Kersey Valley Spookywoods' story begins with a midnight dare. During a campout with his friends in the summer of 1985, 15-year-old Tony Wohlgemuth needled his friend Chuck into sneaking into the abandoned farmhouse that they were camping behind. As he crept up the steps, the other boys nervously waited outside. Shattering the tense energy with sheer terror, they heard Chuck's screams and pleas for help from within. When they ran inside to rescue him, they found his screeches were brought on by an encounter with a family of bats, which convinced them that the house was, in fact, haunted. This inspired the crew to set up their own haunted house in the same barn that October, and in the decades since, Tony and his wife, Donna, owners and operators of Spookywoods, have grown the operation from a small venue run by 10 teenage friends into a sprawling attraction run by upward of 300 staff members.
Nestled on a 65-acre farm, Spookywoods coaxes screams from visitors from the end of September until Halloween. A variety of attractions, such as the Deadly Harvest, Terror Trams, Fright Lights, and The Dreaded Inn—discovered by Chuck so many years ago—test guests’ bravery. The Deadly Harvest corn maze scares explorers silly, thanks to 10-foot-high cornstalks patrolled by a host of masked ghouls, who are really just misunderstood lost souls looking for someone to hug and love them. Along with its signature attractions, Spookywoods hosts other seasonal events such as the Dark Circus Halloween party, replete with fire shows and DJs.
The festival masterminds of Across-The-Way Productions are experts in the art of fun. By pairing meticulous planning with celebrated vendors, delicious food, and lots and lots of music, the production company makes every one of their outdoor festivals an unforgettable event. For the past three decades, The Vintage Virginia Wine Festival has highlighted vintages from the state’s most acclaimed winemakers amid cooking demonstrations and other entertainment. The company also hosts the three-day FloydFest, a family-friendly music festival in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains that features folk musicians, bluegrass bands, DJs, performance art, and food.
As the fall film premiere of the RiverRun International Film Festival, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey explores the creation of Elmo—a global icon and beloved Muppet—during an 80-minute documentary narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. Winner of a Special Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival and a Best of Fest Award at the Seattle International Film Festival, the documentary focuses on Elmo’s creator and voice, Kevin Clash, who dreamed of collaborating with master puppeteer Jim Henson and pursuing a one-man puppet recreation of Glengarry Glen Ross. Once recruited to introduce the lovable red-furred monster to the Sesame Street audience, Clash became part of the Jim Henson family, which is illustrated through archival footage of the company’s workshop and interviews with prominent Henson players such as legendary puppeteer Frank Oz and producer Joan Ganz Cooney.
A coalition of nine different wineries founded Southern Virginia Wine Fest in 2009, and it continues to introduce visitors to the finest vintages crafted by local residents. Although the festival has expanded to include 12 growers, it still provides the opportunity to chat personally with winemakers and vineyard owners about the process behind making their bottled beverages. The participants peruse more than 60 different wines, complementing the libations with specialty foods and live music throughout the day. The festival even offers a specialty passport tour, which includes visits to all 12 vineyards and stops at notable sites, local eateries, and Dionysian temples along the way.
Inspired by a trip to the wine-producing hills of Italy, Joe and Joyce Neely were determined to start a winery of their own once they returned to North Carolina. Since 2000, they've worked with winemaker Steve Shepard to produce RayLen Vineyards & Winery's impressive roster of award-winning varietals. Visits to the winery typically start with a tour that explains the process from start to finish and includes some surprising revelations, such as the fact that wine is made from grapes. The finish, of course, is the best part; inside RayLen's tasting room, guests can sample up to 16 wines.
While in Sonoma on business in 1992, tech entrepreneur Max Lloyd fell in love with the fermented grape. Though his father and grandfather had been in the business of winemaking, it wasn't until his encounter with California-grown, European-style varietals that he resolved to dabble in the family trade himself. Launched as a part-time project in Virginia and transplanted to its current location in 2001, Grove Winery and Vineyards culls its grapes from two estate vineyards that span more than 70 acres in addition to a handful of local vineyards. The staff meticulously handpicks the grapes and gently presses them with a basket press to yield their fresh milk.