Our Yearly Visit to Monticello

Reader Contribution by Claire E.
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If not for the Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival, you wouldn’t be reading this, because it was at the sixth annual Heritage Harvest Festival that I got this job.

I was wandering the festival when my father told me that MOTHER EARTH NEWS had set up a tent. Having been a loyal reader for about a year, I was of course ecstatic—even more so when we reached the tent, where I met two Ogden Publication employees, including Miss Heidi Hunt. I introduced myself and told her how I regularly use MOTHER EARTH NEWS for research for my other blog, she asked to see the other blog, saw it, offered me a job working for her if the rest of the staff agreed, and I accepted.

This year was the seventh annual Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival. Since the festival had been great fun and very informative last year, our family decided to attend again. Though we didn’t find a Mother Earth News tent as we’d hoped to, it was nonetheless an enjoyable day.

We drove most of the way, then parked, wrapped our tickets round our wrists and boarded the school bus that was to take us to Monticello. Up the winding mountain roads we wove, around breathtaking valleys and through forests that were old when my great-great-great-grandparents were young. If I looked at the ground just right, I could ignore the windowpane and pretend I was flying.

At the mountaintop, the weather was near-perfect, unusual for Virginia—cool and breezy, with the sun bright overhead. Monticello’s ancient trees clicked their leaves in a soothing rhythm.

There was only one class that I thought looked particularly interesting, and that was in an hour and a half, so we began by wandering. 

About 30 minutes before we needed to be at the fish pond for our class, we bought lunch and settled down in the shade. Our food looked like the sort you could get at any cheap restaurant, but tasted excellent, or at least my cheeseburger did—crisp lettuce, fluffy bun, rich cheese, savory meat: an artisan burger.We tasted kombucha tea, which numbed the roof of my mouth, and tomatoes and melons, which ranged from dusky and sweet to bright and tangy. We bought flower seed packets and were given pumpkin seeds for a “prettiest pumpkin photograph” contest. We marveled at the tiny bonsai trees we saw in one tent, some heavyset and twisted, some slender and delicate, and refrained from buying because we have cats.

After lunch, we headed back to the fish pond, where we promptly had a minor crisis upon discovering that the class cost more than we preferred to pay. I chose another class—this one’s subject being winter gardening—and listened to the lecture while my mother napped in the shade.

The class was held in a tent, but there were few chairs, so most everyone sat on the ground. Despite the cool weather, I got hot sitting in the sun for a long time; a few people moved over to the shade of the tent, and after a while, I joined them. They gave me funny looks and moved away, like they figured any twelve-year-old at the Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival must be up to no good.

When the class was finished, we made one last lap around Monticello. I investigated the books and put two on my Christmas wish list. My parents and I tried Monticello-style hot chocolate, which was rich and bitter and bright—as refreshing as lemonade, but hot.

And then we were all tired and it was time to go. We piled onto the school bus, it ground to a start, and I flew back down those mountain roads, flew through the forests and around the valleys, and flew all the way home.

If you’re in the neighborhood, next year’s Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival will be on September 13-14, 2014.

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