Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Have You Seen The Ant Car?

One of the things I enjoy the most on a sunny afternoon is wandering around Lynchburg looking for suitable objects to photograph.

I first saw the Ant Car at Get!Downtown this year. It was pretty dark and I was disappointed at how my photo of the car turned out.

The Ant Car was created by David Schwartz, a philosophy professor at Randolph College.

Schwartz had been a spectator at the Houston art car parade in the 1990s while attending Rice University. After discussing the idea of a bug car with some of his students, Schwartz took the plunge.

Work began on the Ant Car in 2004 and the car was completed in 2005, with help from some of Schwartz' Philosophy of Art students. Schwartz entered the Ant Car in the Houston art car parade in 2005, where the car was awarded third in show.

One early fall afternoon, I stopped to wander through the Dorothy Bliss Botanical Garden at Randolph College. The garden is a haven of beauty just off Rivermont Avenue.

After I parked my car on a side street, I noticed the Ant Car parked in a nearby parking lot.

I didn't get the opportunity to look at the detail on the car at Get!Downtown but I spent about 10 minutes taking photos in the parking lot.

According to Schwartz' website, the Ant Car is covered with ants made of steel, grass made of tin and leaves and vines made of roofing copper.

The ant mound on top of the car was made from Bondo.

It's amazing that the many artifacts on the Ant Car have remained attached for nearly 10 years, despite the car being driven at highway speeds.

Many of the ants carry objects in their mouths including a mouse and an oversized twig.

There are also ants carrying a bumblebee and even the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.

The Ant Car is an amazing work of art, paying tribute to the lowly ant.

On his website, Schwartz shares many facts about ants.

The life expectancy of ants is only 45 to 60 days; however, ants accomplish a lot in their short time on earth.

Ants can lift 20 times their own body weight. Although an ant couldn't really carry the Eiffel Tower, the ant in the photo does a pretty good job holding this statue in its mouth.

The Eiffel Tower ant is probably my favorite piece of work on the Ant Car.

As a child, I lived in France for a year while my Dad was stationed there.

In one of my memory boxes, I have a similar statue of the Eiffel Tower.

Upon closer examination, I discovered that there are also ants inside the Ant Car.

Ants scurry up and down the driver's seat. I'm not sure I could drive a car while sitting in a seat covered with ants.

The dashboard is covered a hodgepodge of butterflies, lizards and crabs. If you are unable to view the Ant Car closeup, visit the website.

At the Ant Car website, you can take a virtual tour of the car, learn more about the building of the car and see photos of the Ant Car at recent art festivals.

The Ant Car is a great work of art. If you have the opportunity to examine it more closely, be sure to take advantage.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fall Festivals Define Central Virginia in October

If aliens from another planet descended on Central Virginia during the month of October, they would return to their planet with news of the Fall Festival, a way of life for locals.

October is the month of fall festivals in Central Virginia. Drive by any church and you'll likely see a sign for an upcoming fall festival.

From apple orchards, pumpkin patches and corn mazes to churches and historic sites, fall festivals draw big crowds.

Fall festivals offer mouthwatering festival foods including funnel cakes, fried Oreos, Gyro sandwiches and more. There are rides and bounce houses for the kids and live music of every type is playing.

The Lynchburg Macaroni Kid website lists more than 45 events for the weekend of Oct. 4-6, about half of them festivals. Pick up a copy of The Burg and you'll find even more festivals, including about a half dozen at local churches.

How do you do fall festivals? Clearly, you can't make it to all of them. Do you pick one and spend the day or hop from festival to festival, enjoying a little here and a little there?

Here are some fall festivals to visit this weekend. Take your pick or be a festival hopper and enjoy time at many festivals.

Festival Fun
These festivals are all suitable for the entire family. Pick one or enjoy a few. If city is not noted, they are in Lynchburg.

  • Clifford Ruritan Sorghum Festival, 755 Fletchers Level Road, Clifford will be held Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday features the Virginia Jousting Tournament at noon. Live music, crafts, Brunswick Stew, kids' activities, apple butter and sorghum syrup making both days.
  • Snowflex Fall Festival, Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre, Candlers Mountain Road will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Bring four canned goods for an hour's free admission.
  • Fall Festival and Fundraiser at New London, 594 Alum Springs Road, (Former Mead's Tavern in New London) will be held Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Live music, antique cars, period reenactors, crafts and baked goods are featured.
  • 16th Annual Day at the Point, Point of Honor, 112 Cabell Street will be held on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Living history, food, children's games, crafts, live music and free tours of Point of Honor are featured.
  • The Charlie Parker Memorial Harvest Festival, Big Otter Mill, 3533 Big Island Hwy, Bedford (Route 122) will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enjoy crafts, food, demonstrations, live music and tours of the mill.
Church Festivals
There are probably many more taking place, but here are some area favorites.

  • Mead Memorial United Methodist Church Fall Festival, 13317 Wards Road will be held Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Timberlake United Methodist Church Fall Bazaar, 21649 Timberlake Road will be held Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Court Street United Methodist Church Brunswick Stew and Bake Sale, 621 Court Street will be held Saturday from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
  • First Baptist Church South Lynchburg Fall Festival, 2500 Tazewell Avenue will be held Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Falling River Baptist Church Fall Festival, 2874 Wickliffe Road, Brookneal will be held Sunday from 4-8 p.m.

Corn Mazes and Pumpkin Patches
Some of these events take place every weekend this month. Some locations are open daily.

