Visit & Events
December 5, 2013
By Toni Guagenti
If you’re a history-loving pachyderm, you’re bound to be a frequent visitor at Colonial Williamsburg. And Ellis the Elephant, a creation of children’s book author Callista Gingrich, will be back for a book-signing on Saturday in Merchants Square.
Gingrich’s third Ellis the Elephant book, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” aims to teach children ages 4 to 8 about the American Revolution as seen through the eyes of the tricorn-wearing Ellis.
Traveling through time, Ellis has a front-row seat to the events and patriots that shaped our history, from the Boston Tea Party to Paul Revere’s one-if-by-land-and-two-if-by-sea ride, from the victory at Yorktown to George Washington’s spurning of the title of king.
The book signing will be held from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7 at the College of William and Mary Bookstore in Merchants Square in Colonial Williamsburg.
“These books are really about patriotism and our nation’s humble beginnings,” Gingrich said in a phone interview earlier this week. “They’re not meant to be Republican books or conservative books, but pro-American books.” Gingrich is married to Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House who campaigned for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
The previous Ellis book, “Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride,” starts in Virginia and explores America’s 13 colonies and their fight for freedom against England. Williamsburg served as the political, cultural and educational center of the colony and as Virginia’s capital from 1699 to 1780.
Gingrich game up with the idea for the series after determining that few books on American history had been written for a very young audience.
“There’s literally nothing like Ellis the Elephant series,” she said. “I write these books because I love America, and I truly believe America is an exceptional nation.”
Gingrich’s first book, “Sweet Land of Liberty” in 2011 looked at pivotal moments that shaped the nation, including the Wright Brothers’ First Flight in 1903. Each has been illustrated by Susan Arciero.
Newt Gingrich also will be at the bookstore on Saturday signing his latest novel, “Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate.” Both of the couple’s books are published by Regnery.
Callista Gingrich remembers last year’s visit to Williamsburg to meet fans and autograph books.
“We had a wonderful turnout, and we’re just thrilled to be back,” Gingrich said. “We have come to Williamsburg many times; it’s a favorite place to visit.”
Since 2007, Gingrich has served as president of Gingrich Productions, a multimedia production company. The couple resides in McLean, Va.
Gingrich’s fourth Ellis book, “From Sea to Shining Sea,” is scheduled for release next October and will cover the time from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 through the Lewis and Clark expedition from 1804 to 1806.
Toni Guagenti is a free-lance writer based in Norfolk, Va.
December 3, 2013
Historic Jamestowne is planning a special event on April 5, 2014 – the reenacted wedding of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, marking the 400th anniversary of the legendary nuptials. In a collaboration between Historic Jamestowne and the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center, Pocahontas’ wedding jacket also will be recreated with help from volunteers.
Embroiderers of all skill levels are needed to help finish the garment.
“This is the first time Jamestowne has done this kind of project,” said Julie Zellers-Frederick, Preservation Virginia’s volunteer coordinator. “We are calculating 300 work hours to make the jacket.”
The replicated garment will be based on the Falkland Jacket in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. While the exact jacket piece is not known, the Falkland Jacket dates from the same time period and is representative of the kind of jacket Pocahontas might have worn for the occasion.
The jacket will be black embroidery on white linen, with depictions of mythical and realistic creatures, flowers, insects, fish and other animals specific to Virginia. The original Falkland Jacket is embroidered with pictures of mythical and realistic animals.
Applicants will be sent a sample swatch of fabric to complete, on which they will demonstrate the types of stitches required.
Volunteer embroiderers are invited to contact Julie Zellers-Frederick at firstname.lastname@example.org or 757-856-1259.
November 29, 2013
Colonial Williamsburg shoppers will get a “Cyber Monday” extension this year. Special promotions begin at 10 a.m. today and last until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 2 during “Cyber Weekend.”
In addition to specials on products sold though the Williamsburg Marketplace web site, promotions will include hotel accommodations and tickets to Revolutionary City events.
Visitors who reserve a suite at the Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg Lodge or the Woodlands Hotel and Suites for at least two consecutive nights between Nov. 29, 2013 and March 31, 2014 will receive one of those nights free.
Visitors to the WilliamsburgMarketplace.com/sale web site through Monday can get a 30 percent discount on all purchases, plus free shipping, on all orders over $49. The Marketplace stores include Williamsburg At Home, Williamsburg Celebrations and the Williamsburg Craft House. Products include books, 18th-century goods and collectibles.
