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11:20 The National after the Jack’s Mannequin show on July 8
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Isaac Harrell photo
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Mike Freeman photo
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Greg Garner phtoto
Best Intimate Venue for Live Music:
708 E. Broad St., 612-1900
Seating for 1,500 people doesn't sound very intimate. But, says manager Clayton Dabney, "there's not a bad seat in the house — no one is far from the stage." And, he adds, "it's the nostalgia" — the original art and sculpture still decorate the 1929 building — that charms people.
2. The Camel
3. Ashland Coffee & Tea
Best Weekend to Stay in Town:
Folk Festival weekend
Director Lisa Sims says the festival has been getting lots of awards lately. Still, "best weekend to stay in town" stands out, she says. "That's a huge compliment — and it made me laugh." Since the first festival, held under torrential downpours in October 2005, it's gotten steadily bigger and better, with seven stages and 190,000 in attendance last year.
2. Monument Avenue 10K weekend
3. Easter weekend
Coolest Summer Camp for Teens:
Passages Adventure Camp/Peak Experiences
For kids with an adventurous streak, Passages hits the mark with ropes courses, kayaking, rock climbing and more. A new fleet of rodeo boats (crafts that turn over in whitewater rapids) has added even more excitement this summer. Notes camp director Kevin Tobin: "They're not little-kid boats."
2. (Tie) Camp Hanover; Christian Youth Theater Summer Camp
3. (Tie) Cat's CAP at St. Catherine's School; Westview on the James; YMCA Camp Thunderbird
Coolest Empty-Nester Neighborhood:
The ability to walk to restaurants, shops and bars draws many people to the Fan, including empty-nesters, says Chris Small, a Realtor who specializes in city neighborhoods. He's lived in the Fan since 1982 and recalls first noticing the neighborhood's beauty as a child, riding in his mother's car down Monument Avenue after visiting the VMFA.
2. Rocketts Landing
3. Museum District
Best Piece of Public Art:
Monument Avenue statues
It's not just the statues — Civil War luminaries and Arthur Ashe — but everything else: wide sidewalks; grassy lawn; magnificent homes built in Colonial, Tudor and Classical Revival styles. In 1997, Monument Avenue became the only street in the country designated a National Historic Landmark.
2. The VMFA, its architecture and sculpture garden
3. Ed Trask murals
Most Talented Visual Artist in Richmond:
Trask has seen quite an evolution in his artistic career, which started decades ago with, ahem, "unauthorized" street murals. "It started illegally," he says. "Now it's turned into a business." He's still doing murals, but now they're beautification projects with corporate sponsors and school volunteers.
2. Chris Milk
3. Thomas Van Auken
Best Place to Meet Someone Under 35:
Dare we say this is a no-brainer (in a good way)? The Fan, with its myriad bars, restaurants, cafés and venues for live music, plus proximity to VCU and VMFA, is a natural for meeting people, regardless of whether you're a Millennial, a vegan, a cat person … we could go on and on.
2. F.W. Sullivan's Fan Bar & Grill
3. Off the Hookah
Best Gallery in Which to See Richmond Artists:
200 W. Marshall St., 644-0005
Executive director Amanda Robinson says the gallery strives to be "accessible to all demographics" and "deeply immersed in the community." It hosts an unusual array of visual and performing arts — comedy troupes, vaudeville acts, artwork that reflects socially conscious themes and, in what Robinson says are extraordinarily well-attended events, exhibits of live nudes.
2. (Tie) Quirk Gallery; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
3. (Tie) 1708 Gallery; Glave Kocen Gallery
Best Local College Team:
VCU Rams men's basketball
Never before has Richmond embraced a team as it did the Rams when they went to the Final Four in 2011, says Chris Kowalczyk, a spokesman for VCU's athletic department. At least not in his experience. "I've never seen Richmond get behind a team like that. It was awesome." 'Nuff said.
