Friday, 31 August 2018

Traditional Fall Wedding In Virginia: Carly + Jonathan

Carly and Jonathan's October
wedding in Virginia from Ever After Visuals was definitely a family (and friends) affair: they had over 300 guests and were lucky to have many of their guests help out with elements of the wedding from the invitations to their wedding cake! Carly and Jonathan chose a fall-inspired color palette of red, orange, and gold, made even more beautiful with the rustic setting of Hartwood House just outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Carly and Jonathan wanted a traditional wedding from start to finish, beginning with the church ceremony officiated by Jonathan's father!

From Carly: Our wedding was very traditional from beginning to end. Since it was held in the fall, we embraced many of the fall colors, like burgundy, orange, and gold.

Our entire wedding day was filled with memories of friends and family. My father-in-law is a pastor and we were blessed to have him marry us. We also had friends and family who provided music at the ceremony and reception, designed and created our invitations, ceremony programs, and place cards, made our wedding cake, and made home-made truffles for our wedding favors.

My favorite memory of our wedding day was being surrounded by so many friends and family. One thing that stands out to me is a funny moment that occurred during our portrait session. We were attempting to have a special kiss underneath my veil; however, as soon as we started to kiss, the veil flew off of my head and landed on my husband's head. Every time I see that sequence of photos in my wedding album, I can't help but crack a smile.

My husband comes from a very large family, and his father is also pastor of a fairly large church. We decided early on that we would splurge on our photographer, but would try to keep the reception costs down in order to invite as many people as possible. We were blessed to be able to have 300 people attend our wedding!

Thursday, 30 August 2018

9 Virginia Holiday Traditions For You And Yours

Everyone has traditions they look forward to each holiday season. Virginia's 100 Miles of Lights is a major one, but here are 9 more. Are they among your favorites? If not, give them a try this year and perhaps you'll have a new one to look forward to.
What events does your family enjoy during the holiday season? Leave a kind comment to share and give ideas to others.

— Dominion Christmas Parade| Richmond—

Nearly 100 entries that include emergency response vehicles, giant balloons, marching bands, floats, athletes, celebrities, dance troupes and more draw a crowd of more than 100,000 to Broad Street year after year. Held the first Saturday in December.


— The Roanoke Times Dikens of A Christmas| Roanoke —

The first three Fridays of December are dedicated to family festivities at Dickens of a Christmas. Centered in the historic Roanoke market, this event features carriage rides, chestnuts roasting on an open fire (well, roasted chestnuts anyway), and plenty of merriment to go around.


— Annual Campagna Center Scottish Christmas Walk| Alexandria —

Alexandria was established by Scottish merchants in 1749 and the annual Christmas Walk pays homage to that rich history with the only parade of its kind in Virginia: a kilted one. The first Saturday of December always welcomes dozens of Scottish clans descending upon Old Town in their best plaids and armed with bagpipes. It's a tradition that has frequently landed on the Southeast Tourism Society's Top 20 Events list.


---Hollydazzle| Newport News—

If you have an affinity for fireworks, Hollydazzle is the place to be in the evening hours of the first Saturday of December. Pyrotechnics, synchronized-to-music special effects, and fun light shows make this a tremendous night for all ages. It all happens "in the round" at the City Center at Oyster Point, which happens to be a great place to find dinner and a hot chocolate.

— Grand Illumination| Colonial Williamsburg —

Gun fire and fireworks were the celebratory actions one would experience during the 18th century. If you're in Colonial Williamsburg, what else would you expect? Join in a night of revelry with musical performances and three locations of beautiful fireworks. Grand Illumination occurs the first Sunday of December annually.


— Winterfest| Waterford Village —

The entire village of Waterford is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, which should tell you that it's beautifully preserved and should be ripe with festivities during the holiday season. Tour the homes (even by candlelight!), enjoy carolers, and find the perfect handmade artisan gift in this sweet early American rural community during the second weekend of December.


— Mcdonald's Holiday Lights At The Beach| Virginia Beach—

How does driving the boardwalk at Virginia Beach sound? Pretty cool, huh? Even cooler to drive it at night with light displays surrounding you. See dolphins appearing to jump from the tide, enormous sandcastles, and even wise men making their way to the star. Load up the car/van/minibus/motorcoach and come on down. There are special price nights, military nights, and more. The boardwalk will be lit from November 20 through January 2.


