia, Black Lives at Natural Bridge, West Africa and the Slave Trade, and Igbo/West African Masquerade Culture and the Dynamics of the African Diaspora Carnivals.

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum

Woodrow Wilson and a number of other presidents have been criticized for their attitudes on race and the history of slavery that surrounds them. The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum is tackling the topic of U.S. Presidents and racial inequality with a free lecture series. Register for the February 10 discussion about Abraham Lincoln with Edna Greene Medford, Ph.D., a historian and author of Lincoln and Emancipation, and Christina Shutt, the executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. The museum further explores the topic of Wilson and race with several resources on their webpage.

Staunton/Augusta County African American Research Society

Want to learn more about the general and family history of Black people in this area? Visit the Staunton/Augusta County African American Research Society’s website for resources. The society’s mission “is to research, develop and maintain an ongoing written, pictorial and multimedia archive of the African American experience in Staunton and Augusta County from its early settlement in 1738 to the present by focusing on education, business, politics, religion, military service, and cultural experience.” The society has worked to gather genealogical records from the library as well as oral histories from older citizens.

Laten Ervin Bechtel’s In Their Words: Growing Up In Segregated Staunton and Augusta County, Virginia

Laten Ervin Becktel has delved into the area’s history of segregation by conducting interviews with 30 African Americans who grew up in segregated times. In this 300-page oral history, Bechtel records an important, and often overlooked, side of local history and shows racial discrimination through the eyes of those who lived it. Available in the Staunton Public Library.

Notable Staunton Addresses

  • In 1946, Montgomery Hall Park became one of only two Virginia parks dedicated to African American use, and people traveled long distances to visit. The park remained segregated until 1969. Learn about the park’s history by watching the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Presidential Library’s 2008 Montgomery Hall Park Project.
  • The congregation of Allen Chapel A.M.E (African Methodist Episcopal) worshipped in various places before the original church was built at 921 West Beverley Street. The first Black church west of the Blue Ridge is also the sight of the city’s first Black choir and first Black school for adults.
  • Fairview Cemetery is a predominantly African American cemetery located in northern Staunton that was founded in 1869. The Lambert Street location was outside city limits at the time and part of a Black community called Sandy Hollow. 
  • The masonic lodge on East Beverley and Market Streets was incorporated in 1882. Staunton’s “Colored Masonic Mount Zion Lodge, no.18” is one of the oldest African-American masonic lodges in the U.S. The nearby Cabell House (654 E. Beverley Street) is the last exposed-log structure in Staunton. It was built in 1869 by Edmund Cabell, a “free man of color,” and owned by three generations of his family. 

Notable Black Stauntonians

  • Robert Campbell was born free in 1794. After serving in the War of 1812, he moved to Staunton and opened a barbershop on Beverley Street. His successful business allowed him to buy five downtown buildings and he was considered wealthy by the standards of the times. 
  • Willis McGlascoe Carter was an NAACP leader who was born into slavery in 1852. He became a principal in Augusta County’s segregated public schools. He led the Augusta County Teachers’ Association and edited the Southern Tribune, an African-American newspaper. Carter helped create the Negro Industrial and Educational Association of Virginia. He’s buried in Fairview Cemetery.
  • Born in 1898, Dr. Charles J. Waller served as regional vice-president of the National Medical Association. He practiced medicine in Staunton for many years without hospital privileges. Later, he became a member of the King’s Daughters’ staff and was elected president. He was also the first African-American to run for Staunton’s city council.
  • Captain William Green Jr. was born in 1920 and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1939. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and became one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, one of our country’s first Black aviators. He flew 123 wartime missions in Europe and earned a Distinguished Flying Cross, an Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters, E.T.O. ribbons with three battle stars, and the Purple Heart.
  • Born in 1940, Rita Wilson was Staunton’s first Black councilwoman. She served 16 years as a member and vice mayor of city council. She also served on the school board and the board of the Frontier Culture Museum.

For more information, take a look at the Staunton African American Heritage Brochure.

10 Things We Are Thankful For In Staunton This Year

Thanksgiving is almost here. Take some time between raking leaves, planning side dishes, and agonizing over table settings to reflect on the many things we’re thankful for in Staunton.

Our Great Outdoors

Staunton’s location in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley provides incredible views of mountains on both sides. Were just a few minutes from Shenandoah National Park with its many trails and Skyline Drive. We’re also right in the middle of George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, a wonderful place to hike, bike, paddle, and explore. Even downtown Staunton offers a robust park system featuring trails, views, pools, wilderness areas, playgrounds, ballfields, and a dog park.

