Ride into Summer with Historic Manassas

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By Wendy Migdal

Sponsored by Historic Manassas, Inc.

Summer is approaching and so are summer travel plans. It’s time to think about destinations and how to get there. Historic Manassas has got your destination covered – it’s right here. And they have a whole lineup of events coming up that focus on different ways to get from A to B, from trains to automobiles to . . . stick horses?

May Events: Horses and Horsepower

If you’ve never made it to the Kentucky Derby, try a fun alternative on Friday, May 6: the Downtown Derby in Manassas. Participants, both adults and children, will compete in breathtaking races down Center Street–on their stick horses. They’ll break out of their cardboard gates and are required to maintain the regulation trot the entire way, though, as Events Coordinator Melissa Williams ruefully admits, the adults often break the rules and start to run. Staff will corral them into setting a good example for the kids, however.

Update from Historic Manassas: To keep you safe, depending on the weather at 6:00 p.m., many of the event activities may need to change.  If it’s raining at 6:00 p.m., the horse races are cancelled, but the Hat Parade will take place under the Harris Pavilion.  The streets in downtown will be closed and the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (open container) is in place.

Many people bring their own personally-decorated-and-named stick horses, but Historic Manassas will provide them if you don’t happen to have one lying around the house. “It’s pretty interesting what people come up with. We had a mermaid one year. And they get really creative with the names,” Williams says. There are other ways to participate too, including the derby hat parade and contest. The hat competition is heating up, apparently. Williams reports that women are coming in to the visitors’ center, vowing to win this year.

Saturday, May 7 is the spring Antique Auto Show from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Local vintage car owners from the Bull Run Region of Automotive Club of America will bring their automobiles to display on the streets and will answer questions from passersby. Automobiles on display will date to the early 1900s and will include several examples of convertibles. This event draws a large, enthusiastic crowd.

June Events: Travel on the Iron Horse and to the Cotton Club

The Manassas Heritage Railway Festival on June 4 promises to provide loads of entertainment, whether you’re a train aficionado or not. VRE is back this year providing 45-minute train rides to Clifton and back for $10. While on the train, kids (and adults too) will be entertained by an invasion of Storm Troopers from the 501st Legion, who will also mingle throughout the crowds.

train festivsl, manassas

An extensive model train exhibit will be featured in the Harris Pavilion. Five organizations, including the Lego Corporation and four groups of model train enthusiasts, will set up their elaborate displays. As if that isn’t enough, there will also be a puppet show, a magician, a blowup slide, and of course, food and craft vendors.

Historic Manassas has revamped the Jazz Festival into an evening event this year. On June 18, guests will be treated to an evening of jazz in a 1930s Cotton Club-type atmosphere. “We noticed that people who came to the jazz festival were really just there to see Marcus Johnson and enjoy the music in an outdoor atmosphere. You could see it as you looked out at the crowd. They weren’t there for the vendors and the food, and they weren’t there to drink either. They just really liked jazz.”

The show will begin with Velvet Storm, a local jazz band, and will feature a dueling pianos segment. Comedian Doug Scott will emcee the event and will also entertain with a standup routine in between acts. The headliner will be Marcus Johnson, a nationally-recognized jazz musician and entrepreneur who lives in Maryland.

Guests who choose the VIP option will sit at tables adorned with linen tablecloths and lamps in the Pavilion, where they will be wined and dined. Each table receives a bottle of Marcus Johnson’s FLO wine, food, and a gift bag. VIP tickets are $90 per person. For a more low-key experience, guests can choose the general lawn option and bring their chairs and even their dogs. For $35, a drink ticket and wine glass are included. A cash bar, food vendors (including a picnic basket), and a cigar vendor are also available to all guests.

“It’s going to have almost a date-night feel, a club feel, moving it to the evening. It’s starting to get dark and little cooler and people can just sit under the starry sky and listen to jazz,” says Williams.

Wendy is a freelance writer who has lived in the Northern/Central Virginia area since 2000. She has written extensively for The Free Lance-Star and also works for online educational companies. Wendy enjoys traveling around the area to learn about parks, restaurants, attractions, and especially history.






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