The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Fireworks cap off a fun-filled, scorching-hot Fourth of July
BY LINDLEY ESTES AND LIANA BAYNE
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
On a Fourth of July that was as hot as a firecracker, Fredericksburg-area residents celebrated downtown with a five-mile race, a parade, the Heritage Festival, a river raft race and a fireworks show that together were expected to draw as many as 10,000 people. At other places across the region, from Ferry Farm to Dahlgren, people braved the 100-degree-plus heat index for some old-fashioned, patriotic fun.
The day kicked off with the five-mile Heritage Festival race at 7:30 a.m.
Rachel Shutt, 24, of Warrenton was one of the 575 runners.
Shutt, who has been running since she was 8, said she has run this race three times. But recent complications from scoliosis set back her running.
“It’s a good way to start the Fourth,” she said. “I’m recovering from spine surgery and training for the Ragnar Relay in D.C. in September. I think it’s good just getting back out there and doing something.”
Racer Larry Thompson, 65, of Stafford wore an oversized red, white and blue top hat and carried an American banner with him during the race.
“I’m a Vietnam vet,” he said. “I’m showing my pride today along with the other 364 days a year.”
Will Christian of Virginia Beach won the race, but he almost didn’t find the finish line.
“I took a wrong turn around mile two,” he said. “I went about 50 meters out of the way until they started calling me back.”
A children’s parade at 9:30 a.m. drew almost 200 children and was followed by the opening of the Heritage Festival downtown, a crafts festival that attracted more than 170 vendors.
Kelly Johnson made her twice-a-year pilgrimage to Fredericksburg with her daughter, Julia, to visit her father, Frank Herbst of Stafford. Julia, 5, besides enjoying the parade downtown, found a new hat at the Heritage Festival. “She picked out that and come jewelry,” Johnson said. “She’ll be wearing it everywhere.”
Rachel and Sy Jarvis of Caroline County had a booth selling honey, herbal salves, candles and wooden items that Sy carves with an axe.
Rachel said that the festivals they worked last weekend were poorly attended because of the storm.
“I’m hoping everyone got their yards picked up and fridges back on so they’ll come out,” she said.
FERRY FARM FUN
George Washington’s boyhood home, Ferry Farm, entertained kids while teaching them a little history.
This year for the first time, the Eagles Lodge on Cool Springs Road offered off-site parking with a free trolley to the farm.
Attendees could play games, make crafts, see demonstrations of crafts that were popular in Washington’s time and even watch an actor’s portrayal of George Washington giving a speech.
At 8 years old, Forrest Slaterbeck is one of the youngest members of the Fredericksburg Spinners and Weavers group. With a serious face, Forrest taught another child how to card wool to get it ready to spin.
He also showed other kids how wool used to be dyed (although George Washington probably didn’t use fruit-punch-flavored Kool–Aid as Forrest did).
“You have to clean and soften the wool, so it’s ready for dying and spinning,” he explained.
RACING DOWN THE RIVER
The Rappahannock River Raft Race, sponsored by the Fredericksburg Jaycees, featured 12 rafts with 55 participants racing from Falmouth Waterfront Park to City Dock. The final raft finished in 1 hour and 59 minutes.
Racer Nick Chanin, 23, of Stafford built a craft out of PVC pipes and a tarp, and dubbed it the Unsinkable Charlie Brown.
Chanin and raft-mate John Vanstraaten are Marines who live in Stafford County. They won the Most Patriotic award and also came in second in the Huck Finn category.
“We found out this was going to happen last week, so we bought a mess of PVC pipe and built it in four hours yesterday,” Chanin said.
It was the pair’s first time competing. They finished in 1 hour and 5 minutes.
Chanin said he chose to spend the day in Fredericksburg instead of D.C. because he liked supporting small-town America. “It seemed like a good, fun time.”
Chanin said creating his raft from other things seemed to “embody the creative spirit of America.”
“This is what America is about,” he said.
Sarah Newbert and her team, all of Fredericksburg, spent even less than Chanin—zero—on their raft. They used duct tape to string together Gatorade coolers that they found.
“We had a couple other versions of it, but had to scramble to fix it and keep it together in the last half-hour,” she said. “It originally had some plywood.”
Newbert’s craft, Fluffy Kitty Addie, finished the race in 1 hour and 34 minutes.
The Regency Park swim team also had a raft in the race, made of lumber and 55 gallon drums.
Troy Durocher, a parent of four of the 12 children involved, said that when they first put the raft in the water they found seven holes in the drums.
“It’s patched using duct tape and chewing gum,” he said.
The team’s craft finished the race in one hour and six minutes.
