FunStuff: Charlottesville events April 19 and beyond

From windows to wisteria
If you're a do-it-yourselfer, have a green thumb, or just get excited about home renovation projects, this three-day event is probably the most fun you can have without a hammer or spade in hand. For three years now, the Blue Ridge Home Builders Association's annual Home and Garden Festival, now in its 39th year, has been held on the floor of the jumbo-sized John Paul Jones Arena, with room for over 100 builders, suppliers, landscapers, and renovators. There will be workshops on energy-efficiency, activities in a special kid zone, and even wine tastings from local vineyards. And all for only five bucks. 
April 20-22, John Paul Jones Arena, 10am Sat and 1pm Fri/Sun, $5



Music and brews
Now in its 25th year, Fridays After Five kicks off the 2012 season with Love Canon, a group of conservatory-trained musicians who mix bluegrass with hit songs of the 1980s. These free concerts on the east end of the Downtown Mall, now sponsored by the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, have been as eagerly anticipated as the arrival of spring. Indeed, over 65,000 people attend each year. In the following weeks, Skip Castro, Baaba Seth, Indecision, and the Chickenhead Blues Band are just a few of the local favorites who will be taking the stage on Fridays.
April 20, Downtown Pavilion, 5:30pm, free




Kings for a night
Head over to the Southern for a multi-band mini-festival featuring the Kings of Belmont, who've been touring up and down the East Coast with a just-released album. Joining will be a long slate of bands including funk/hip hop/rock act Iville Crew (fronted by Quentin "Q Black" Walker and Marquis "Tha Beast" Monroe), rockers Farm Vegas, electronic DJ/guitar duo Guerrilla Tactics, local guitar whiz Tucker Rogers, and funk/jam act the Eames Coleman Trio. Should be a wild night, as two stages will be set up, the main one and another opposite, and the acts will just bounce back and forth from stage to stage. A certified high-energy event.
April 20,  The Southern Café and Music Hall, 8pm, $10




New wine festival
A new wine festival gets launched this month at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, the first ever Taste of Monticello Wine Trail. For one day, over 90 wines from over 20 area wineries will be available for sampling under one roof– or one tent, as the case may be. Special VIP packs get you early entry, parking, and catered food from the C&O Restaurant. There will also be 30-minute class sessions (taught by Rich Leahy, depicted at left) throughout the event on everything from reading a label to pairing wine with food. And it's not just wine. Purveyors of fine cheeses, baked goods, and produce will be on hand as well. So bring a blanket and a lawn chair and enjoy. Oh, there's music too from Wes Swing and the duo of Morwenna Lasko & Jay Pun. Tickets available online at or at the door.
April 21, Downtown Pavilion, 1pm-6pm, $29-$75




The barn opens
The Ivy Creek Natural Area has always been a favorite for history buffs and nature lovers, and for almost two years renovation on the Ivy Creek Barn has been on-going. Now, organizers are ready to unveil the restored barn. Rising from slavery, the Carr family established the farm that the Natural Area now occupies, and the barn is the only one on the African American Heritage Trail built by a free African American in Virginia, and likely the East Coast. The Natural Area has seven miles of wooded footpaths, where visitors can enjoy the preserved wildlife habitat and some well-deserved peace and quiet. (If you read this in time, there's also a volunteer day on April 19 starting at 9am where you can help maintain the trails.)
April 21, Ivy Creek Natural Area, 2pm, free




Kid bike rodeo
Ride downtown for a fun Sunday of riding at the annual Children's Bicycle Rodeo. It's a free, participatory extravaganza to promote bike safety sponsored by Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation, Community Bikes, and the Charlottesville Police Department. There'll be free bike helmets, a raffle, t-shirts, and even fruit smoothies created with bike power. It happens on top of the low-rise parking deck located beside LexisNexis law publishers at the east end of the Downtown Mall.
April 22, LexisNexis parking deck, 1-3pm, free