Independent Small Businesses

Staunton boasts a diverse mix of indie shops. Our small business owners are following their passions, and creating one of the best independent shopping districts in the state. Hurrah for Staunton Olive Oil Company, Essentially Zen Artisan Bath and Body Shop, Latitudes, Made; By the People, For the People, Medieval Fantasies Company, Refill Renew, Pufferbellies Toys and Books, and more

Foodie Scene

For a small town, Staunton has a lot of good food and this list only scratches the surface. Enjoy fresh coffee and out-of-this-world pastries at Reunion Bakery & Espresso, Crucible Coffee Roasters, or Newtown Baking. Sit down to a tasty lunch emphasizing local ingredients at Serendipity Java Bar and Eatery, Table 44, the Pampered Palate, or Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery. Savor a dinner at Chicano Boy Taco, Zynodoa, the Mill Street Grill, or Aioli. Make sure to leave room for something sweet from The Split Banana, the Clocktower Eats and Sweets, or Wright’s Dairy Rite

Craft Beer, Wine, and Cider

Virginia is making quite a name for itself in the craft beer and wine scene, and our local area is no exception. In fact, Staunton was just named one of the “20 Best Beer Towns in the United States.” Hop on the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail to sip at 19 breweries, all within an hour’s drive. Queen City Brewing, Redbeard Brewing Company, and Shenandoah Valley Brewing Co. are all within city limits. Baja Bean Co. sells a wide selection of craft beers by the bottle or on tap. Wine lovers can taste the local varietals and more at Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room, Yelping Dog Wine, the Green Room, or the new Seed to Tail Kitchen & Market. Barren Ridge Vineyards is just a short drive away. If you prefer cider, grab a seat and a flight at Staunton’s new cidery, Ciders from Mars.

Artists, Artisans, and the Performing Arts

There are many ways to explore Staunton’s flourishing arts community. Walk around and visit Staunton’s collection of murals and public art. Drop in at a gallery. Take a class at Beverley Street Studio School. Visit Sunspots Studios, where you can watch glass art being created in front of your eyes. Catch a virtual performance by The American Shakespeare Center or a live show at ShenanArts where local performers put on high-energy performances. Got dramatic kids? Sign them up for a theater class with Silver Line Theatre Exchange.

Live Music 

From the world-renowned performers who perform at the Heifetz International Music Institute, to the wonderful local musicians enlivening the scene at our favorite breweries and restaurants, Staunton is home to the very best in music–making. We’ve got live, free music almost every night of the week at Gypsy Hill Park during the summer. We have music festivals that entertain all year long. These include Red Wing Roots Music Festival, the classical Staunton Music Festival, as well as rock, blues, jazz, and folk festivals.

Local Farmers and Producers

We are fortunate to be able to enjoy some of the freshest, most delicious locally grown food available anywhere in the USA.  We have a seasonal farmer’s market (and new winter market,) farm-fresh roadside stands, and pick-your-own farms.  We’re the envy of many communities in the “buy fresh, buy local” movement. Plus, many of our restaurants prioritize using this seasonal and healthy food in their recipes.

Museums and Historic Sites

Staunton’s in touch with its history. Take a walking tour and admire downtown’s amazing Victorian architecture. See the past come to life at the Frontier Culture Museum and Woodrow Wilson’s Birthplace Museum. Check out the Camera Heritage Museum, explore Thornrose Cemetery, or even book a private ghost tour

Our Fun Community

Though Covid has put a damper on a some of the live community events, we hope to soon be able to take advantage of all our favorites. We’re thankful for the Staunton Christmas Parade, Caroling in the Park, Happy Birthday America Celebration, Celebration of Holiday Lights in the Park, Queen City Mischief and Magic, Art in the Park, Concerts at Trinity Church and many more.

The People

We are thankful for YOU!  You, as a visitor or local, all come together to make Staunton exactly what it is!  It wouldn’t be the same without you. We’re also thankful for our teachers, our police officers, and our Public Works department. We’re thankful for the servers and bartenders in the cafes who know our faces and orders by heart, the doctors who keep us healthy, and many more. We are grateful for all of the incredible people who live and work in Staunton that contribute every day to help make our small city so amazing. 

We hope you’ll enjoy and share this list.  But most of all – we hope you’ll add to this list with all the things you are grateful for in Staunton. Happy Thanksgiving!

How to Beat the Dog Days of August

We’ve all heard the term “the dog days of August”. It’s when dogs supposedly pass out from lying on the hot pavement and you can fry an egg on the hood of your car. The expression carries negative associations: drought, dangerous storms, rabid dogs, and just plain old bad luck. Though the term actually refers to the sun’s apparent location near the Canus Major “big dog” constellation, area kids are bummed that summer vacation is ending. It’s time to take a quick trip to Staunton and eke out a tiny bit more fun before the grind begins again. 