— A Colonial Christmas At Jamestown Settlement| Jamestown —

What does a 17th century Christmas look like? Head to Jamestown Settlement to find out just how different today's celebrations are from settlers' time. A variety of daily tours, interpretations, music, and special opportunities will entertain and educate families between December 1 and January 3. Be sure to seek out the Lord of Misrule, a mischievous character indeed.


— Busch Gardens Christmas Town| Williamsburgs —

You won't find anything that compares to Busch Gardens when it's transformed into Christmas Town. The jolly ol' elf, Santa, is one of the best (from this mom's point of view), and the themed areas are great fun. Millions of lights paired with the top-notch shows Busch Gardens is known for equals a night your family won't soon forget. Do get the signature peppermint hot chocolate, too!


— Dominion Gardenfest of Lights At Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden| Richmond—

More than 30 acres of lit displays and botanical creations make for a delightful walk through a merry wonderland. The centerpiece, however, is the Conservatory. Beautifully lit and housing indoor displays, it's not to be missed. Seek out the firepits and make yourself a s'more. Hot chocolate is available, too!

By Casey Higgins

*culled from www.blog.virginia.org

Washington - Food and Restaurants

There are a lot of enticing elements at work in Washington's culinary scene. The entire state embraces the farm (or boat) to table philosophy, and excels in the areas of seafood, salmon, wine, craft beer, and coffee. Seattle, in particular, is a gold mine of superb eating. But you're likely to find memorable meals based around fish, crabs, mussels, and oysters anywhere on the western side of the Cascades. The eastern slope towns of Yakima and Walla Walla are wine growing country, while craft breweries can be found in virtually every town in the state.

Bars and Pubbing in Washington State

Most of Washington State is pretty mellow after dark. The folks on both sides of the Cascades enjoy sipping pints of locally-brewed beer or glasses of local wine in casual, friendly bars. Live music is a common occurrence in the large towns, but the real nightlife is centered almost entirely in Seattle.
This city has a solid pedigree of producing talented bands, and the bars around Pioneer Square still rock every night. If this area is too rowdy, try the sophisticated drinking scene in Seattle Center, Ballard, Belltown, or Capitol Hill. For live music, check out The Triple Door (216 Union St, Seattle) or Dimitriou's Jazz Alley (2033 Sixth Ave, Seattle), both well-established, quality venues.

Seattle's Pike Place Market is as good for drinking as it is for edibles. Slick little bars like The Tasting Room (1924 Post Alley, Seattle) serve local wines by the glass, while The Zig Zag Café (1501 Western Ave, Seattle) is renowned for its cocktails and ambiance.
You can always find a brewpub in Washington, and most of them are great places to eat and drink in a cozy, pub-style atmosphere. The Elysian Brewing Company (1221 E. Pike St, Seattle) and the Mill Creek Brewpub (11 S. Palouse St, Walla Walla) are two of the more impressive pubs. Bars in Washington must stop serving alcohol at 2:00 a.m., and usually close shortly thereafter.

Dining and Cuisine in Washington State
Everywhere you go in Washington, there are tempting cafés and coffee houses . Seattle is overflowing with options in every neighborhood, from Belltown to Ballard. But the epicenter of the scene is the Pike Place Market, a veritable village of bakeries, produce stalls, gourmet food shops, and cafés. Whether you eat here or not, exploring Pike Place is a top travel attraction in Seattle. A lot of the dining in Washington is very reasonably priced considering the quality and creativity of the dishes, even in Seattle.

For a special dinner, try The Georgian (411 University St, Seattle), an incredible downtown institution featuring Pacific Northwest creations. Canlis (2576 Aurora Ave, Seattle) is a Seattle institution serving sublime Northwest cuisine since 1950. Walla Walla also has some exquisite dining centered around its wineries and rich agricultural sector. Try the Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen (125 W. Alder St, Walla Walla) or 26Brix (207 W. Main St, Walla Walla) for gourmet delights starring the local produce. Even the rustic San Juan Islands have amazing restaurants like 120 Nichols (120 Nichols St, Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands) and The Backdoor Kitchen (400 A Street, Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands).

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Traditional University of Washington Wedding

I absolutely love the fact that this couple thought outside the wedding venue box for their big day and decided to tie the knot where both went to college and where he proposed. It makes every gorgeous image from Ali Mae Photography that much more meaningful, and when you pair that with gorgeous styling and fabulous florals from An Occasion Flowers , we officially have a winner on our hands. See it all here.

