North Stafford resident Mike Dunavant got in touch to share some news about his son, Drew Dunavant, who along with lifelong pal James Earhart, grew up “climbing trees together behind James’ home in in southeast Stafford, not far from the King George County line,” according to Mike.

The senior Dunavant said that his son’s love for climbing trees surely played a part in Earhart “entering the arborist trade directly out of high school. He became a certified arborist and went on to form his own tree care firm, Arbor Care Complete Tree Service.”

Earhart, who now lives in Hustle in Essex County, started competing in tree-climbing competitions early in his career, and eventually won the Mid-Atlantic Tree Climbing Championship five times, taking the top prize—the International Tree Climbing Championship—in 2015.



I’ve written about the lanky arborist before, and once joined him for a demonstration of his tree-climbing and safety skills, which are considerable.

The elder Dunavant said that not too long after Earhart entered the profession, his son Drew also became a certified arborist, and is now the director of Truetimber Academy at Truetimber Arborists, Inc., in Richmond, where he serves as the safety and training manager.

The proud father had some news to report. The boys who grew up climbing trees together in Stafford both had a great competition recently in Providence, R.I., for the annual North American Tree Climbing Championship.

Wouldn’t you know they took the top two prizes. Earhart topped out in first place and Dunavant grabbed second, out of a field that included nearly 50 of the top male and female climbing professionals from North America.

Drew’s father said Earhart encouraged his son to get into competitive tree-climbing, a sport overseen by the International Society of Arboriculture. The group scores competitions largely on the sort of safety measures the society recommends its member arborists use on the job.

Before last month’s second-place finish in the North American competition, Dunavant won the Mid-Atlantic Tree Climbing Championship in 2016 and 2017 and was a competitor in the 2016 International Tree Climbing Championship.

On the basis of his first-place finish in Rhode Island, Earhart will be able to compete next year in the International Tree Climbing Championships in Tennessee. Alas, only first-place winners advance.

The elder Dunavant said he and wife Theresa have seen their son and Earhart compete often, and that Earhart’s parents, Bob and Pam Earhart, still live in the house near Passapatanzy where the boys first found thrills climbing trees.

Congrats to both competitors.

I also wanted to share a few late additions to this year’s Virginia Film Festival, which will be held Nov. 1–4 in Charlottesville.

The star whose visit wasn’t confirmed until after the initial lineup announcement is two-time Academy Award-winning actor Christoph Waltz.

In a segment titled “A Tribute to Christoph Waltz,” the actor will be featured in an onstage chat with Academy Award-winning producer Mark Johnson at The Paramount Theater on Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. The pair worked together on Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing,” which opened last year’s Virginia Film Festival. The event will combine an onstage interview with clips of key scenes from Waltz’s career.

Waltz drew considerable buzz in 2009 by playing a ruthless and brutal—but sometimes charming—Austrian SS colonel in Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” The role earned him the 2010 Academy Award for best supporting actor. He won his second Academy Award in 2013, again for best supporting actor, playing bounty hunter King Schultz in “Django Unchained.”

Another late entry to the program is Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” a story set in 1970s Harlem about an African–American couple whose wedding plans are threatened when the young man is falsely accused of a heinous crime. Director Julian Schnabel’s “At Eternity’s Gate” was also added. Based on Vincent van Gogh’s letters and life, it stars Willem Dafoe.

For more info or to get tickets, go to virginiafilmfestival.org.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415 rhedelt@freelancestar.com

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