Say Goodnight Gracie

Scott Wichmann. Photo by Jay Paul.

Scott Wichmann. Photo by Jay Paul.

I’ve been going to the theater since I was in grade school. I probably wouldn’t be as infatuated with the stage if it hadn’t been for my Aunt Roberta who thought I needed a healthy dose of culture in my life even though I was only 6 or 7. She made sure I knew about opera, the symphony, ballet and the theater.

One of the first productions I ever saw on stage in Richmond was “Hello Dolly.” Dolly’s love of life turned into my love for the theater. And, what I’ve discovered over the years is that Richmond has a wealth of theatrical talent, everything from savvy set designers to accomplished actors. One of the most talented actors in town, in my humble opinion, is Scott Wichmann.

I have had the pleasure over the years to watch him grow into his acting skin, taking on all sorts of roles, from Shakespeare’s “Richard III” to a hilarious scam artist in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” One of my favorite Scott stories comes from his performance in the zany comedy “Scapino” when he darted into the audience and took a seat next to a man who had fallen asleep during the show. Scott worked that awkward moment into the dialogue and had everyone but the Sleeping Beauty in stitches. The man’s wife thought it was hilarious, the man not so much.

Scott Wichmann. Photo by Jay Paul.

Scott Wichmann. Photo by Jay Paul.

I’m very excited that Scott is now taking on the role of the legendary George Burns in Virginia Rep’s one-man show, “Say Goodnight Gracie,” at Hanover Tavern. The show is about the life of this beloved comedian and the love of his life, his wife, Gracie Allen. It runs through November 3.

In addition to being a fan of Scott, I am also a huge fan of Burns and Allen. Their television show aired from 1950 to 1958. Their fresh approach to humor endures through the ages. Theirs was one of the great love stories of all times and Scott tells me that the show at Hanover is really a love letter to Gracie, a celebration of her talent.

One thing that Burns and Allen were known for is their perfect timing and their illogical logic style of comedy. Getting that down and also zeroing in on the pitch and timber of George’s voice was a challenge for Scott in the beginning – everything has to be exact or it won’t be believable. In fact he says he panicked when it didn’t come as easily as he had hoped.

Knowing Scott, I’m sure he now has everything down and he and the production will be a big hit. I’m looking forward to seeing it all unfold on stage.

Joan Tupponce is a national award-winning freelancer who was born and raised in the Richmond area. You’ll often spot her out and about enjoying all the great cultural aspects of the area. Check out her websiteat

National Menswear Pop-Up, Northern Grade, Comes to Richmond

NG-COLLAGEMenswear Pop-Up, Northern Grade, will make its debut in Richmond this weekend, September 21st and 22nd. This mobile market features the very best American-manufactured goods and it’s a must-see for the entire family. This is one of three stops for the unique event, traveling next to Chicago and then Minneapolis. Produced by Katherine and Mac McMillan, the team behind the menswear brand Pierrepont Hicks, Northern Grade is a market by a brand for the brands. Katherine McMillan said, “American brands are growing at a fast pace, and Northern Grade’s goal is to help. In the current world of today’s fashion and technology, the male consumer wants to know more about what is behind the brands he covets. Northern Grade gives him a chance to shake that designer’s hand and talk.”

Each Northern Grade market features music, spirits and great local food. While it’s about bringing in new brands from other regions, Northern Grade is largely about supporting local brands. And Richmond has some amazing local menswear brands. Need Supply Co. will host the event and helped secure one of Richmond’s most unique locations: the Power Plant at Haxall Point, a hydroelectic plant that formerly provided power to downtown Richmond. Local menswear giant, Ledbury, will be participating as well. Elisabeth Edelman, VP of Branding at Ledbury said, “Northern Grade is the ideal opportunity for Ledbury to showcase our Commonwealth Collection. These pieces are not just made in the United States, they were created in partnership with Virginia artisans who share our value for designing with the highest quality materials. One of our partners, Marcus Wiley of Wiley Belts in Free Union, VA, will join us at our booth, making belts on-site and walking guests through the hand-crafted process behind the belts. We will also be selling our Monroe Cufflinks, which were made with silversmith Joe Rhames of Charlottesville.”