Colonial Williamsburg also will offer an exclusive ticket purchase option for guests visiting over the Thanksgiving weekend. This promotion is available only online. Go to www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/cyber for more information.
November 29, 2013
A premiere performance of “Advent Moon,” a newly commissioned work by Cecilia McDowall with text written by Angier Brock, will be offered by the music ministries of Bruton Parish Church on Sunday, Dec. 1, at the 9:15 and 11:15 a.m. services.
The piece was commissioned by Bruton Parish after the choir sang another work composed by McDowall last Christmas, “Ave Maris Stella,” according to Bruton Parish Music Director Rebecca Davy. Davy said choir members were struck with the composer’s style and wanted more works from her.
“The most exciting aspect of the project,” said Davy, “has been the commissioning of a new work by an internationally known composer, and to have her attend the premiere performance here.”
Davy noted that “Christmas musical works abound, but advent pieces are much harder to find than Christmas pieces. We particularly wanted to commission a piece for advent.”
The piece is written in the English Cathedral Style, which is, as Davy explained, “music that would be performed in places such as Westminster Abby, in the high English church style.” Optional hand bells add significant atmosphere to the piece, and will be used in the Bruton Parish performance as well.
Organ accompaniment and a four-part choir will round out the heavenly ambiance of advent in the “high church” English style.
Cecilia McDowall, who was born in London, has been described by the International Record Review as having “a communicative gift that is very rare in modern music.’” Several of her works have been recorded, winning her a Grammy award in February 2009 and securing a nomination for Best Classical Album for her “Three Latin Motets” on the Chandos label. She also was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music from the University of Portsmouth.
“Advent Moon” will be repeated at the “Holiday Choir and Orchestra Concert” at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5, along with other Christmas works.
There is no charge for the concert. Offerings will be collected at the program to ensure the continuance of this ministry.
November 27, 2013
The annual Turkey Trot 5K race begins at 8:30 on Thursday morning, taking runners through Williamsburg’s historic area as well as through The College of William & Mary campus. Runners will begin by heading north on South Boundary Street toward West Duke of Gloucester Street.
A one-mile Fun Run for kids and families begins at 9:30 a.m. in Merchants Square.
Online registration is closed, but runners can pick up a race packet and register between 7 and 8 a.m. behind the Blue Talon Bistro restaurant, 420 Prince George Street in Williamsburg.
Sponsored by the Blue Talon Bistro, the event raises money to help feed low-income families, and the Avalon Women and Children’s Center.
November 26, 2013
By Morgan Barker
If you’re eager to make your own Christmas ornaments but you’re unsure of your artistic skills, don’t give it another thought.
“The beauty of folk art is not following any rules,” says Christina Westenberger, who leads ornament-making tutorials to Colonial Williamsburg visitors. “Folk artists are untrained.”
Westenberger, a tour host at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum throughout the holiday season, is co-author of “The Art-Full Tree.” The Colonial Williamsburg book illustrates holiday ornaments at the folk art museum and offers instructions on how to make them. The museum tours include a look at folk art and conclude with an ornament-making tutorial.
Westenberger and her co-author, Jan Gilliam, embarked on an ornament-making adventure when the museum acquired a 16-foot tree in 2007. “We did lots of research and creation that led us to ‘Let’s write a book on how to do this,’” Westenberger said.
“The ornaments on the tree are inspired by pieces of the museum’s collection,” Westenberger said. An earthenware fish that was created by Moravian potters in Salem, N.C., for example, inspired the foil fish that graces the tree.
The butterfly ornaments that are scattered throughout the tree were taken from a butterfly on a Baltimore Album Quilt made in the 1940s. “The folk artists are providing us with great patterns for ornament-making,” Westenberger said.
After a recent tour, Westenberger asked visitors to created butterflies from tooling foil. The tutorial includes cutting out the butterfly patterns, embossing the foil with designs, and assembling them using double-sided tape. The result: Beautiful butterfly ornaments that were easy to make.
Westenberger said her favorite part of the museum’s Christmas tree is finding surprises hidden in the tree.
“Every year when we take the tree down, we always find things we didn’t put on the tree ourselves. It’s always fun to see what people left us,” Westenberger said.
Morgan Barker is a Colonial Williamsburg volunteer writer.