When it comes to having fun, Clifton does it up right. So it's no wonder then that, on Clifton Day, thousands of people flock to this tiny, historic town from all over — and this year should be no exception.
Handmade crafts, wool-spinning demonstrations, pony rides, antiques, Civil War re-enactors, tons of food and live musical entertainment all combine to make Clifton Day an event not to be missed. And the 39th annual celebration will be Sunday, Oct. 8, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Rain date is Oct. 15, and admission is free.
"At Clifton Day, you can travel back in time and have a fun time doing it," said the town's vice-mayor, Michael Anton. "It's fun for the entire family."
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 at cliftonday.com, and $5 return-trip tickets may be bought at Clifton's red caboose.
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 behind the Heart in Hand Restaurant and also in front of the town fire station on Chapel Road.
Always a crowd pleaser, the 49th Virginia Regiment, will hold a Civil War encampment on Chapel Road. 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.
Also in full swing will be the Clifton Farmers Market on Chapel Road. Visitors are encouraged to stop by early and see Market Master Deb Dillard and the other vendors for their fresh produce, as well as handmade jewelry, honey and flowers. Dillard, a professional astrologist, will also be autographing her book, "Gift Giving By the Stars," all day, in front of the fire station.
It's easy to work up an appetite while walking through the town and seeing everything, but not to fear: At Clifton Day, there's food galore. Attendees may enjoy everything from hot dogs and hamburgers to soups, sandwiches, pizza and he 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. Local Boy Scouts will sell hot apple cider, and the Girl Scouts will offer homemade baked goods. Or drop by the Clifton Coffee Mill next to the Clifton Store for gourmet tea and coffee.
Clifton Day is also a time for some live, toe-tappin' music in the town park. Local bands will perform for free, from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., on the Fairfax County Showmobile in the gazebo area. There'll also be bluegrass music, rock, blues and roots rock — rock music mixed with blues and country — and a CD of the various bands' music will be available for purchase.
Performers include the Colin Thompson Band, featuring Robinson Secondary students Colin Thompson on guitar and Josh Crowley on saxophone, playing rock and blues. Also entertaining the crowd will be the Jimmy Cole Blues Band. It's a Clifton Day mainstay and features Clifton's Raymond Van Lienden on harmonica.
A WHOLE SLEW 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. And professional children's entertainers may also make an appearance.
In addition, visitors are welcome 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 www.cliftonday.com.
The whole shebang is put on by the Clifton Betterment Association (CBA), and all the money raised goes to nonprofit organizations, charities and scholarships that the CBA supports. Main sponsors of the event include Bonefish Grill, Colchester Hunt Title & Escrow Co., Access National Bank and The Peterson Cos.
Town Mayor Tom Peterson is in his third year as chairman of Clifton Day, and he and more than 80 volunteers put in lots of long hours to make the day a success. But they know that all their hard work is appreciated by everyone who attends.
As far as his children are concerned, said Vice-Mayor Anton, Clifton Day is one of their favorite days of the year. So now, he added, "Just pray for good weather."