So here are the details you need to know about spending your weekend in style:


Saturday, September 21st – 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday, September 22nd – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Brands in Attendance:

  • Need Supply Co.
  • Pierrepont Hicks
  • Osmium
  • Almond Surfboards
  • Shockoe Denim
  • Mother Freedom
  • Moore & Giles
  • Cadet
  • BillyKirk
  • Odd Couple Shop
  • Ursa Major
  • Woolrich
  • Billy Reid
  • The Hill-Side
  • Cause + Effect
  • Archival Clothing
  • Appalatch Outdoor Apparel Company
  • Square Trade Goods Co.
  • R. Riveter
  • Ledbury
  • Stock Manufacturing Co.
  • Lumina Superior Dry Goods
  • Jack Donnelly
  • Clay + Bros
  • Shwood

Food & Drinks by:

  • Lamplighter Roasting Co.
  • Pizza Tonight
  • Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

Photobooth by Smile Booth

Featuring a commissioned mural by Duncan Robertson

Men’s Grooming by David Foster of Foster Cuts

A kid’s lounge sponsored by bbgb books.

Northern Grade Richmond is free to the public. Parking is available by the Pipeline Overlook or at the James Parking Deck at 1001 Haxall Point. For more information, please contact:

Courtney Skunda is a PR and Marketing Director in Richmond. She also works supporting local boutiques, designers and artists around the country with a company called The Nearby. You can keep up with her fashion musings on her blog, Cobblestone Couture, or on Twitter and Instagram.

Shopping in Carytown

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some great cities in my lifetime. Some trips have been for work, others for fun and vacation. A common theme with me is that I always scope out the shopping before I take any trip, planning out the exact spots to hit before I even arrive. You can call me an experienced shopper. So, when it comes to the Richmond shopping scene, I don’t like to brag – but I’m kind of an expert.

carytownPeople often ask me my favorite place to shop in Richmond. Without hesitation, I respond, “Carytown!” Why? It’s Richmond’s own equivalent of M Street in Georgetown, King Street in Charleston, or even a small SOHO in New York. What makes Carytown different? It’s 100% authentic and local, not to mention lively and eclectic. What’s wonderful about Carytown is that you can spend an entire day with your friends and family not only shopping but also looking at art, eating a great meal and enjoying a glass of wine – maybe even meeting some great street vendors along the way. Carytown is also pedestrian friendly, so you can leave your car at one end and walk all day.

So, did I mention the shopping? I mean let’s get serious here. It’s fantastic and incredibly diverse. Richmond has such a creative culture, so it doesn’t surprise me that we have stores that run the gamut. If you are visiting Richmond and have a few hours to spend in Carytown, here are my recommendations of where you should make a point to stop and take a look around. Tell them Courtney sent you and who knows, maybe you’ll get a discount!

1.)  Bangles and Beads: Created by a mother and daughter team in 1985, Bangles and Beads primarily carries jewelry with a small collection of beads. Now, with the addition of a third generation, the store has expanded into one of the largest collections of beads and jewelry supplies in the United States. It always has an amazing selection, so check it out!

pink2.)  Pink: Pink has been a women’s contemporary fashion mecca since 1987. Originally called The Pink Cadillac, it stocks women’s clothing, accessories, handbags, jewelry and shoes.

3.) Roan: Led by second-generation merchant Hank Greenberg, Roan is a luxury boutique with a team of experienced stylists. Roan features established designers as well as emerging talents, offering an ever-changing selection of ready-to-wear fashion, jewelry, shoes and accessories that keep its clients on the leading edge of fashion. Each season, Hank chooses pieces from the best collections in New York, Milan, Paris and beyond.