“I had a blast being in the river,” said Alice Sandoval, who will be in the sixth grade at Ni River Middle School next year. Sandoval was on the raft with her sister Samantha, who goes to Chancellor Elementary School. They said their favorite part was relaxing in between having to paddle and push the raft downriver.
The Trophy Hunters, piloted by Karl Schiebe, won the race in 31 minutes. Schiebe said the race is something he likes to do with his kids. This year he raced with daughter Karen, 13, and son Nathan, 11.
“We like coming to the river and going down the river with all the folks,” he said.
At the Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare Center, the heat was on, but so were the smiles. Kids had a blast on the moon bounce, inflatable slide and zip line, and in the crafts area. A classic-car show took over the parking lot next to the commissary. Food vendors sponsored by various civic organizations sold food.
On the large pavilion stage, a band playing mainly Beatles covers warmed up the audience up for the big show: the Nelson Brothers band, featuring Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, Ricky Nelson’s sons.
Susan Madison of King George County decided to bring her kids, Jacob, 4, and Katie, 3, to the event because it promised to be family-friendly.
Her husband also entered two of his cars in the car show. He was sporting a Hawaiian shirt with images of classic cars on it.
About 6 p.m., Katie was happily working on a project at the crafts table, decorating a sun visor with patriotic stickers. Volunteers made sure the table was well-staffed and well-stocked.
“It’s a good time,” Susan said. “This is my first time down here.”
Pat and Frederick Milton of Spotsylvania also were trying to beat the heat under a big tent that was put up in the middle of the activity area. They said they came because Pat loved Ricky Nelson and wanted to see the Nelson brothers’ band. They’d been outside for two hours already, and had another hour to wait before the band would play.
“It’s hot,” Pat said, “but they did a good job” putting up shade. Free water was also available.
“People have been friendly,” she said. “It’s a nice, small-town feel.”
Frederick said the couple has tried to attend different events in smaller towns in the area, like the celebrations in Culpeper and Fredericksburg.
“Smaller ones are easier to get in and out of,” he said. “We used to go to D.C. when our kids were here, but it’s hard to come and go in D.C.”
Others, like Kenneth Crater, chose to attend the event because of their ties to the Dahlgren community.
Crater had his 2009 Shelby Mustang in the show, one of only 1,000 similar Mustangs in the world. He showed the car at the same show last July Fourth.
He said he wanted to show the car out of respect for Carroll Shelby, who the car is named after (because it went to Shelby’s Las Vegas factory, where it was given custom modifications). He just died about three weeks ago, he said.
Crater’s a car enthusiast. He has a ’67 coup (the same he’s had since he was 17) that he’s working on, as well as a ’92 GT that he’s fixing up with his stepson.
But he came out mainly because he’s the commanding officer the Dahlgren branch of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, a military organization for kids age 10-18 that’s similar to Boy or Girl Scouts but is specific to training for military service.
Crater also served in the Navy as a fire controlman for 12 years, and was stationed at Dahlgren from 1998 until 2001. He now works for Northrup Grumman.
Now, his stepsons are involved in the USNSCC, which takes them on trips to different bases around the state and around the country to get to learn what it’s like to be in the military. Their training incorporates everything from leadership classes in classrooms to marksmanship classes on shooting ranges.
Crater took over the job two years ago when there were 8 cadets. Now, there are 43. Both of his stepsons are considering military careers. He said Dahlgren has been a great support for his cadets and his stepsons.
He said he wanted to be at Dahlgren on Independence Day because of his ties to the military.
“I met interesting people, and made some really close friends,” he said.
“Another of the guys is mentoring my stepson,” he said. His stepson thinks he wants to become a Navy SEAL. “He was over at the house last night. It was just really nice.”
ROCKIN’ AT THE YMCA
At the Massad Family YMCA, spirits were high just before fireworks were launched into the sky above the adjacent Pratt Park.
For the first time this year, the Y sponsored Rock the Fourth, a family swim night and fireworks viewing party.
More than 300 kids and parents were able to swim and dance at the sold-out event. Tickets included a hot-dog dinner. There was also a silent auction, a DJ and Hula Hooping contests.
Todd and Jeni Eichburg of Stafford brought their kids Dylan, 12, Ben, 8, and Lily, 3.
“It’s the best place to view fireworks, all their friends are here, we spend all our time here anyway,” Todd Eichburg said. “When the kids have fun, the adults have fun.”
Proceeds from the ticket sales support the Y’s sustaining fund, which provides need-based scholarships.
“It supports a good cause,” Jeni Eichburg said. “We’re here not only to have fun, but to give back to the community.”