Paradise Springs Winery, at 13219 Yates Ford Rd., helps make Clifton a destination town for area day trippers. Bi-coastal types can check out its new location in Santa Barbara, Calif. Locals can listen to live music and feast on barbeque Labor Day weekend. Find their schedule of events online at paradisespringswinery.com.
Photo by Marti Moore/The Connection
It’s 4:11 in the Town of Clifton on an ordinary Sunday afternoon in the August heat.
For your information, the atmosphere was lethargic on the main drag 15 years ago, when school was out for summer and nearly half of area residents were away on family vacation. Few local shops were open and the town’s two restaurants were preparing for dinner guests.
Then Clifton’s first coffee shop opened in the former Judy’s Junque antique store. A slow but steady drip of new businesses followed its lead on Main Street: a kitchen and bath remodeling consultant in the same building, an ice cream parlor next door and a lovely home décor boutique across the street.
More than a decade later in 2018, this very same Main Street is robust with new merchants, old locals and visiting day trippers drawn by Clifton’s historic charm.
And great coffee.
“We are a destination now, with six eateries and a sprinkling of shops,” says long-time Clifton resident Wayne Nickum, who adds, “We’ve got a post office.”
And great grapes.
A FEW MILES beyond town limits, the parking lot of the Paradise Springs Winery at 13219 Yates Ford Rd. is packed and more cars arrive in the overflow lot at the back of the vineyard. Visitors sit at picnic tables beneath shade trees in the yard below the historic log cabin and others relax on the deck outside the tasting room and winery. A band plays live music.
Inside town limits vehicles line both sides of the street Aug. 19 — including motorcycles and a vintage muscle car with the hood propped up. Although former Clifton mayor Jim Chesley moved his successful annual Labor Day Car Show fundraiser to the City of Fairfax a couple of years ago, other town traditions continue in October — beginning with the annual Clifton Day festival Oct. 7 and the Haunted Trail Oct. 27.
New residents beware: this enchanting town is a favorite haunt every Halloween for more than a hundred cute trick or treaters, who pillage the village until they get their fill of candy, then leave with their spoils — which doesn’t take long because Oct. 31 falls on a school night this year.
That sweet haul of theirs isn’t cheap. People who live outside town limits are asked to donate bags of candy each year to town residents.
Opinions in Clifton are like noses — everybody's got one. Wayne Nickum, 75, is no exception.
Since 1971, he and his wife, Donna, have lived on Main Street in the same home — one of several historic landmarks throughout town: The Harris House.
Although the sign along the white picket fence says it was built in 1830, Nickum sticks to his story: Construction on this blue dwelling started nearly 50 years later.
HE FEELS the people and his neighbors are the best part of living in Clifton and considers them family. The retired tax man, who worked in the District of Columbia, also served at home on the Town Council. In May, he retired from local government “after 41 years and two months — which includes 10 years as mayor of the Town of Clifton,” Nickum says Sunday morning in his yard.
Nonetheless, he looks forward to continued work on town projects like park and historic preservation, so Nickum can help “keep the town intact for future generations,” he says.
His point-of-view about Clifton reads like an advertising campaign slogan:
"Great place to visit. Better place to live."