Big trees at Montpelier
Ever wanted to see a virgin forest? They're pretty rare– particularly on the East Coast, which is actually a much woodsier place today than it was during the Colonial era when farmers and fuelers ripped behemoth trees from the hills. But the Constitution's top author James Madison left a 200-acre stand, now designated a National Natural Landmark, with some specimens estimated to be 300 years old, at his estate in Orange County. On a coming Sunday, you can take the Big Woods Walk with no chance of getting lost or paying extra beyond regular estate admission. The 90-minute tour by the estate's horticulturalist includes the sweet smells of blossoming plants, none of which are non-natives because staff remove those from the Big Woods.
April 22, Montpelier Visitor Center, 2pm, $18 ($7 for kids 6-14)




Find fun in physics
In celebration of National Physics Day, UVA physics professors Bob Hirosky, Nilanga Liyanage, Stefan Baessler, and Bellave Shivaram will delight the crowd with strange and mystifying phenomena, like "lightning" shooting through a dielectric quartz crystal (as shown here). For 18 years, this UVA physics demonstration show has been a fun family event for discovering some peculiar properties of sound waves, learning about how electricity powers our homes, and much more. But, as the release warns, "be sure to keep an eye out for falling objects!"
April 25, UVA Physics Building, Room 203, 7pm, free




Get jazzed for free
April, according to the Smithsonian Institute, is Jazz Appreciation Month, and the Charlottesville Jazz Society has taken note. The group will hold a free Thursday evening jazz concert on the steps of Charlottesville's central library on East Market Street. That's followed by an in-library screening of Jazz Dancing, a 60-minute film by Bill Warrell, an icon of the D.C. avant-garde art and music scene who will introduce his picture. Chicago pianist Lisa McQueen and her quartet will also perform. In the event of rain, the concert will be moved inside.
April 26, JMRL Central Library, 5:30pm, free



A dive-in movie
If you haven't visited the Smith Aquatic & Fitness Center, Charlottesville's new 27,000 square-foot indoor swimming facility makes just going for a swim fun stuff enough because it offers water slides, a lazy river, and in-water play structures, as well as the latest fitness equipment to keep the whole family busy. But how about swimming and watching a movie? On Friday, they'll be showing the animated film Shark Tale on the big screen while you frolic in the water. But don't worry, we hear the new Aquatic Center is shark-free.
April 27, Smith Aquatic & Fitness Center, 7pm, $2




Explore bestsellers
See this remarkable collection of popular American fiction at the University of Virginia's Harrison Institute. The exhibition stems from the collecting efforts of Lillian Gary Taylor. During her lifetime, Mrs. Taylor assembled over 1,900 literary bestsellers. Her handwritten notebooks provide an engaging portrait of a collector who loved to read and who understood that, though the best lasts longest, literary merit is not the only measure of a book's importance. The exhibit explores American reading habits from the early 18th century to today's bestsellers. You'll also get to see a rare collection of first editions for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (1929), among others.
Through August 31, UVA Harrison Institute, Mon-Sat, free


This week's "FunStuff" was compiled by Dave McNair, and next week's "FunStuff" will be compiled by another newsroom staffer. To get your event considered, send a press release to [email protected].

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1 comment

Can we list our 2012 4th of July Parade in your events posting? Here are the details:

What: 4th of July Parade
When: Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Time: 11:00am
Where: Front Street & Main Street, Lovingston
Sign up:
phone: 263-6700
fax: 263-6713
address: P.O. Box 352, Lovingston, VA 22949

AND...Children's Bike Parade
Date: Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Time: Bike Parade Sign-up - 10:00am
Place: Corner of Main St. and Front St. in Lovingston, in front of the Union Bank.
Bike Parade Judging - 10:30am
Bike Parade Awards - 10:45am
Main Parade Begins - 11:00am

Kim Bryant
Nelson County 4th of July Parade Committee