4.) Clementine: Voted “Best Consignment Shop in Central Virginia,” Clementine offers a diverse collection of top brands, including an entire section of premium denim. You’ll find brands like Citizens, Vince, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Anthropologie, Tibi, Rebecca Taylor, Tory Burch, J. Crew, Joe’s, Milly, Elizabeth and James, and DVF. It also carries new accessories at affordable prices.

5.) Need Supply: Originally opened in 1996, Need Supply Co. sells a unique collection of vintage pieces for men and women. As a Richmond-based boutique, it incorporates the culture and style of the city into its selection. Over the past decade, it has evolved to offer a well-edited assortment of contemporary designers and independent labels from the U.S. and abroad.

6.) Ruth and Ollie: Ruth & Ollie is a home furnishings store owned and operated by husband and wife team Mike and Kat Liebschwager. They pride themselves on selling pieces that are unique, modern and fresh. You’ll find upholstered furniture, lighting, pillows, art and accessories. Be sure to ask them about the original Ruth and Ollie –  their grandmothers!

7.) Eurotrash: Anne Hughes founded Eurotrash out of her love of European fashion, culture and travel. She strives to bring what Europeans wear to the States – but at a better exchange rate. She seeks out little lines (and not-so-little lines!) to compile a broad collection of clothing at a range of styles and price points to suit every age, occasion, whim and budget.

8.) Thomas Hines Antiques: Thomas-Hines, Inc. was founded as an antique and interior design company in 1972. Over the years, the original shop has expanded to some 82,000 square feet of fine furniture, porcelain and accessories. Specializing in the sale of pieces from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, the shop is one of the premier sources of antiques on the East Coast, as well as one of the largest sources in Virginia.

Courtney Skunda is a PR and Marketing Director in Richmond. She also works supporting local boutiques, designers and artists around the country with a company called The Nearby. You can keep up with her fashion musings on her blog, Cobblestone Couture, or on Twitter and Instagram.

An Invitation for the Royal Baby

Dear His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge,

Welcome to the world, George Alexander Louis! You probably don’t know this yet, but lots of people all over the world are thrilled that you’ve finally arrived—even those of us “across the pond”, as they say.

While we know you’ll be quite busy over the next several months eating, sleeping, and filling diapers (royal though they may be), it’s only a matter of time before your princely duties kick in. With that in mind, we’d like to take this opportunity to officially extend an invitation for you to make Richmond, Virginia the destination of your first trip abroad.

I know, I know, exotic places like Paris or Dubai or perhaps any one of those countries making up that whole Commonwealth over which you’ll one day reign seem like obvious choices, but hear me out. After all, our little part of the Commonwealth (we’re one too!) of Virginia has a long-standing tradition of English visitors*; in fact, your own Great-Grandmother spent some time here six years ago to commemorate the founding of Jamestown. What’s more, we’ve got plenty to keep you and those lovely parents of yours entertained while you’re here. Take a look, if you please, at the examples below. I think you’ll find that these activities and sights will both appeal to your “veddy British” sensibilities and give you the true Richmond experience.

Afternoon Tea at The JeffersonThe Jefferson Hotel
Enjoy a delightful selection of scones, pastries, and finger sandwiches under the stunning Tiffany glass ceiling in the Palm Court of one of Richmond’s most beloved landmarks. Sure, it’s named after the guy who penned the document that initiated our countries’ somewhat tense “break up” (yeah, let’s just call it that), but let’s let bygones be bygones, shall we? Besides the atmosphere at the Jefferson is as posh as you can get in this town.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
I’m sure what you’ve got at Buckingham Palace is lovely, but we consider this spot one of our city’s treasures. With over 50 acres of cultivated landscape featuring more than 7,500 unique genera, species, and cultivar from around the world, the beauty and richness of Lewis Ginter is hard to beat any time of the year. Plus, does Great-Grandmother’s garden include a tree house and water play area? Doubtful.

World of Mirth
Open since 1993, World of Mirth has made it its business to stock items you can’t find in any old toy store. This should come in handy for your family members who are surely asking themselves, “What do you get a future king who has everything?” on a daily basis. Allow me to suggest a thumb wrestling ring? A set of fake mustaches? What about your very own horse head mask? All of these (and so, so, SO much more!) can be found at Richmond’s quirkiest and most beloved toy store, located in the heart of Carytown.

