Rock-climbing, re-enactors, crafts vendors, children's activities, food, live entertainment, a historic town and a train whistle sounding in the background — all these things and more are part of Clifton Day.
And this year's 38th annual celebration, Sunday, Oct. 9, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., promises to be bigger and better than ever. Rain date is Oct. 16, and admission is free.
"We'll have nearly 200 crafts vendors — more than in the previous year," said Clifton Day Chairman Tom Peterson. "After 37 years of throwing a festival, we're well-established. People know exactly what we have to offer, and everybody always has a good time."
People driving to the Town of Clifton may park at Clifton Elementary and at marked lots off Chapel Road and Clifton Road. Visitors may also travel to and from Manassas, Manassas Park, Rolling Road or Burke via the Virginia Railway Express. Trains will run from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. The schedule is at www.vre.org, and $5 return-trip tickets may be bought at Clifton's red caboose.
THAT'S ALSO where Clifton Mayor Jim Chesley is likely to be found. "I'm looking forward to another beautiful, sunny day in Clifton, hopefully, and a great crowd," he said. Chesley's also anticipating "eating some good food and finding some good deals at the antiques vendors."
In the vicinity of Ayre Square, near the town flagpole, various crafters will demonstrate their art. Woodcarving, syrup-making, basketry, wool spinning, herbal crafting, lace tatting, pottery-making, rug weaving and silhouette creating are among the demonstrations planned.
Attendees may also enjoy strolling leisurely along Main Street and Chapel Road to see and purchase a wide variety of crafts, including oil paintings and watercolors, wooden furniture and decorative items, herbs, wreaths, sculpture and metalwork, leather goods, handmade jewelry, pottery and ceramics, stained glass, floral arrangements, baskets, Halloween and Christmas decorations, candles, kitchenware, clothing and toys.
For those with a preference for antiques, a large assortment will be found at their usual spot behind the Heart in Hand Restaurant. And, said Peterson, the event's continuity is one of its strong points.
"The vendors will be pretty much in the same places they were last year," he said. "They have customers who come back to see them here, every year, and they want to be able to find them easily."
However, one group that did change its location this year is the 49th Virginia Regiment, which will hold a Civil War encampment at Pendleton Street and Chapel Road. Always a hit with visitors to Clifton Day, this highly professional group provides an interesting and accurate glimpse into the lives of some of the soldiers who fought along the railroad line from Manassas to Alexandria. The members will discuss weaponry and demonstrate how muskets were fired, and people will also be able to see the type of clothing worn by soldiers and women in the 1860s.
WHEN IT comes to food, visitors may avail themselves of the homemade bread and fresh produce at the Clifton Farmers Market on Chapel Road. Or they can chow down on everything from hot dogs, hamburgers, soups, sandwiches, pizza and hot cider to the Heart in Hand Restaurant's steaming-hot Brunswick Stew.
In addition, the Clifton Presbyterian Church (just past the Hermitage Inn) will offer Caesar salads and other treats, and the Clifton Store will serve box lunches. And new this year, the Robinson Girls Basketball Team will sell popcorn and nachos in the town park.
That's where the music will be, too, on the Fairfax County Showmobile in the gazebo area. The shows are free and the schedule is as follows:
10:30 a.m., The Colin Thompson Band; 11:30 a.m., Mill Run Bluegrass Band; 1 p.m., Lost Highway Band; 2:30 p.m., Jay Armsworthy Bluegrass Band; and 4 p.m., Jimmy Cole Blues Band.
The Colin Thompson Band includes Robinson Secondary students Colin Thompson on guitar and Josh Crowley on saxophone, playing rock and blues. Mill Run features former Clifton resident Bob Goff on bass, and Lost Highway performs roots rock — rock mixed with blues and country — with Billy Branch on guitar.
Jay Armsworthy plays traditional bluegrass music, and Jimmy Cole has performed many years at Clifton Day and features Clifton's Raymond Van Lienden on harmonica. Then, after the final set, there'll be a rip-roarin' jam with local musicians joining in.
"It's good music for Clifton Day because it's happy and not heavy," said entertainment organizer — and professional singer and musician, himself — Randy Thompson. Besides that, he added, "Clifton grew up as a bluegrass town. For years, we used to have a regular, Thursday-night, bluegrass jam in the old fire hall."
A full slate of children's activities is also planned, including a rock-climbing wall, pony rides courtesy of the Clifton Horse Society, a moonbounce, face and hair painting, plus candy crafting (making art from candy). Various children's groups will also have fund-raising "fun tables" with crafts projects and other activities.
Jacquie Lambertson, owner of the Clifton educational-toy store, Noodles and Noggins, is coordinating the children's area and has also arranged for some noted, professional children's entertainers to perform live. The Children's Stage schedule is as follows: 10:30 a.m., Rocknocerus; 11:30 a.m., Mr. Knick Knack; 12:30 p.m., Kathy and Tom; and 1:30 p.m., Mister Don.
ROCKNOCERUS is a three-person group composed of Coach Cotton, Williebob and Doctor Drums. They play children's standards, as well as original songs. The show caters to children, ages 1-9, but the material is designed to amuse adults, too.
Mr. Knick Knack, who's really Steve Rossi, is one of the best-known children's entertainers in the Washington Metropolitan area. He performs a rousing and energetic show of skits and original songs sure to get toes a-tappin'.
As for Kathy and Tom, Kathy Norwine has won many vocal awards and toured Europe with an elite music ensemble. She plays piano, piccolo, flute, fife, saxophone and guitar, but loves singing the best. Tom Polman plays drums, piano and guitar and writes his own songs. After having his own band, he's performed the last 15 years for corporate, private and college audiences.
Also known as Don Bridges, Mister Don won a 2004 Wammie award for Children's Vocalist. He played an amazing 472 shows that year, and 380 of them were for children. He's president of the Songwriters Association of Washington and recently released his first, singer-songwriter CD.
Visitors may also take self-guided tours through the heart of town to view its historic homes and lovely churches — including the Clifton Primitive Baptist Church. Built by freed slaves in 1869, it was Fairfax County's first black church and is at Main and Chestnut streets. For more information about Clifton Day, see http:\\www.cliftonday.com/.
Clifton Day is put on by the Clifton Betterment Association (CBA) and, said Peterson, "All the money we raise will go to nonprofit organizations, charities and scholarships that the CBA supports."
However, the event costs a pretty penny to carry out, so Peterson was especially pleased that, this year, "We raised over $30,000 in corporate sponsorship." Main sponsors include Bonefish Grill (of Centre Ridge), Colchester Hunt Title & Escrow Co., Access National Bank, The Peterson Cos., Ourisman Fairfax Toyota and ING Financial Advisors.
In his second year as chairman of Clifton Day, Peterson's worked hard, as have his committee members. But for something as special and looked-forward-to every year as this, he knows it's worth the effort.
"It's a feel-good day," he said. "And it's the single-largest, fund-raising day for almost all the groups here that have to raise money."