Friday, October 3, 2014

RVA Makerfest 2014

On Saturday September 27th from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the Science Museum of Virginia played host to (annual?) Makerfest, a gathering of scientists, artists, musicians, craftsman and more who were all there to showcase their skills and finished products.  This isn’t just a craft show or shopping event; Makerfest strives to focus more on the how to and why that goes into creating art, various crafts, culinary treats, technological gadgets and more.  And it was FREE!

For now, I’m just going to share the photos I took from my time there.  But once I do more research into my favorite booths, I’ll write a complete blog about the day. And if someone's actually keeping up with my blog and can't wait until then, you can find out more at the RVA Makerfest Website.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Secretly Ya’ll Presents: The River

On Monday September 15th, I got to experience something new in Richmond. ..i.e. For the first time.  This is kind of a big deal to me.  After residing here for 29 years, there’s not too many things I haven’t at least said “Why the hell not” to and checked out yet.

I think the opening line on their website sums it up nicely:  “Secretly Ya’ll is a storytelling organization that encourages people to tell true stories in front of an audience and is committed to bringing people together through the art of storytelling.”   Any questions?  So this is basically a never-ending storytelling series with a different theme each week where people tell their TRUE stories (main criteria) within a 5-7 minute time frame.  Originally based in Charlottesville, Secretly Ya’ll moved to Richmond in September 2010 and now events take place every month at Balliceaux.  Anyone can participate, you just have to contact them before hand and tell them about your story.

Each event has a $5 cover at every show, but instead of going to their own organization, Secretly Ya’ll donates the all the profits from the fee to a charity or project of their choosing (usually relevant to the theme of that week;  for example, since this theme was “The River”, proceeds went to the James River Association).

My friend and I got there early to try to make sure we got a table.  They open the “doors” around 6:45, so a crowd had already gathered with the same intentions and by the time we got back there, all the tables and booths were gone.  We were lucky though bc my friend and her girlfriend managed to snag a back booth and invited us to join.  

I talked to some people before the show while I was waiting at the front bar to get an amazing gin specialty cocktail.  One person I talked to was going to be on stage later.  He told me he’d seen  a show before and kinda knew what to expect, but he was still nervous.  Another person shared how frustrated they were about there being a $5 cover bc (apparently) there used to be no cover in Charlottesville and the whole event was free.  The third person was a guy who was there for the first time and looking forward to the show, and ended up ordering the last of the specialty cocktail that I came to the front bar just to order (eh, not really – I still got one somehow).   Later, that guy ended up stealing the show in a way.  But I’ll discuss that later.

The stories included tails of adventure, adrenaline, bravery, and even death.  The first two storytellers coincidentally both showed up with oars as props.  Then some were about psychological and emotional topics, like one girl’s epiphany that her mother was a lesbian.  Still another was about a guy and his friend observing a woman having sex with a tree …yes, straight up dendrophilia…these stories were all over the place.  Yet the story still managed to be entertaining with somewhat of a remaining level of dignity, and told quite well!  And what’s awesome is the guy who told that story was the one standing out at the bar before the show telling me how nervous he was.  During intermission he came over to say hi again, and I eagerly shared my pun of, “Good story – I didn’t see that one coming.” HEH, get it?  Any question he had as to whether or not I was judging him over his story quickly went out the door.

There was a brief intermission after all the storytellers who had signed up ahead of time were done.  For the 2nd half of the show, audience members could throw their names into a hat and, if drawn at random, could get up on stage and tell their own story.

These were not as eloquently formed, but some of them still had really valid, eloquently worded points to get across (and by this point I was tipsy so I was feeling especially empathetic with the people preaching the value of the river, and its simplicity and peacefulness and relevance).  But there was one storyteller who stole the show at this point.  This is when my friend from the bar got called up to share his story entitled “My First Time at a Strip Club”.  Now keep in mind, the theme of the night was “The River”, and this guy had sat through the entire first half of the show listening to river stories.  No one’s quite sure where the wires got crossed, but he went on to ramble (though in his defense, it was a well worded and often excellently delivered ramble).  There were people designated to time the story tellers, and when their time would be close to over, they would ring a bell.  I assume there was one bell as a “1 minute remaining” warning, and the 2nd bell would be when time was up….this guy got through 3 bells and still somehow never even arrived at the damn strip club in his story.  Everyone was so confused.  So this man either missed the mark, or was doing some sort of psychological social experiment involving a crowd? Lol idk.

