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Virginia Highlands Festival shows off area's heritage

THE BALTIMORE SUN

An article in today's Travel section contains an incorrect date for the annual Chincoteague pony swim. The event will be July 26.

The Sun regrets the error.

Abingdon, Va., said to be the oldest town west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, will be the site of a 16-day festival. The Virginia Highlands Festival opens July 29 and runs through Aug. 13. As one of the state's oldest and largest festivals, it is also one of its most popular, attracting crowds of more than 200,000.

The festival is a showcase for the cultural heritage of the area, offering visitors numerous attractions -- performing-arts events, antiques, crafts, children's activities, tours, nature programs, living-history portrayals, food and more.

Focal points of the festival are the Antiques Market Show & Sale, featuring dealers from 14 states, and the Juried Arts & Fine Crafts Show, with 120 exhibitors. The Antiques Market is held under three circus tents on the campus of Virginia Highlands Community College. It is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There is a $2 admission charge. A double-decker bus shuttles visitors between the college and the festival downtown. The craft show is set up on Barter Green on Main Street and on the lawn of the Martha Washington Inn from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Throughout the festival there will be daily demonstrations and selected workshops, as well as exhibits of art, photography and textiles.

Opening day offers a variety of events for young people. It is billed as Fox 39's Kids Club Fun Day and features games and music shows by Brooke, host of the "Kids Club" television series, along with a bike parade and a youth concert by Trout Fishing in America.

Musicians at this year's festival include Robin and Linda Williams, Kristina Olsen, the Brother Boys and No Strings Attached. The 1996 Virginia Regional of the International Bluegrass Showdown will take place at the festival Aug. 13 with some of the region's best bands competing for the title of Virginia Regional Champion.

There will also be performances by dance troupes from Argentina and Israel; square dancers; cloggers; a presentation of mime by Andrew Levitt; storyteller Barbara Freeman of the Folktellers; the Elegba Folklore Society; the Bob Brown Puppets; and many others.

Award-winning author Bobbie Ann Mason and two other novelists, Dennis Covington and Vicki Covington, will conduct a two-day writing workshop. A historic homes tour, a kitchen tour, Taste of Main street, a fashion show, a hot-air balloon launch and an antique- and classic-car show are some of the other popular attractions.

Admission is charged for some events, but many are free. Call (703) 623-5266 or (800) 435-3440.

Hanover Dutch Festival

The Hanover Dutch Festival in Hanover, Pa., has become one of the largest one-day outdoor craft shows in the East, but crafts are by no means the only attraction. Also on the schedule are music, dancing, a vaudeville show, an antique- and classic-car show, a petting zoo and children's activities.

Streets will be closed to traffic in the downtown area, and crafts people from six mid-Atlantic states will offer everything from hand-forged iron and Shaker shelves to antique china, jewelry and folk art. There will be about 270 craft and food booths, which will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A variety of entertainers will perform throughout the day on Center Stage, and clowns, mimes, puppets and street entertainers will be strolling through the crowd.

The Hanover Area Jaycees will sponsor a children's entertainment area at nearby Wirt Park. There you'll find the Ronald McDonald Magic Show at noon; a clown show at 2 p.m.; and puppet shows, a petting zoo, children's games, food and a Kids Karnival, open from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Shuttle service will operate from the Value City parking lot on Route 94 north and the former Leinhardt Brothers parking lot on Route 94 south from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Call (717) 637-6130.

Pony swim

The wild ponies of Assateague will make their annual swim across the channel to Chincoteague Island on June 26 during the 70th annual Pony Swim and Auction. The event brings almost 50,000 people to the island.

Those who wish to see the swim should be on the island by 7 Depending on wind and tides, the swim usually takes place between 7 a.m. and noon. Free shuttle service is offered on Wednesday, beginning at 5:30 a.m., throughout the island. Daytrippers to the island can park at the high school and take the shuttle to the swim site.

After the swim the ponies are herded through the streets to the carnival grounds, where they are penned for the next day's auction. About 80 to 90 foals, ages 3 to 4 months, are put up for auction, which takes place Thursday between 8 a.m. and noon. Unsold ponies swim back to their home on Assateague Friday.

Chincoteague's annual Fireman's Carnival, featuring games, rides and food, provides nightly entertainment (except on Sundays) through July 30 from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. The carnival will be open all day Wednesday and Thursday during the penning.

For updated information on the swim, call (804) 336-6161 on Tuesday.

Archaeology weekend

Have you ever wanted to work on an archaeological dig? The Tidewater Archaeology weekend on July 29-30 presents a perfect opportunity. There you can help archaeologists search for traces of Maryland's original settlement at St. Mary's City.

This year's dig on Governor's Field concentrates on the 17th-century town center. The weekend also includes guided tours of excavated sites, exhibits, visits to the archaeology lab and presentations on the findings from the lead-coffin project. Activities are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Admission is $6.50 for adults; $6 for seniors and students ages 13 to 18; $3.25 for ages 6 to 12. In addition to the weekend activities, the fee includes admission to all museum attractions, such as the Dove, Spray Tobacco Plantation, Old State House of 1676 and Woodland Indian long house.

6* Call (301) 862-0990 or (800) SMC-1634.

Military Field Days

The 17th annual Military Field Days will be presented July 29-30 at Fort Frederick State Park in Big Pool, Washington County.

Approximately 600 re-enactors will be on hand to represent military units of the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Camps will be open both days from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A commentator will introduce each unit during Saturday's opening ceremony at noon. After the ceremony troops will march to the tactical demonstration area and perform mass volley fire and a live artillery demonstration. The National Guard will be there to give information on modern military equipment, and in another area you'll find sutlers demonstrating and selling period wares. Food will be for sale.

Admission is $2. The park is on state Route 56, one mile east of

Interstate 70 at Exit 12. Call (301) 842-2155.

Virginia Cantaloupe Festival

The word is out that Halifax County, Va., grows some of the best cantaloupes in the region. On July 26 visitors will flock there for the 15th annual Virginia Cantaloupe Festival, which is held on a private farm near South Boston from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

A $19 ticket entitles you to an all-you-can-eat-and-drink meal of beef barbecue cooked in an open pit, baked beans, coleslaw, ice cream and, of course, cantaloupe. A local band will play beach music during the first part of the event, and the Marshall Tucker Band will entertain during the second half.

Tickets are by advance reservation only, so be sure to call ahead. Children under 4 do not require a ticket. The farm is located about 1 1/2 miles from Route 58/360 between South Boston and Danville, Va. Call (804) 572-3085.

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