Museums, events and historical sites in the Northern Neck are adapting in the wake of COVID-19.
Stratford Hall officials announced the historic plantation—which had been closed to the public—will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., starting this week.
The grounds will be open, as will many of the site’s buildings, including the visitor center, gift shop, the Great House that was home to the Lees, and its surrounding outbuildings. Lodging facilities and cabins will remained closed.
For now, tours inside the Great House will be self-guided and audio-based, with social distancing possibly limiting the number of visitors allowed in the house at one time.
A new online ticketing program lets guests purchase tour tickets and grounds passes before visiting, avoiding any contact with employees at Stratford Hall. Tickets will also be available to purchase at the Visitor Center.
There’s no equivocation in Stratford’s policy on face coverings: All guests are required to wear them when indoors, and advised to wear them outdoors, though that’s optional. Face coverings will be worn by all Stratford Hall staffers.
Signs will remind guests to stay 6 feet from any people not in their group, and Plexiglas partitions have been added in the visitor center and gift shop. Restrooms and high-touch areas will be cleaned and sanitized frequently, with hand sanitizer provided at many locations on the property.
Another Northern Neck museum—the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum near the Chesapeake Bay—has spread the word that it will reopen July 9. Officials there ask potential visitors to stay tuned for more information about procedures and safeguards.
In Lancaster County, the Irvington Steamboat Era Museum has had to think creatively about how to hold one its biggest annual fundraising events: the Irvington Crab Festival.
Director Barbara Brecher said the pandemic forced the museum to rethink how to hold what is usually a large gathering of people. Instead, the museum shifted to what it’s calling a Grab-a-Crab event.
Those taking part will buy a ticket in advance for $35 a head. On Aug. 8 between 4 and 7 p.m., ticketholders will pull into the drive-thru at Chesapeake Bank’s branch at 98 King Carter Drive in Irvington. Brecher said that’s when drivers will “pop their trunk, and volunteers deliver them a bag of a dozen fresh, steamed crabs, plus a grab-bag with a 2020 collector beer cup, crab mallet, roll of paper towels and other goodies” before heading home.
She said it will provide a way “to enjoy a crab feast with family and friends in a safe environment.”
Tickets for the Aug. 8 event can be purchased online at steamboateramuseum.org or by check, mailed to the museum, at P.O. Box 132 Irvington, VA. Tickets are limited and will not be sold the day of the event.
At Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern in Heathsville, which re-creates the historic spot where people gathered in Northumberland County in Colonial days, the Tavern Café will offer up some historical dishes.
From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., June 25–27, the eatery will serve dishes with historic roots in the state.
They include Old Timey Brunswick Stew, Jefferson’s Monticello Bean Soup, Colonial Williamsburg’s Chutney Chicken Salad and George Washington’s I Cannot Tell a Lie Cherry Pie.
The café offers take-out, outside seating on a veranda and social-distanced indoor dining. All food is made on-site by the volunteers of the Tavern Culinary Guild. The Tavern Gift Shoppe, which sells locally made handcrafts, will be open.
An all-volunteer nonprofit, Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern is located at 73 Monument Place, just off Route 360 behind the old Northumberland Courthouse in Heathsville.
The Tavern Café and Heritage Arts Center Gift Shoppe are open weekly, Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, visit RHHTFoundationinc.org or call 804/580-3377.
And though it’s all virtual this year, Colonial Beach has found a way to keep the town’s Osprey Festival going after a successful start last year.
Bird lovers and those who enjoy Colonial Beach can check out the wildlife and waterfront scenery at colonialbeachospreyfestival.org.
Joyce Reimherr, president of the downtown organization, said while swallows are famous for returning to Capistrano, Colonial Beach each year welcomes returning osprey into nests along the shoreline of the Northern Neck community.
The town held its first Osprey Festival in 2019 to celebrate the birds. Due to COVID-19, organizers shifted gears to present a virtual osprey experience with a website dedicated to the osprey and the festival: colonialbeachospreyfestival.org.
There are photos, stories, videos and presentations on the ospreys and other birdlife of the area. New material will be added each week, and people can access several osprey cams.
To add some excitement, folks who live in and near Colonial Beach are being urged to become “osprey watchers” and post pictures and observations of the osprey families nesting in and around Colonial Beach.
Money raised by the virtual festival will go toward revitalizing the historic downtown through preservation-based development and beautification with landscaping and tree planting.