Farm Goats People Children Credit Julie BaileyChildren’s Farm and Virginia Wildlife Exhibit at Maymont
Royal or not, no kid-friendly visit to Richmond would be complete without a visit to Maymont to feed the baby goats, say hello to the donkey, and an attempt at spotting our ever-elusive pair of black bears. After a picnic on the lawn, be sure to head over to the Japanese and Italian Gardens, the site of many romantic Richmond weddings. Gross, I know, but your parents will like it.

Penny Lane Pub
Speaking of Mum and Dad, we’ve got just the spot for them to kick back once you’ve been tucked in for the night. Located just a few blocks from Capitol Square downtown, Penny Lane Pub offers the true English Pub experience—“A Touch of Liverpool in Richmond” as the proprietors put it. They can throw back a few pints, commune with local soccer (sorry, “football”) fans, and gnosh on traditional British faire like Cottage Pie, Fish ‘n’ Chips, and Bangers ‘n’ Mash—a picture perfect way for them to unwind after a fun and exciting visit to our beloved capital city before heading back to yours.

Thank you in advance for considering our invitation. We hope to see you soon!

(And just try to let us know ahead of time if you’re interested in that tea at The Jefferson because reservations tend to go quickly. They might make an exception for you, but I can’t promise anything.)

*OK, 400ish years might seem like nothing to the British, but it’s a pretty big deal for us kids over here in the States.

Valerie Catrow is the former editor of RVANews and a current contributor to their parenting column, Raising Richmond. A Richmonder through-and-through, she grew up in Midlothian, graduated from the University of Richmond, and currently lives on the city’s Northside with her husband, Ross, and their son, JR. You can see what she’s up to on a day-to-day basis via Twitter and Instagram.

10 Things I Learned at Redskins Training Camp

Redskins-2The Washington Redskins are in town, and fans are flocking to the new Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center to see them in action. I am one of those fans, and I had a fantastic experience on my recent visit. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Go on a Monday. I can’t speak for all of them, but on the Monday we went, we were part of a smallish crowd. Everything was easy. It didn’t hurt that the weather was pretty perfect too.
  2. Parking is just fine, at least on a Monday. We are lucky to have friends with a business in the area and free parking for us, but I think we could have found parking even closer in some of the designated lots.
  3. Get the 2013 Fan Guide. It shows you where to have a good meal, and it includes a complete schedule, player Twitter handles and bios, autograph tips and more. Available for $2 on-site.
  4. The staff and volunteers are a cheerful bunch. We encountered friendly greetings and smiles at every turn, and one volunteer gave us the very helpful tip to take our girls to the Kids’ Zone.
  5. If you have kids, go to the Kids’ Zone. There, your youngsters could be selected to walk off the field with the players after practice. Several of the fan favorites, including Alfred Morris, greeted the kids the day we visited.
  6. Redskins-1It’s not that hard to get an autograph. DeAngelo Hall, Pierre Garcon and Chip Reeves signed our football, and we only waited about five minutes for each (see #1 above). We hoped to get a signature from RGIII, but as it turns out, he came out to sign autographs soon after we left.
  7. Bring your camera. There are photo ops everywhere: giant banners with players’ photos lining the camp entrance, life-size cutouts (insert your face here) near the Kids’ Zone, the dome of the Science Museum of Virginia in the background, and of course, that emerald green field dotted with burgundy jerseys makes a perfect picture for any fan.
  8. Bring money for merchandise. Admission to camp is free (which is awesome), but it’s hard to resist all the very cool stuff in the merchandise tent–shirts, hats, key chains, earrings. They even sell white footballs, perfect for autographs.
  9. Great local restaurants are within walking distance. Fat Dragon Chinese Kitchen and Bar is offering extended happy hours during the season. Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue serves mouthwatering ribs that won in a “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” episode. And the brand new En Su Boca is already getting great buzz. All are located on The Boulevard, just south of Leigh Street, located just a few short blocks from the camp.
  10. There’s nothing like seeing your favorite team in person. Even though I’ve been a Redskins fan for 20+ years, I’ve never been to a game. So, this was a real treat for me – seeing the action up-close with players just a few yards away.  I would bet that I’ve now been closer to my favorite football heroes than many who make the trek to Fed Ex Field.