2. University of Richmond
3. University of Virginia
Best Pumpkin Patch:
Ashland Berry Farm
12607 Old Ridge Road, 227-3601
It's not just the pumpkins — though there are 30 acres of them — but the whole experience, says Ashland Berry Farm office manager Season Boswell. The homemade fresh doughnuts, the Halloween and Christmas shops, the hayrides. And the incredible Booger Woods (we'll let you figure out what that is).
2. Chesterfield Berry Farm
3. The Pumpkin Patch at Gallmeyer Farm
Best Holiday Event in Richmond:
The Grand Illumination
"That's awesome — we haven't won that since 2001!" Kimberly Carter exclaims, upon hearing that our readers chose her event (she plans the Grand Illumination for its sponsor, James Center Property). She's already preparing for the 2011 festivities — booking acts and making the vital decisions, like "we know that we need to paint the reindeer this year."
2. Easter on Parade
3. Tacky Christmas lights tour
Best Social Event/Fundraiser:
Monument Avenue 10K
The event has become huge, with 41,000 participants in 2011, because, says spokeswoman Jackie Holt, "anyone can participate, kids, families. It's not like you have to train for a marathon. And the course is one of a kind." Bart Yasso of Runner's World concurs. In 2009, he chose the 10K as one of the nation's best races.
2. RSPCA Fur Ball
3. Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure
Worst Weekend to Stay in Town:
Any NASCAR race weekend
Unless, of course, you're a fan going to the race. For the rest of us, these weekends are a mix of too much traffic and way, way, way too many NASCAR driver wannabes.
2. Monument Avenue 10K weekend
3. Richmond Marathon weekend
Best Running Trail:
Buttermilk Trail South of the James River from
Boulevard Bridge to Lee Bridge
James River Park System Manager Ralph White offers this explanation for the trail's popularity: "It's convoluted, sinuous, historic and environmentally varied." It passes Buttermilk Spring, used by late 19th-century farmers as a natural cooler; goes through Snapper Swamp, so-named because of its resident turtles; and is home to barred owls and zebra swallowtail butterflies.
2. Belle Isle
3. James River Park System trails in general
Best Movie Theater:
Bow-Tie Cinemas — Movieland at Boulevard Square
1301 N. Boulevard, 354-6099
It has 17 screens and seats that rock back and forth. It has Insomnia Theater (Fridays and Saturdays, 11:30 p.m.) and Movies & Mimosas (Sundays, 11:30 a.m.). Plus, it's cool-looking inside.
2. Byrd Theatre
Best Biking Trail:
South of the James River from Boulevard Bridge to Lee Bridge
For proficient off-road cyclists, the twisty, rocky Buttermilk Trail offers a dose of adventure. Times-Dispatch outdoors columnist Andy Thompson lives off Riverside Drive, which parallels the two-mile route on the south side of the James, and enjoys the well-known trail. "It's technically challenging," Thompson says, "and it takes you into the heart of the city."
2. Belle Isle
3. James River Park System trails in general
Most Talented Filmmaker in Richmond:
(Tie) Tim Reid; Sunny Zhao
Reid, co-founder of Petersburg's Millennium Studios, also founded Legacy Media Institute, going into its second year. It's a "mini-Sundance," meant to introduce students from here and abroad to movie professionals. Zhao, owner of the Fan House restaurant, has been making short films — including a couple of GEICO commercials — since the mid-1990s. Zhao hopes to break into feature films next.
2. (Tie) Rick Alverson; Lucas Krost; Jim Stramel
Best Go-Kart Facility:
4245 Carolina Ave., 228-0188
"Thank God we didn't win worst," manager Jason Yarema says upon being told that G-Force won best go-kart facility. People like G-Force, Yarema believes, because the go-kart service tries to make the experience feel like real-deal racing — fast cars, printouts that show your lap time, a twisty-turny track and DOT-approved helmets.
