Monthly Archives: November 2012

Girl Scout Leaders Find Resourceful Partner in Park Authority

A Girl Scout works on an art project in a RECenter.

This blog post is my first. That means I’m open to the possibility of any result ranging from a great success to a disaster. That’s quite fitting, as it follows my first Girl Scout meeting as a Girl Scout leader.

Don’t misunderstand. I have been leading Girl Scout programs and helping scouts, both boys and girls from ages 5 to 17, fulfill their requirements for badges for more than 10 years. Six of those years were with the Park Authority while I was based at Cub Run RECenter.

I have always enjoyed teaching scout programs, especially programs for Girl Scouts. I love to tell them that I am a scientist and a girl, and that I get paid to go to summer camp with friends every year. I love reminiscing about when I was a scout. In those memories, I went to sleep-away camp, toured fast food restaurants and learned about other cultures. I love scouting and all it stands for.

However, it is a whole new thing to be a scout leader.

I thought my experience leading Girl Scout badge programs would make this a snap, and that my girls could save some money because I could lead their badge programs. But Girl Scouting is so much more than that. I thank God for my two (yes, two) co-leaders. I won’t even go into the paperwork and training requirements, and any Girl Scout leader reading this blog is probably nodding along at this point.

During my first meeting as a leader, I asked the girls what they wanted to do as Girl Scouts. The GSUSA is very adamant that we encourage the girls to lead in any way possible, even my kindergarten troop. The girls chose a nature walk. With my past experience, I could guide that.

No problem.

Then they chose singing and dancing. I could guide that.

No problem.

Then they said gymnastics and a tea party and a bike rodeo.

Problem.

Girl Scouts meet a horse at Frying Pan Farm Park.

It was then that I knew how a troop leader feels. That also was the moment that I understood why scout leaders come to this vast pool of resources called the Park Authority. I have a new resolve in my position with the Park Authority to give those scout leaders and their scouts the best possible experiences of nature in my role working with our nature centers, and I am resolved to encouraging other park sites, like RECenters, to offer scouting experiences in which those site personnel excel.

No one person can do it all. No one park can do it all. But it sure is great to know that the parks are out there looking for ways to help scouts have positive experiences, try new things, learn new things and to participate in their world.

Written by Tammy Schwab, manager of education and outreach for the Resource Management Division, Fairfax County Park Authority.

Scout leaders can find programs for scouts at Parktakes Online. Type “scout” in the keyword search box.

New Bluegrass Barn Series Brings Appalachian Music to Frying Pan

Bluegrass music has been a part of the culture at Frying Pan Farm Park for many years. Sunday jam sessions have drawn amateurs and professionals alike together to riff and harmonize on old Appalachian classics. From the cornfield to the chicken coop, the twang of the banjo and the screech of the bow across taut violin strings can be heard when the musicians gather in the Country Store. Now, the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park are building on the farm’s bluegrass foundation with the introduction of the new Bluegrass Barn Series.   

Bluegrass musicians gather in the Country Store at Frying Pan Farm Park for an acoustic jam session.

Featuring the best local and regional bluegrass talent, two-hour performances are being held every other Sunday in the visitor center’s 200-seat auditorium. David Peterson and 1946, a traditional bluegrass band from Nashville, Tenn., performed at the first Bluegrass Barn concert on Sunday, November 4, 2012. Although the audience was small, the band created at least one new fan. Kristen Auerbach, an interpreter at the farm, said, “It was a fantastic show.  I’m not a bluegrass fan, but they won me over.” Auerbach said she plans to attend more concerts in the future.  

David Peterson and 1946 played the first concert in the new Bluegrass Barn Series at Frying Pan Farm Park.

The visitor center, built in the late 19th century as a dairy barn, was converted into a sanctuary for the Chantilly Bible Church in the 1980s. When the Fairfax County Park Authority acquired the building in 2001, it was renovated to include an improved performance space. Exposed wooden beams soaring to a height of 26 feet, hardwood floors, and a powerful sound system have made this intimate venue popular with traveling bluegrass musicians.

Bluegrass Barn concerts are held in the visitor center.

The Fairfax County Park Authority coordinates nearly 200 outdoor performances each summer in amphitheaters. Establishing an indoor series has long been a goal of Park Authority Events Coordinator Sousan Frankeberger. She said, “Frying Pan was the best fit since the park isn’t as busy during fall and winter months. We know bluegrass is very popular in Northern Virginia and has a lot of fans, and we wanted to tie into the park’s bluegrass history.”

According to Frankeberger, a grassroots volunteer committee was formed to secure high-caliber performers to play gigs at the farm in between tour stops. The committee reaches out informally to agents and touring groups to identify possible concert dates, and then official contracts are issued once the date is secured. So far, the reaction from musicians has been overwhelmingly positive. “They are excited. For them it’s another stop along their way,” said Frankeberger. She noted that lesser known bands are anticipating an increase in their fan base in the area as more people have the opportunity to see their live shows.

To tie together the new series with the traditions of the jam sessions, Frying Pan is moving the jam sessions into the visitor center from 1 to 4 p.m., before the scheduled band takes the stage. Jams, which typically draw 10-20 musicians, have outgrown the Country Store where they’ve always met. Players are looking forward to seeing and meeting bluegrass professionals, and maybe even jamming with them in the true spirit of bluegrass.

Frankeberger enlisted the help of the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park to help promote the series, sell tickets, and to pay the performers. Jack Pitzer, president of the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park and a bluegrass fan, said, “The Friends group will be hosting the event and welcoming folks to this new activity at the park. Any profits will be for improvements at the park.”

Frankeberger would also like to build relationships with local radio stations.  However, the majority of the publicity will come from the committee, the Park Authority, the Friends, and the performers. “It’s going to take a year or two to establish the series,” Frankeberger said. In the meantime, she’s asking all the bluegrass fans out there to help spread the word.

Don’t miss the next concert in the Bluegrass Barn Series! Appalachian Flyer takes the stage on Sunday, November 18 at 7 p.m. This five-musician band from Ellicott City, Maryland has been picking from D.C. to West Virginia since 2007. Bring your appetite! The park’s food vendor, Gordon’s Grille, will be selling barbecue sandwiches, baked beans, coleslaw, and other refreshments before shows begin and during a brief intermission.

Appalachian Flyer

The Bluegrass Barn Series is sponsored by the Fairfax County Park Authority and the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park. Bluegrass Barn concerts can be heard on the first and third Sundays from November through April. Doors open at 6 p.m. Concerts start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance; $15 at the door. Season passes, which include admission to all shows and offer prime, reserved seating, are available for $132. Purchase tickets online, or call 703-222-4664. For more information, call 703-437-9101.

Frying Pan Farm Park visitor center is located at 2739 West Ox Road in Herndon, Va.

By Matthew Kaiser, deputy public information officer