From the Bride... Our wedding day was without question the best day of our lives and looking back at these images bring so much joy and happiness. Aaron & I met on New Years Eve, and although he was currently living in Los Angeles and myself in Seattle we wouldn't let the hundreds of miles come between us. We began a long distance relationship, a time filled with great memories and traveling on weekends. Aaron got the opportunity to move back to Seattle, landing a great job and we continued our relationship living 15 minutes from each other (quite the change from a 3 hour plane ride!), which led us to where we are today.

Aaron proposed in October 2012 and it was an absolute surprise. He took me out to breakfast to the same spot we had our first date, and told me he had a song he wanted to play for me. Aaron took me down to the University of Washington waterfront and played the most beautiful song on the guitar about our relationship and spending the rest of our lives together. He ended up playing this same proposal song again at our wedding, which was a fun surprise.

The location of our proposal, as well as the fact that we were both graduates from the University of Washington, led us to the decision to have our wedding on college campus. We decided that getting married on campus would be very special since the space is filled with so many great memories. We had an outdoor ceremony at the University of Washington in Seattle, where we both attended college. The ceremony was held at an outdoor amphitheater, located in a hidden grove on campus. The four white columns were originally part of the first university building. The wedding reception was held in the commons area of Mary Gates Hall on the University of Washington campus, just a short walk from the ceremony location. The spaces stood beautiful alone, so we didn't need much decor on the day. Pastel colors were my main inspiration behind the wedding, with pops of orange!

We had some amazing vendors that I'd like to acknowledge because they made our big day absolutely perfect. Our wedding dreams became a reality thanks to their help. Our day-of wedding coordinator, Geneva Sipes, was hands down the most helpful person on our wedding day. She was there every moment of the day to make sure everything ran smoothly. Our wedding day was so flawless, you'd think she had a team of minions working with her! Our florist, Sandy from An Occasion Flowers was also amazing to work with. Flowers were my number one priority for the wedding and she was able to re-create all the centerpieces and bouquets I dreamed of for our wedding. And of course a huge thanks to Ali Mae Photography for capturing these beautiful photos that we'll cherish forever. We are beyond happy with how our wedding turned out and was exactly the way we envisioned, celebrating with all our family and friends. We have enough memories of the day to last a lifetime. My advice for all you brides-to-be is to think outside of the box in terms of venues- sometimes unlikely locations make for the most memorable and meaningful weddings!

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Cyprus Music

The music of Cyprus includes a variety of classical, folk and popular genres and is influenced by diverse Cyprus culture. Recent trends have seen the rise of Agia Napa, a resort, as a home for UK garage music, similar in its evolution to that of the island Ibiza.

Cyprus changed hands numerous times prior to the medieval era, and was an important outpost of Christianity and European civilization during the Crusades. The tumultuous Cyprus history introduced a variety of styles, including music from Armenia , France , Greece and Arabs . The island's peak as a cultural capital of Europe occurred from 1359 to 1432.

During that peak, Pierre 1 de Lusignan made a three year tour of Europe, bringing with him an entourage of musicians that so impressed Charles V in Rheims that he donated 80 francs in gold to them. On his return to Cyprus , Pierre I brought with him the French Ars Nova and, later, the Ars Subtilior. French musicians became well established in Cyprus , and the city of Nicosia became a capital of the Ars Subtilior style.

Pierre 1's successor, Janus 1 de Lusignan saw Cypriot music evolve into its own variety of music. His daughter, Anna, brought a manuscript after her marriage to Louis, Count of Geneva, which contained 159 folios with over two hundred polyphonic compositions, both sacred and secular. The manuscript is now contained within the National Library of Turin.

The folk music of the Greek-speaking population of Cyprus shares some characteristics with other regional Greek music. Ornamental patterns are transmitted by oral tradition and are added at the discretion of the player. One pattern, a slide either to a note or between two notes, is found on the Greek mainland, the Greek islands, and Cyprus . This example of a Cypriot wedding dance features violin and guitar.
North Cyprus is becoming a generous host to Cyprus cultural events. The island began to host many cultural events over the past few years.

Bellapais Abbey in Kyrenia, North Cyprus which has witnessed singing the old songs for ages now hosts modern and classical concerts these days. 

During the spring months of April and May Bellapais Abbey plays host and array of celebrated musicians all over the world. Organized by the TRNC friends of Music Society, The fourth of these international concerts was held this year and featured world famous pianist Viv Mclean Matthew Barley on Viola and solo pianist Ozgur Aydin.

