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The Arts are Alive in Central Virginia

Festivals are easy to find for residents who live in Central Virginia. 

By Kevin Litwin on October 19, 2022

Fridays After Five at Ting Pavilion in Charlottesville, VA, which is in Central Virginia.
Melody Robbins

In the Central Virginia region, it’s no secret that art and community go hand in hand. Music, film and art festivals are regularly hosted by local visionaries with creative spirits who are not afraid to take the stage and tell the exciting story of Central Virginia.

One of the most signature arts-based events is the Virginia Film Festival, hosted every late October/early November by the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Virginia. The Charlottesville extravaganza has occurred since 1988, and notable guests include Sandra Bullock, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, Ossie Davis, Sissy Spacek, Robert Duvall, Anthony Hopkins and “Breaking Bad” producer Vince Gilligan.

Other fun entertainment events in Charlottesville include an annual Tom Tom Festival that features concerts, dance mixes and block parties at the city’s Downtown Mall district, not to mention a Fridays After Five summer concert series at the Ting Pavilion in the same area. John Paul Jones Arena on the University of Virginia campus also stages multiple concerts and well-attended events throughout the year.

An audience gathers around at the Virginia Film Festival in Central Virginia.
Virginia Film Festival

Aircraft, Motors & Wine

Culpeper County presents an annual Culpeper Air Fest every October, celebrating the region’s aviation heritage with multiple shows and exciting exhibitions staged at Culpeper Regional Airport. Also in October is a three-day Overland Expo East that occurs in Arrington in Nelson County, with more than 100 exhibitors, like BFGoodrich Tires, Harley-Davidson and Hemmings, to showcase everything pertaining to motors and American transportation.

To stimulate your palate, the Orange County Chamber of Commerce hosts an annual Orange Uncorked Wine Festival every May in Somerset. The next tasting extravaganza will be May 6-7, 2023, and the festivities will include live music and an In-Person Mustache-Beard Competition.

Speaking of tasting, Madison County is the place to be for an annual Taste of the Mountains Street Festival that has occurred in early September in Madison since 1993. Admission is free, and the event draws about 20,000 people who enjoy regional food, children’s activities, arts and crafts, a wine tent and bands playing music ranging from alternative rock to folk music and bluegrass. 

Face mugs form a local shop in Central Virginia.

From Clay to Main

One of the more unusual events each year is a Virginia Clay Festival in Stanardsville in Greene County every mid-September that celebrates all the creative possibilities of clay. Also showcasing the arts is a yearly Crozet Spring Arts & Crafts Festival in Albemarle County that welcomes 100+ juried crafters to this two-day celebration in early May.

Meet Me on Main is a monthly showcase in downtown Louisa that celebrates everything the district has to offer. The event occurs on the first Thursday of each month from April through September to celebrate the music, shopping, entertainment and dining opportunities in the downtown area, with activities sponsored by Louisa Arts Center. 

Horses and jockeys racing in Central Virginia.
Courtesy King Family Vineyards

Galloping Fun

Central Virginia has several events that celebrate horseplay. For example, Montpelier Hunt Races occurred in early November in Orange County for nearly 90 years at James Madison’s Montpelier. The event is known for its hurdle course, featuring only live brush jumps in Virginia.

Also, horse-related in Charlottesville are the annual Foxfield Races, which have showcased steeplechase horse racing in Central Virginia since 1977. Meanwhile, in Culpeper County, Horse Shows in the Sun presents six weeks of various equestrian events, and Grand Prix horse shows at 100-acre Commonwealth Park.

Fridays After Five at Ting Pavilion in Charlottesville, VA, which is located in Central Virginia.
Melody Robbins

Musically Inclined

Central Virginia has a strong music history that’s turned out music icons like the Dave Matthews Band. The group formed in Charlottesville in 1991 and played locally at popular clubs back then, like Eastern Standard and Trax Nightclub.

But the region’s music industry has become much more than that and continues to thrive today.

An incredible number of good bands continue to remain in the region, and any day of the week, you can count on seeing live music at one of several venues, including The Jefferson Theater, The Paramount Theater, The Southern and Durty Nelly’s. The largest venue to showcase great music is the 14,500-seat John Paul Jones Arena, located on the University of Virginia campus. JPJ will kick off its 2023 concert season with a Feb. 24 show by country superstar Carrie Underwood.

“Nowadays, I’d say that we are living at the peak of the Charlottesville and Central Virginia music scene, without question,” says Charlie Pastorfield, a musician who has been active in the region’s music scene for over 50 years and is still a guitarist in local bands like Mama Tried, The Skip Castro Band and The Gladstones. “There are also many great places for bands to play … many breweries and vineyards throughout the area are hiring local bands all the time to perform.”

Also hitting all the right notes for the region is Ting Pavilion, a 3,500-seat amphitheater that hosts popular concerts at its location on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. Ting Pavilion presents a Fridays After Five series on Friday evenings from April to September, and the free series will celebrate its 35th anniversary in 2023.

If you’d like to learn more about the Central Virginia area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Central Virginia

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