2. Windy Hill Sports Complex
3. Swaders Sports Park
Most Talented Writer Living in Richmond:
The Richmond Times-Dispatch's Andy Thompson
Formerly "just hunting and fishing," Thompson's outdoors column now covers kayaking, hiking, biking and other sports. "The variety is the best thing about it," says Thompson, who started at the newspaper 10 years ago as an editorial assistant. An outdoorsman himself, Thompson does like to write about secret fishing holes, which draw many reader comments.
2. (Tie) Harry Kollatz Jr.; David L. Robbins
Best Free Cultural Event:
Richmond Folk Festival
Not only is the event free, so is transportation. You can drive to the Diamond (3001 N. Boulevard) or Spring Rock Green (7202 Midlothian Turnpike), park your car and take the free shuttle from either place.
2. Greek Festival
3. Arts in the Park
Best Local Historian:
Richmond magazine's Harry Kollatz Jr.
"I admire the discretion and good taste of Richmond magazine readers," says Harry Kollatz Jr. His secret weapons in bringing historical people and events alive each month in the Flashback column (and in two nonfiction books) are letters found at the Valentine Richmond History Center, the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Historical Society.
2. The University of Richmond's Edward L. Ayers
3. The University of Richmond's Dan Roberts
Best Urban Hiking Spot:
Kevin Tobin, owner of Peak Experiences and manager of Passages Adventures Camp, has spent many a day at the downtown island that's a short walk from Richmond's skyscrapers. "It only takes three minutes to walk across the footbridge, but once you get there, you don't feel like you're in the city."
2. James River Park System
3. North Bank trail/Texas Beach
Best Local Golf Tournament:
WRVA's Jimmy Barrett Blue Ball Open
Charity golf tournaments abound in Richmond, but not in February, which is when radio host Barrett used to hold his event. Now the open is in March, but the tournament's still a little different. "We had a Charlie Sheen hole this year," Barrett jokes, festooned with pictures and the actor's "winning" quotes.
Best Local Children's Performer:
Adults are often impressed by Austin's insane juggling feats while balancing on a unicycle or tossing lit torches. But kids prefer "slapstick humor, things breaking, running into walls," Austin says. "Children also love when you mispronounce words. Acting silly appeals to the younger demographic."
2. The Diggity Dudes
3. Hope Harris
Best Speaker Series:
The Richmond Forum
Over its 26 years, the Richmond Forum has hosted luminaries ranging from Benazir Bhutto to Oprah. But one of the most memorable speakers, says executive director Bill Chapman, was Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who dismissed her entire cabinet in 2010, two days before her scheduled speech in Richmond. Chapman wasn't sure if she would show up, but she did — and the Landmark Theater audience heard her first words on the matter.
2. JCC Forum
Ralph White of James River Park System
As manager of JRPS, the bearded man in khaki shorts and knee-high socks worked to bring the parks back from pollution and graffiti to a natural resource offering great fishing, bird-watching, hiking and other activities. White says he sees a lower tolerance of littering among park-goers: "There's a can! It needs to be picked up!"
Best Local Jazz Combo:
NO BS! Brass Band
NO BS is the biggest, loudest brass band in town, so it's bound to get plenty of attention. Trombonist Reggie Pace (who is also in runner-up Fight the Big Bull and indie hit maker Bon Iver) says they love playing at Hadad's Lake and the Richmond Folk Festival, and "outside in the streets was always fun."
2. (Tie) Butterbean Jazz Quartet; Chez Roue Orchette
3. (Tie) DJ Williams Projekt; The David Esleck Trio; Fight the Big Bull; Lawrence Olds Trio/Quartet; Plunky & Oneness
Best Local Parenting Resource:
Commonwealth Parenting Center
4121 Cox Road, Suite 101, 545-1272
Founded in 1984, the center assists Richmond-area parents in child-raising matters. This year, the focus is on giving dads more social support, says executive director Liz Pearce. The center also is offering classes for parents of kids with attention issues — a move made by popular request.
3. Richmond Family Magazine
Best Place to Meet Someone Over 35:
Of course, church is a great place to meet people with similar values and ideals, people with a sense of community, family and service to others. But some of us over 35 like to think that we have a few other places to go.