Numerous concerts have been performed in this 13th Century Lusignan Monastery. Salamis , in Famagusta is another such Cyprus historic site used for concerts. Both of these places in Cyprus will now host cultural activities and music festivals during spring and summer periods.

It is possible to listen to many artiest courtesy of Famagusta municipality's annual music festival. Apart from the packed festival program there are individual events in Cyprus to entertain music lovers. A jazz concert, for example, was staged on 27th May in Famagusta. Titled jazz from Paris this unforgettable concert featured the world famous Gilbert Stigrist.

Today, Turkish music is a fusion of classical art music, folk songs, Ottoman military music, Islamic hymns and the norms of western art music. Classical Turkish music is the courtly music of the Ottoman sultans that is an offspring of the Arabic and Persian traditions. This music is not written down in scores; with only the maquam, which is a similar pattern of major-minor scale system, being marked down. 

Improvisation (taksim) is a traditional variation technique, featuring the form. One of the characteristics of Turkish classical and folk music, as well as the military music and the hymns, is being monophonic. There are about 24 unequal intervals and almost numberless modes.

Washington Holidays and Festivals

When the spring finally breaks in April, Washington begins preparing for a solid summer of fun festivals and special events. Seattle is where most of the action takes place, from neighborhood street parties to massive beer festivals. But every town has its specialty, so you can be sure to find wine festivals in Yakima, onion events in Walla Walla, and flower spectaculars in La Conner. Washington holidays also include American classics like Thanksgiving and Halloween.

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

The town of La Conner in Washington is just an hour's drive north of Seattle and it's famous for its flower growing industry. Each April, the tulip and daffodil farms explode into bloom, blanketing the entire Skagit Valley in color. It's really quite a spectacle, and La Conner capitalizes on it with a nice little spring festival featuring a range of events and activities, including music, food, flower exhibits, and farm tours.

Seattle Maritime Festival

Seattle's maritime roots are celebrated each May along its scenic, historic waterfront. The Bell Street Pier is the center of the activity, which includes fun events like boat-building contests and tug boat racing. There are a lot of activities geared toward kids, but adults will enjoy the art fair, beer garden, and big Waterfront Chowder Cook Off. Best of all, it's free!

Sasquatch! Festival

One of America's premier alternative music festivals takes place at the Gorge Amphitheater in the town of George, Washington (clever, no?). Three stages host dozens of the hottest bands in the country over three days every May. There are food tents, beer gardens, and even a comedy stage for a few laughs.

Capitol Hill Block Party

One of Seattle's coolest neighborhoods holds a classic street party every July that is really a tribute to the city's energy and creativity as a whole. For three days, the streets of Capitol Hill host some of the best bands and musicians in the Pacific Northwest on several stages which are set up around the district. Though music is the focus, there are also loads of food vendors, art and crafts exhibits, and other neat activities.

Tacoma Craft Beer Festival

Washington State is a pioneer in America's massive craft beer movement, and each September the best local brewers in the region come to Tacoma's Foss Waterway Seaport for a full day of beer samples from more than 50 small breweries. It's the state's biggest local beer event, and always sells out weeks in advance.

Bumbershoot

This incredibly diverse and eclectic Washington art festival features everything from live music to bizarre performance arts. This hugely popular, three-day September event happens at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. Around 2,000 performers entertain a crowd of 200,000 with poetry, music, dancing, acrobatics, and much more. Some 50 Seattle restaurants provide the food from booths in the foodie section.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Natalie & Joe’s Traditional Vietnamese, Meets Modern, Local Northern Virginia Wedding

Natalie & Joe met in high school, but started dating years later. Their relationship finally took the next step overlooking the city of DC at sunset, at a beautiful hotel in Dupont Circle. From there they planned a stunning, multicultural wedding with traditional Vietnamese cultures and modern Christian wedding themes woven together. The entire day ended with over 400 guests (yowsa!) attending a 10-course meal in Arlington, VA.
The couple used many details from their ancestry, gifts from their parents & grandparents, and then used a ton of local, Arlington VA wedding vendors to complete the rest of the day! A special thanks to Jalapeno Photography for submitting this beautiful Northern Virginia wedding to us!

From the bride:

For our wedding, all the bridesmaids wore traditional Vietnamese dresses, known in Vietnamese as Ao Dai. I wore an ivory lace dress and long hand-sewn veil that was made in Vietnam by the same designer of the bridesmaids' dresses.

