There is an unquestionable symbiotic relationship between Georgetown and Middleburg, Virginia. Many residents of each town enjoy spending quality time in the others’ town throughout the year. This is particularly true during the holiday season, when Middleburg radiates the essence of a classic Christmas village in the country.
It all starts this year on Saturday, Dec. 1, with the traditional breakfast with Santa and silent auction from 7:30 to 11 a.m. The Middleburg Hunt & Hounds Review follows at 11:30 a.m. There is a soup and ham biscuit lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the mile-long Christmas Parade steps off at 2:30 p.m.
Spirits of Middleburg tastings will be offered at shops and eateries from 3 to 6 p.m. This year, in addition to the Craft Fair, open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., there will be a large Santa’s Workshop with special activities for children open all day after the Hunt & Hounds Review.
Between 10,000 and 15,000 visitors usually come to Middlebury for the Christmas Parade and related activities, which involve almost all of Middleburg’s 800 full-time residents.
“We love doing it all,” said Middleburg City Administrator Martha Mason Semmes. “It’s such a joyous time for us all, really, especially as we see that visitors — some from hundreds of miles away — get in a wonderful happy mood just attending the events and participating in everything.
“Each year we try to improve things,” said Semmes, who has been administrator for over seven years and worked as the town planner for years before that. This year, the city has introduced an easier parking system. Reservations for the all-day, $20-per-car pass can be made online for one of the three reserved parking lots. Shuttle buses are provided between parking lots on farms on the east and west sides of town. The parking lot at Salamander Resort, just a couple of walkable blocks away, is also available.
The first sign that the town is getting ready for the annual Christmas festivities appears in late November, when unique Christmas street signs and decorations are hung from lampposts and placed around the two main streets of Middleburg: Washington Street and Madison Street. The handmade wooden plaques were created by Middleburg’s popular, still-remembered art teacher Em Sharp of Fox Hill School. One portrays Santa holding a long, two-sided paper list, with names of students at the time engraved on both sides.
“I was Em’s biggest fan. I had her for seven years as my art teacher in school,” related Bob Herbert, who has been organizing the Middleburg Christmas Parade for decades. “But she would never tell us which side of the list was ‘naughty’ and which was ‘nice.’”
The parade has grown every year, but it still contains the same basic elements, according to Herbert. There are now over 700 animals in the parade, more than double the number of animals in the famous Barnum & Bailey Circus parades that Herbert remembers from his youth. Traditional animal groups have grown, including numerous dog clubs of Middleburg’s favorite breeds, especially the Pembroke Welsh Corgi (dozens of which will march in a designated “Corgi Corps”), greyhounds and foxhounds.
Members of pony clubs march with horse-drawn carriages, often with matching leather and tweed blankets and outfittings on coaches, horses, drivers and riders. Newer (but becoming traditional) marchers are collectors of antique fire engines and members of a Harley-Davidson club that every year collects some 1,000 pounds of food to contribute to Middleburg’s Seven Loaves food pantry.
New activities at the Santa’s Workshop will include Christmas face painting and a “Pet Show and Tell” featuring miniature horses and at least one pet pig (some touching allowed). Of course, Santa will visit before his carriage appearance in the parade. Free hot chocolate will be served during the day and the Bach2Rock music school promises a “flashy” surprise.
Long & Foster real estate offices will be open to children and their families, with all needed supplies to write letters and postcards to Santa. And additional food trucks have been permitted nearby for the parade crowd. Our new personal favorite is the King Street Oyster Bar. Semmes recommends coming early for easier traffic flow. And Herbert hopes to keep the crowds to under 15,000. “More is not necessarily better,” he says. But Middleburg shops, restaurants, cafes and evening spots are expecting to do a brisk business, all in the Christmas spirit.