Redskins-3Redskins training camp in Richmond continues through August 16, 2013 and will return each July and August (hopefully for a long, long time!). Throughout the rest of the year, the site will be a resource for the community with a men’s health center, a healthy kids initiative, an amphitheater and walking trails.

Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center
2401 W. Leigh Street
Richmond, VA 23220

Carla Murray is a Richmond Region native who enjoys outings in RVA with her husband and daughters, lunches with friends at new restaurants, and promoting Maymont via social media. Her obsessions include turtles, Cirque du Soleil, Costa Rica, books and wine.

Let’s Play Ball at RF&P Park

RFP Park 3Glen Allen, Virginia hosted the Babe Ruth Southeast Regional softball tournament at RF&P Park last weekend. That’s a pretty big deal in the world of girls’ fastpitch softball. As a local softball mom, I was able to save on hotel costs and rest at home each night. But for those who did travel – from as far away as North Carolina, Alabama and Florida – the softball complex was a pristine, well-managed location with some of the best ballpark amenities I’ve seen, and there were plenty of diversions for the time between games.

Crump Park and Meadow Farm Museum are located on the same site as RF&P, and provide a large playground, a fishing pond and an 1860 farm house open for tours Tuesday through Sunday. Shopping and dining options are abundant, from malls to markets and fast food to fine dining, as well as historic landmarks and attractions.. Along the short stretch of Mountain Road coming from I-295 each day, we passed Walkerton Tavern, The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, Virginia Cliffe Inn and Forest Lodge Belvedere, an eye-catching green and white structure with a fascinating history.

RF&P Park itself was our daily destination in Glen Allen this time around, though. My daughter’s New Kent 8U All Stars team played games on two of the three youth softball fields. (The complex also includes four baseball fields and two football/soccer fields.) It was rough to be outside for eight to 10 hours a day during the most hot, humid, sticky days of the year so far – with a heat index of 105, no less – but shaded areas in and around the fields made the heat much more bearable. Tents covered both bleachers on one of the fields and a permanent shelter provided shade at the other. Giant picnic pavilions with ceiling fans were our gathering spots between games. There’s a massive grilling area and bar at each pavilion, perfect for picnics and parties, and in our case, a serving area for whatever was stashed in our coolers. Concessions offered spectators and players the typical fare—hotdogs, nachos, peanuts and sodas. Rumor has it that the “good stuff” is served at the huge Glen Allen Stadium within the complex. There are train cars open when the stadium is in use, too.

RFP Park 4My daughter’s team placed 3rd in the tournament and they came away with great memories and lifelong friendships. Glen Allen’s RF&P Park proved to be a perfect backdrop for this unforgettable experience.

RF&P Park
3400 Mountain Road
Glen Allen, Virginia 23060

County of Henrico Division of Recreation & Parks
(804) 501-7275

Carla Murray is a Richmond Region native who enjoys outings in RVA with her husband and daughters, lunches with friends at new restaurants, and promoting Maymont via social media. Her obsessions include turtles, Cirque du Soleil, Costa Rica, books and wine.

Bacon and Veggies: The Hostess with the Most-est

I love being a hostess. Nothing makes me happier than channeling a little Martha Stewart along with my grandmother’s rules of Southern Hospitality to prepare the perfect weekend getaway for visiting friends. But what good is a perfectly arranged guest room, freshly prepared snacks and munchies and fully stocked bar without a vibrant, culturally rich and inviting city to compliment it all? Not a bit of good!

I’ll start by telling you that I’m blessed with some pretty amazing girlfriends. We’ve been friends since middle school and we definitely value our girl time. With my fiancée out of town for two weeks, my girlfriends deemed it the perfect opportunity to visit, which gave me the perfect opportunity to show them my truly amazing city.