Dance to Roots Music

You don’t want to miss the dinner-concert Roots Music Events at the Frontier Culture Museum. You’ll hear bluegrass, blues, gospel, traditional Appalachian music and more during the five nights of concerts which “celebrate the influence of these musical roots genres on American frontier culture.” Grab dinner from onsite food vendor Island Wheels Caribbean Cuisine and listen to artists like Wound Tight Bluegrass and Southern Hospitality. Make a day of it by exploring the museum where you’ll learn all about the Valley’s earliest residents through living history farm exhibits, questions and answers with interpreters, and hand-on experiences. This museum is suitable for history buffs as well as kids, who can play historic games and check out cows, goats, pigs, and cats. 

Find Cheer with Craft Beer

August is Craft Beer Month, and fortunately most of our area breweries have areas that are family friendly. Redbeard Brewing Company is having a monthly outdoor concert series and on August 28, it will welcome the Findells. Come sing, dance, and enjoy some delicious craft beer. Skipping Rock Beer Company hosts live music most Friday and Saturday nights. Come get comfortable in their beer garden, grab a pint of your favorite brew, and get ready for a great night. Look for upcoming acts like VS., HoboJac, McHale & Justina, and more! Queen City Brewing sells “all kinds of beer in all kinds of ways.” Come check out their outdoor seating area and plan to come on a night where there’s something fun going on: trivia, live music, open mic nights, and more.

Splash Your Blues Away

Just because school is starting doesn’t mean it’s too late in the season to swim. Take the family to one of our area’s lakes or rivers for a day on the water. Good bets include spring-fed Sherando Lake and Todd Lake in George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Both include sandy beaches, swimming areas, and restrooms. Paddlers will like the urban Waynesboro Water Trail and the more remote Goshen Pass, one of the top-rated kayaking spots in the area. For more on water fun, read Staunton’s Nearby Swimming Holes and Places to Cool Off.

The Best Way to Drive-Into Fall

If you’re sad because Staunton’s Movies in the Park 2021 season is over, you can still get your fill of the alfresco cinematic experience with a trip to Hull’s Drive In. Though it’s a bit of a drive, it’s worth it for the classic big-screen experience, the snack shop fare, and the community experience. Plus, it only costs $20 per carload of people for a double feature!

Dine out Downtown

There’s still plenty of time to dine out and shop in downtown Staunton. Each Friday night at 4 p.m., Beverley Street closes and stays closed until Monday morning. This lets restaurants in the busiest section of town use the sidewalk and street as dining, tasting room, and retail space. Shenandoah Valley Brewing Co., 101 West Beverley, Baja Bean Co., Shenandoah Pizza & Taphouse, Zynodoa, and more are all participating in the initiative. Stop by the Staunton Olive Oil Company, which is under new ownership, to taste some olive oils and vinegars on freshly baked 100% gluten-free bread, which we’ve heard tastes just like a normal French bread loaf. Follow this up with a selection of keto treats, which include blondies, power bars, brownies, and cheesecake bars. A map of the area with parking, pedestrian walkways, and restaurant take-out/pick-up spots clearly delineated is available here.

Pick Your Spirits Up

If your family hasn’t gotten enough fresh fruit pie from all the peaches you’ve been picking or buying, there’s still plenty of time to make more with bounty from the Staunton Farmers’ Market. Spend a Saturday morning perusing the stands, chatting with growers, and selecting the best fresh produce in the area. If you’d rather have a more hands-on experience, head to one of our nearby pick-your-own farms. Grapes and apples are coming into season at  Wenger GrapesSunrise Orchards, and Carter Mountain Orchard. School lunches always taste better with fresh fruit!

Just Let the Dogs out!

Nothing lifts our spirits like our pets, and since it’s the dog days of summer, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give a nod to Staunton’s dog-friendly destinations. Let your pet work off excess energy at Staunton’s Bark Park in Gypsy Hill Park. Divided into separate spacious runs for small and large dogs, it lets dogs play and socialize while their owners do the same. Other city parks are stocked with doggy-bag stations and open to well-behaved dogs on leashes. Serious hikers might enjoy the Betsy Bell Wilderness Area and the trails at Montgomery Hall Park. Finally, reward a good dog with a treat at the Well-Balanced Paw. This shop carries treats and supplements and provides nutritional guidance and therapeutic massage.

What’s Playing Next? Staunton’s Summer Music Roundup

Picture kicking back on a blanket under the stars enjoying a picnic and listening to the Steel Wheels and other favorite artists. Or imagine relishing the sounds of Beethoven while the light shines through the stained glass at Trinity Church. Or how about celebrating the 4th of July virtually from the comforts of your own home? There are plenty of ways to get live music into your life this summer. Here’s a guide to your Staunton summer soundtrack!

Happy Birthday America Virtual

It’s still too soon to hold Staunton’s traditional Happy Birthday America Celebration with Wilson Fairchild. However, you can join in the fun with the virtual version by tuning into the Happy Birthday America YouTube channel. The virtual celebration will “feature guests, pictures and memories looking back through the years.” Musical guests will include Rhonda Vincent, The Malpass Brothers, Jimmy Fortune, Tony Jackson, and Mark Wills & Ruth Graham. Tune in online at 7:15 p.m. on Sunday, July 4.

Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts

You’re in for a treat with this year’s annual Heifetz Institute’s Festival of Concerts! Choose from over 50 different concerts extending through August 6. Concerts range from chamber music, Fourth of July music, and multi-genre selections. See world-renowned celebrity guests in the Celebrity Series and Sunday Matinee Series. Heifetz students perform in the Stars of Tomorrow Series as well as the intimate Fridays in the Gallery series, which is set in a quiet gallery surrounded by Shenandoah Valley art. Anything goes in the Heifetz Hootenanny Series, which will occur in the Blackburn Inn’s new Great Hall.

Red Wing Roots Music Festival

Have you bought your tickets for the annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival yet? If not, you’d better hurry. The festival is coming up on July 9-11, and features some of the biggest names in folk music. Listen to The Steel Wheels, Tim Mavericks, Sarah Jarosz, Hiss Golden Messenger, Ragged Mtn String Band, and over 40 more as they play five stages. The festival will be staged at Natural Chimneys Park against the stunning 120-foot limestone towers. Besides the music, festival attendees can expect a beer garden, food and craft vendors, and lots of fun outdoor activities. Join bike rides, yoga, and lawn games for adults and kids alike.

Summer Stage at the Blackburn Inn

Spread out your blanket and get ready for a great night under the stars at the Blackburn Inn’s Friday night SummerStage concert series. The concerts will extend through Labor Day and they will showcase talent like The Quebe Sisters, David Wax Museum, Bonnie Bishop, Hackensaw Boys, Bryan Elijah Smith, and more playing in a wide range of genres. Along with the music, you can enjoy beverages from local vineyards, breweries, and cideries. There will also be food from the 2nd Draft Bistro. The grounds open at 6 p.m. and the music starts at 7 p.m.

Staunton Music Festival

You’ll experience classical music spanning over 600 years at The Staunton Music Festival (August 13-15 and August 18-22). Dozens of musicians will perform in both large and small ensembles. Performances will take place in in downtown Staunton in historic Trinity Episcopal Church, Blackfriars Playhouse, and First Presbyterian Church. Festival highlights include “Time Lost and Found,” which examines the philosophical issues of time in music, “Music Transatlantica,” and “Masters and Students.” While some events are ticketed, many are free.

Redbeard’s Summer Concert Series

Want to sip some delicious craft beer while you listen to music? From now until October, find a seat at Redbeard Brewing Company on the last Saturday night of each month for their Live Summer Concert Series. Favorite groups like The Judy Chops, Six Shot Rebellion, The Findells, and Drägön Wägön will headline. 6-9 p.m.

Stonewall Brigade Band at the Gypsy Hill Bandstand 

Staunton’s historic 70-member Stonewall Brigade Band is bringing big sounds to your Monday nights from now through August 30. The oldest-continuous community band in the U.S. was originally a marching band, but with the addition of woodwinds after the Civil War, it became a concert band. It first played in what is now Gypsy Hill Park in 1889. Concerts begin at 8 p.m. See the full schedule here.

Tuesday Nights: Praise in the Park in Gypsy Hill Park 

Head to Gypsy Hill Park on Tuesday nights in July and August to hear Linden Heights Baptist Church’s annual Praise in the Park concert series. You hear contemporary and southern gospel as well as gospel bluegrass. Better yet, there will be activities to keep the kiddos busy while you listen to favorites like Faithful Men, Sierra Losh & Just Us Country Band, Ed Pettersen & Streets of Gold Quartet, Brian Buchanan & Heaven’s Mountain Band, and Covenant Band. Concerts begin at 7 p.m. See the full schedule here.

Bluegrass in Gypsy Hill Park

Local and regional bluegrass entertainers will visit Staunton on Wednesday nights between July 7 and August 25. Most concerts include sets by two different groups. Get ready for some energetic tunes and banjo picking from  Mark Templeton Band, Southern Rail Express, Page County Ramblers, Donnie Mason and In the Tradition, and more. Concerts begin at 7 p.m. See the full schedule here.

Thursday Nights: Jazz in the Park 

Celebrate hot summer nights with the Jazz in the Park summer concert series. You’ll hear classic jazz standards performed by S.P.L.A.A.A.T. Quartet, amazing stride/boogie pianist William Hayes performing with The Boogie Kings, and trumpeter John D’earth, who has collaborated with greats such as Tito Puente, Dave Matthews, and Miles Davis. Concerts begin at 7 p.m. See the full lineup here.

Nearby Music

You might also check out Waynesboro Parks and Rec’s Groovin’ at the Greenway and Wayne on Main events, which allow visitors to get comfy outdoors while listening to live music.