All-in-all, this really was an entertaining, fun and almost fulfilling experience.  It’s fun to sit around with your friends telling stories, right?  Well these are friends you didn’t know you had/haven’t met yet, sharing stories of experiences you may never see for yourself or hear about.  And it’s always interesting to hear things from different perspectives.  It’s a really cool way (IMO) for the community to come together and get a little bit closer.  And I feel like in this day and age, that’s never a bad thing.

Check out their next event at Balliceaux on December 1st with the theme of “Plot Twist”.  Doors open at 7:00 pm (but the front part of Balliceaux will still be open before that) and stories start at 7:30 pm.  If you have a story you’d like to tell, contact them via their email  

And if you can’t wait until then (and if you’re a lover of food), check out an event that Secretly Ya’ll is involved with- the Fire, Flourand Fork Festival on November 1st.  It’s going to be four days of eating food, talking about food, and demonstrations on how to cook food J  Get the idea? 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hot Town! Summer in the City: RVA Summer Staples

I'm now in this cursed inbetween where most of the blogs I want to post are about events that happened months ago.  Besides that making them slightly irrelevant, it means I have to do a little more research bc my memory sucks.  Meggy brain not work so good.  SO, in the meantime, I thought I'd break down some RVA summer hang outs for anyone new to the area, or not so new and just looking for something to do.

The River
I mean, we’re called “River City”.   What do you think everyone’s going to do when it’s 100 degrees outside (feels like 500) and the city is composed of broke college students…or in the case of my friends, broke late 20’s/early 30’s party people?  We grab a towel (blanket, nothing, whatever), a cooler, a dog, a way to play music, and we go lay on some rocks and dip our lower bodies in our semi polluted James River waters.  Once you’ve been sweating for about 15 minutes, you just kinda embrace the filthyness and go with it.  And it’s kinda great.  I’ve met some awesome people and had some great times on Belle Isle (specifically “Dead Rock”), Texas Beach, 42nd Street, and the Pipeline.  I was shocked to meet someone recently who was in his late 20’s, had grown up in Chesterfield, but was on his first river visit ever.  That just doesn’t make sense.  If you’ve lived here for even a year and haven’t been to one of our lovely river spots yet, ask someone (most likely ANYONE) how to get to one, and get down there.  Oh, bring bug spray….like, a lot of bug spray. And DON’T BRING GLASS unless you know you’re cool enough to not break it and fully intend to take it with you when you leave.  Don’t you dare litter or hurt anyone on these blessed spots.

Also, besides white water rafting (which I've written about) and kayaking, companies like Riverside Outfitters and Black Dog Paddle now offer long boards/paddle boards and canoes to rent out.  I'm very excited to try this soon.

For maps and more information on our wonderful river, check out the James River Park System website.

The Beach
One of the main things I love about Richmond is its proximity to both the ocean and the mountains (see section below for the latter).  If there's no traffic (which is a biiiiiig "if" on a Friday evening or Saturday morning/afternoon) you can be laying on sand and feeling the salty ocean breeze in an hour and a half...depending on how you drive.  Virginia BeachSandbridge, First Landing National Park, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and so many other nearby areas can feel like a vacation, even if you only go for the day or a weekend.  With so much to do from mini golf, great restaurants, amusement rides, shopping, go-karts, aquariums, parasailing...I mean, there's no excuse to be bored.  And if you're broke, hey, just go lie on the sand.  Seriously, it's better than being in Richmond all day every day all summer.  IMO.

The Mountains
We live in a concrete jungle, right?  So sometimes it's perfectly refreshing to escape the city on a hot summer day and drive out west to the beautiful Appalachian Mountains.  Thanks to the Appalachian Trail, there are numerous hikes with waterfalls, pools to soak in (like, rock pools, not swimming pools), and breathtaking views.  Plus you at least have the chance of being somewhere a few degrees cooler.  