Girlfriend Weekend # 1: Bacon Festival, June 9, 2013

IMG_1355First up: My friend Tara drove up from Durham, N.C., to spend the night and accompany me to the first annual Richmond Bacon Festival. Our Saturday consisted of some Carytown shopping, Mint Juleps and hummus at Water Grill and an absolutely fabulous dinner at La Grotta. But the crown jewel of the weekend was indeed the Bacon Festival.

The Bacon Festival confirmed something for me – I. Love. Bacon. I just do. The very smell of it makes me smile. (I once tried to be a vegetarian after a science lab dissection that I won’t get into, but it was the smell of bacon that brought about the swift and painless end to my three-month vegetarian campaign.) I was made to enjoy bacon and let me assure you, Richmond’s chefs know a thing or two about bacon.

Yes, it was crowded. Yes, it was hot. Yes, there were lines. But there was bacon! So much bacon! So, with my carnivorous companion by my side, we embarked on a deliciously porky journey. Here are just a FEW of the things that we tried:

  • Bacon and Gruyere Pork Sausage
  • Bacon Pecan Pie
  • Bacon S’mores
  • Bacon and Watermelon Salad
  • Bacon Nachos

And everything was … amazing. (I have since dreamed about that Bacon and Watermelon salad.) Needless to say, Tara and I waddled back to the car and quickly proceeded back to my house for a much needed nap. Bacon Festival Weekend was a success – and possibly a new tradition!

Girlfriend Weekend #2: Vegetarian Festival, June 14, 2013

photo(20)Okay, I should probably be honest about the real reason that my two friends Hillary and Kathryn drove down from New York City: My Bachelorette Party. I will spare you the details and keep this family-friendly, but let me take this moment to assure you, Richmond definitely has a thriving night life, even by New York City standards! So after a night of good food at Canal Bistro, lots of dancing at Off The Hookah and the late-night pillaging of my well-prepared hostess snacks, we decided to attend the Richmond Vegetarian Festival the next day.

The festival was held at Bryan Park (one of my favorite running spots) and Kathryn happens to be a vegetarian. She has been ever since she watched the movie Babe in third grade. It only seemed right to take my vegetarian friend to the Vegetarian Festival! Of course, Hillary and I also enjoy vegetables.

The setting was obviously quite different from the Bacon Festival’s 17th Street Farmer’s Market location. There was ample shade, dogs and children, plenty of personal space, an assortment of animal/earth/vegan/vegetarian/green-friendly vendors, and of course, an absence of bacon. But believe it or not, I didn’t find myself missing the meat. Probably because the Vegetarian Festival featured some 26 local food vendors who were turning out some pretty amazing grub.

We started with India K’Raja’s vegetable korma and homemade naan bread, which was delicious. We also had some of the best spring rolls ever from Green Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant. We finished our vegetarian food sampling by picking up some piña colada and mango frozen dessert from Soul Ice before finding a shaded seat in front of the music stage where we listened to the Vulgar Bulgars, a local Klezmer band. (Not sure what Klezmer is? I wasn’t either, but it’s a bit like Fiddler on the Roof meets the 21st Century.) The Vegetarian Festival ended up being a total a hit with my friends and the perfect activity for a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

From meat-loving masses to tempeh-toting vegans, my back-to-back festival weekends couldn’t have been more different. But isn’t that what we love about our fair Region? With every approaching weekend (heck – weekdays, too!), there’s always something fun and uniquely “Richmond” to do. Not to mention it gives me loads of activities to add to my most-est hostess repertoire. Take that, Martha Stewart.

Liz Stewart is the Sales and Marketing Coordinator at Richmond Region Tourism. Born in Nashville, TN, Liz moved to Richmond in 2011 with her fiancé, Frankie. They currently live in Lakeside and are looking forward to getting married in September! Liz enjoys cooking, crafting and exploring the Richmond food scene.