  • Auburnlea Farms Fall Family Festival Weekend, 5500 Mollies Creek Road, Gladys is held on Fridays and Saturday during October. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with special night hours from 6-10 p.m.
  • Smith's Pumpkin Patch, 6204 Fort Avenue, open daily through Oct. 31. Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
  • Yoders' Farm Fall Family Fun Day, 1134 Browns Mill Road, Rustburg is open Thursday through Saturday all month. Thursday from 2-7 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fall Family Fun Day offers extra activities this Saturday.
  • Ravenelle Corn Maze at Russell Farms, Thomas Jefferson Road, Forest opens this weekend. Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 1-6 p.m. all month.
Apples and More
Although not all apple orchards hold fall festivals, most are open daily during fall for pick-your-own apples or buying pre-picked apples.

  • Silver Creek and Seamans' Orchard Apple Butter Festival, 5529 Crabtree Falls Highway, Tyro will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Festival also on Oct. 19, but open daily for apples.
  • Morris Orchard, 226 Tobacco Row Lane, Monroe is open daily. Monday-Saturday hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.
  • Drumheller's Orchard, behind Nelson County High School, Lovingston is open daily. Monday-Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday hours are noon to 5 p.m. Fall Festival will be held Oct. 19-20 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Gross' Orchard in Bedford is open Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fall Festival will be held Oct. 19 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Johnson's Orchard in Bedford is open daily from noon to 5 p.m. Apple picking fun and farm animals for petting are offered.
Fall is spelled F-U-N in Central Virginia so add some of these fun fall festivals to your family's schedule this month.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Two Letters Dividing Lynchburg

If you've lived in Lynchburg for more than a week or two, you've probably noticed the giant LU letters on the top of the mountain high over the city.

The mountain is known as Candlers Mountain or Liberty Mountain, depending on who you ask.

The two letters, and what they represent, divide Lynchburg neatly in two. LU stands for Liberty University, the largest Christian University in the world.

According to their website, Liberty University was founded by Dr. Jerry Falwell in 1971 as a small Baptist college known as Lynchburg Baptist College.

As the college grew, the name changed to Liberty Baptist College in 1975. By 1985, the college had become a fully-accredited university and the name changed to Liberty University.

It almost seems as though the changes in the name reflect the divide felt by the citizens of the city whose name was once carried by the college.

On one side are the fans and supporters of Liberty University who feel that Liberty has created jobs and growth, contributing to the strength of the greater Lynchburg community.

On the other side are those who feel that the growth has brought with it a huge cost and that Lynchburg's people have carried the weight of Liberty's growth.

I stand somewhere in the middle. I agree that LU has created jobs and growth and contributed to the good of the community. I also agree that the growth hasn't been without cost. The traffic along Candlers Mountain Road can be insane at times and I try to avoid Wards Road as much as possible during the school year.

The college was young when I moved to Lynchburg in 1975. As someone who's been around for nearly as long as the college, it took me a long time to say, "Liberty University" when I was thinking "Liberty Baptist College."

I'm not a member of Thomas Road Baptist Church, the church at the foot of the mountain. I have attended numerous events at the university and the church, including my stepdaughter's graduation from LU and the wedding of my husband's nephew at TRBC, officiated by Jerry Falwell.

The uproar in Lynchburg when the mountain was changed by the LU monogram was immense. Anywhere you went, someone was talking about the letters.

The very idea that someone would have the audacity to remove trees from land they owned and replace them with a monogram was beyond the comprehension of many Lynchburg residents.

Almost like the Mona Lisa, the two giant letters seem to follow you wherever you go in Lynchburg. I've heard more than one person say, "I can't believe you can even see the letters from HERE!"

LU isn't the first university to put a monogram on a mountain. Lynchburg isn't the first small town to deal with the growing pains of an ever-expanding population of college kids.

Monograms on mountains is a more popular concept out west, as noted on the Deuce of Clubs website. In Arizona, it seems that putting monograms on mountains is a way of life. The first giant letter I ever saw on a mountain was the "Y" near Bringham Young University in Provo, Utah, seen on a cross-country trip in 1999.

I suspect that many of those who are the most upset by the LU letters are those who don't approve of the religious, conservative ideals on which the university was founded and which led to its growth.

On a recent day trip around town, I took a drive to the top of the mountain, planning to see the monogram up close. Instead, as I rounded the turn at the top of the mountain on foot, I caught a glimpse of eternity.

The vision before me was the cross, which I assume was erected by Falwell, standing high above the city of Lynchburg. A backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains and an endless blue sky stretched endlessly beyond the cross.

I can only imagine that this is where Falwell stood in 1971, wondering if he was making the right decision.

As he stood at the top of the mountain he loved, he must have been in awe at the beauty of the city below and the mountains beyond.

The simple wooden cross adds to the beauty of the mountaintop and creates a striking image that remains burned into your memory long after you return to lower ground.

I've returned to the top of Liberty Mountain many times since then. Each time, I walk first to where the cross stands to look down on the city I've embraced as my own.

From the cross, you can't see the monogram, even though the letters are just below. You can't see the monogram from the gazebo, built by Falwell.

According to a marker at the top of the mountain, the gazebo is is where Falwell sat with his son the day before his death, talking with the students of his university, students he'd grown to love as his own.

The next time you find yourself annoyed by the giant letters on the side of the mountain, take the time to drive up and see, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story."

Drive up Candlers Mountain, turn in at Snowflex and follow the gravel road to the monogram.

You'll have to walk the last bit of the way if you're not in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

But it's worth the walk. The views are incredible and may give you a little insight into the vision of Dr. Jerry Falwell so many years ago.

It's not surprising that every time I go to the top of the mountain, I find LU students. I asked one couple what attracted them to the top of the mountain.

Their answer was no surprise, because it's the same thing that attracts me. Peace, tranquility and beauty as far as the eye can see. Well done, good and faithful servant.