For more info on the Appalachian Mountains and the beautiful (sometimes scary) Blue Ridge Parkway, check out this site.

Busch Gardens
My favorite place in the summer!  If you’re a Virginia resident, you can go once at the very beginning of the season (April) and then get in free the rest of the summer!  Sure you have to pay again if you want to go back for Hollow Scream, but who cares in the summer?  If you’re bored out of your mind but have gas in your car, in 45 minutes you can be riding amazing coasters in the most beautiful amusement park on the East Coast, or cooling down on the log flume, Roman Rapids, or Escape from Pompeii….actually, a lot of the coasters will cool you off (at least for a few minutes).  And depending on how early you go, you may not even have to worry about buying food!  Or do what I do and sneak in a bottle of water and some trail mix and you’re good to go lol.  

For more info, go to the official Busch Gardens website.

Good beer, food, and lots of people (and dogs).  What more can I say?  …well I could mention how every Thursday in the summer they have the Food Truck court starting around 5:30 and it’s an excellent time to go.  At the beginning of the summer, Project Yoga?? Would host yoga sessions in the brewing area, and that was pretty cool.  And besides the bar in the main Hardywood building, they also bought the building next door and opened up another bar with an indoor seating area.  Check, check, check, check it out.  For more info on their events and hours, go to the Hardywood website.

There are also a wide array of other breweries if you’re looking for a less popular/crowded hang out, including Strangeways Brewing and Isley Brewing Company. And I can't forget the classic, and probably my forever favorite Richmond brewery, Legend Brewery.  Also a restaurant now, its patio offers amazing views of the city skyline.  It's just usually a bit crowded on evenings and weekends, just like Hardywood.

Everyone knows "Virginia is for lovers", right?  Well I ask you, lovers of what?  The answer:  drinking. Apparently.   Over the past few years I've been to out-of-town breweries, wineries, and "cideries" more than I've been to D.C., the beach, and the mountains combined.  A few of my favorite wineries include Veritas Vineyard & WineryBarboursville VineyardsKeswick Vineyards, and the Williamsburg Winery (honorable mention:  Trump Winery.  Even though I don't like that man, the views at that winery are gorgeous).  As far as cider goes, I've been to one place out of town called Castle Hill Cider that was just gorgeous.  But we also have our own local cidery called Blue Bee Cider, which just happens to be next door to Legends and boasts itself as "Virginia's first urban cidery".
 Castle Hill

Flying Squirrels Baseball Games
It seemed like everyone was bummed out when it was announced Richmond's baseball team would no longer be known as The Braves.  It seemed like everyone was even more bummed out when it was announced the new team would be known as The Flying Squirrels.   I mean...c'mon, really?  And some people still aren't biting (at least I've personally heard a few people still complaining that it was a poor decision and shitty change).  But I, for one, love the changes made to game days and embrace the quirky new(ish) team!  I don't remember having nearly as much fun at Braves games as I do at Flying Squirrels games.  I also don't remember us winning any more or any less, so who cares?  Go buy yourself a cheap beer (bring cash! while the concession stand beers have long lines and seem a bit pricey, the 2nd floor of the stadium has a beer cart/stand that only accepts cash but gives you a great deal on a large beer).

For more information on game times and when they have promotions/fireworks, check out the Flying Squirrel's site.

Kings Dominion
Buuuuuuut I haven’t been in FOREVER so I don’t have any relevant first hand info for you.  So much has changed their in the last few years.  All I can say is enough awesome changes have been made/things added that I’m making it a priority to get back there this year!

To get more information and check it out for yourself, take a look at Kings

There are many, many, MANY other things to do in or around Richmond during the summer, but these are what I believe to be the staples that every Richmonder and visitor should try at least once.  But hey, if there's something I missed, by all means, let me know.  And if all this fails you and you're still bored....well, have a cookout or go to DC.  Or wait for whatever free festival or concert is happening next.