2. Kona Grill
3. Can Can Brasserie
Best Museum Membership:
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
200 N. Boulevard, 340-1400
This year, the number of museum members more than doubled, says VMFA spokeswoman Suzanne Hall. "Oh, baby, has it gone up since Picasso!" From 21,000 subscribers before the blockbuster exhibit to 47,000 as of late June. Membership has its perks, Hall notes, allowing free entry into special exhibitions, free parking and restaurant discounts.
2. Children's Museum of Richmond
3. Science Museum of Virginia
Best Local Band:
Three Sheets to the Wind
Three Sheets to the Wind, Richmond's own "yacht rock" cover band, performs songs by Toto, Steely Dan, and Hall & Oates, among others. "We take the music seriously but never ourselves," says founder Topper Dandy (yes, that's a stage name), and the band's spirited fans have responded by showing up in nautical wear.
2. Carbon Leaf
3. NO BS! Brass Band
Hippest Downtown Community:
Setting aside that the Fan isn't really downtown, the neighborhood does have a diverse population, walkability and distinctive architecture — all attractions of an urban community. Resident Charlie Diradour says the new-urbanism movement in suburbs is modeled after neighborhoods like his, where neighbors commune on their front porches, walking dogs or picking up a paper at the corner market.
2. Church Hill
Most Kid-Friendly Suburban Community:
Wyndham, the 1,600-home planned community in Glen Allen, is what a lot of people picture when they think of an ideal suburban neighborhood: a pool, park grounds, tennis courts, cul-de-sacs where a kid can skateboard or bike, plus nearby schools with excellent ratings. Also, summertime brings concerts, shows and a crab feast.
2. Short Pump
Church With the Best Music:
West End Assembly of God
401 N. Parham Road, 740-7042
"We have a contemporary band-driven service and a more traditional choir- and orchestra-driven service," says Bob Laughlin, pastor of music and fine arts. But the church is best known for its Christmas performances featuring Broadway-style numbers and even animals on stage. It also offers a training academy for teaching musical skills.
2. St. James's Episcopal Church
3. (Tie) Cathedral of the Sacred Heart; Commonwealth Chapel
Best Theater Company:
Firehouse Theatre Company
1609 W. Broad St., 355-2001
Firehouse, when it opened 17 years ago, was considered "fringe," says founder Carol Piersol, and the troupe knew it needed a permanent space. Enter the old fire station, which has given the group its name, as well as a sense of stability that's rare in the come-and-go world of the stage.
2. Barksdale Theater
3. Theatre IV
Best Place to Volunteer:
The numbers bear out the Richmond SPCA's popularity among volunteers: 450 people walk dogs, hang out with cats, work adoption drives or even clean cages, according to Tamsen Kingry, the SPCA's chief operating officer. Kitten foster mom Tina Williams says she was "blown away" by the Richmond facility and the appreciation staffers show volunteers.
2. Central Virginia Food Bank
3. Junior League of Richmond
Best Fishing Spot in the City:
James River in general
American and hickory shad are common catches on the James — but if you're looking for bigger fish to fry, the blue catfish is the largest in the river. According to biologist Dean Fowler of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the fall line and Ancarrow's Landing offer the best local fishing prospects.
2. Mayo Bridge
3. Pony Pasture
Best Fishing Spot in the Suburbs:
(Tie) James River; Swift Creek Reservoir
Smallmouth bass is the name of the game on the James between Scottsville and Richmond, but catfish and trout are stocked seasonally at Swift Creek Reservoir. Because there's almost no public access to the reservoir, it may be a good strategy to make friends with someone who lives on the water.
2. Chickahominy Lake
3. Lake Anna
Best Place to People-Watch:
Also a no-brainer in a good way. Carytown has hundreds, literally hundreds, of locally owned boutiques, restaurants, clubs and specialty shops that attract all sorts of people, as well as plenty of the requisite cafés with street views, so you can watch them walk by.
2. Short Pump Town Center
3. VCU campus