After the church ceremony we headed to my grandmother's house for traditional Vietnamese tea ceremony. I changed into a dark pink Ao Dai, and my husband put on a traditional Vietnamese wedding garment as well.
We followed traditional practice: the groom's family came to the bride's family's home with gifts, and the bridesmaids receive the gifts while I watched from a window.

Inside, the family altar was decorated in red covered with sweets, foods and photos of our ancestors. My father guided us in the blessing and helped us light the incense as we bow in honor of our ancestors asking for their blessings.

The toast was especially personal because my mom presented me with her vintage sequined dress, it was the first expensive dresses she purchased years after her arrival to America at the end of the Vietnam War. It was a couture dress hand-made by a designer in Hong Kong. She had only worn it once many years ago. Each sequin, and crystal was applied by hand, and I could feel the weight of the dress as I put it on. As I stepped out I could hear the ooohs and ahhhs from all the guests. The dress was truly one of a kind.

Congratulations Natalie & Joe! Thank you for sharing your beautiful Vietnamese, meets Modern Northern Virginia wedding with us! A special thanks again to Jalapeno Photography & Two Bright Lights for making this feature possible.

West Virginia Holidays and Festivals

Most West Virginia holidays celebrate the Appalachian culture. Of these, the Augusta Heritage Festival is the liveliest, showcasing the best of Appalachian music, dance, and crafts. The Mountain State Forest Festival emphasizes more of the state's famous outdoors attractions, although it also focuses on local cuisine.

Vandalia Gathering

This festival focuses on the state's bluegrass and old-time music, as well as Scots-Irish related arts such as quilt making, dancing, and cooking. It is held each Memorial Day weekend in Charleston, and has been known to bring in top local performers such as Everett Lilly and the Lilly Mountaineers, and Dwight Diller.

West Virginia Strawberry Festival

This is one of West Virginia's most popular festivals, both among locals and those visiting from neighboring states. As the name suggests, the festival is all about strawberries, offering parades and shows, as well as the lively 'Party Gras' street party, which offers live music, auctions, a carnival, and craft exhibits. It is held the third weekend in May in Buckhannon, midway between Charleston and Morgantown.

All Good Music Festival and Camp Out

Each July, this weekend music festival takes place on Marvin's Mountain Top in Masontown. The festival, which has been running for more than 15 years, focuses on folk and jam acts, although it recently added reggae, bluegrass, hip-hop, funk, and rock to the menu. There are three stages, each focusing on a different music genre, although the two main stages never have overlapping big-name acts.

Augusta Heritage Festival

This is the largest festival in West Virginia, drawing people in from all over the nation. The five-week festival starts in July and runs throughout the summer, featuring the best of Appalachian culture in the state. Concerts, dancing, and crafts, were influenced by the Appalachian culture, are the focus. The festival is held at the Davis and Elkins College in Elkins.

West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival

Rated one of the 'Top 100 Events in North America', this three-day September street festival brings more than 100,000 visitors to the town of Clarksburg each year. The festival celebrates the Italian-American culture in West Virginia, and features entertainment, a golf tournament, a pasta cook-off, and plenty of delicious Italian treats.

Mountain State Forest Festival

In late September, Elkins hosts this annual festival, which consists of hot-air balloon rides, a fishing contest, a tennis tournament, a gun show, a talent show, and a carnival, among other things. It also has plenty of exhibits showing off local products such as quits, buckwheat cake, and pepperoni buns. Expect to find plenty of food, happiness, and laughter at this lively annual event.

Bridge Day

Each third Saturday in October, the New River Gorge Bridge is closed off to all vehicle traffic and becomes the host of a festival. This is the only day of the year that pedestrians are allowed to cross it. Around 100,000 people visit the bridge each Bridge Day and enjoy parachuting, bungee jumping, and rappelling off of the 267 meter-high bridge.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Monday, 27 August 2018

Vermont - Food and Restaurants

Vermont takes tremendous pride in consuming local products, whether it's the legendary maple syrup or ever-growing craft beer. The dining around the state leans heavily toward all-American dishes but the ingredients almost always come from nearby farms. There are lots of ways to experience the farm-to-table concept, from guided tours of farms to sampling special menus at eco-minded bistros. The nightlife in Vermont is as gentle and subdued as its scenery. Brewpubs are heavy favorites and live music is common, especially in towns like Burlington.

Bars and Pubbing in Vermont

Vermont may be a tiny little state but it has an impressive craft beer industry and live music scene. Like the mountains and valleys that inspire, bands such as Phish and breweries like Magic Hat take their art seriously. You won't do much clubbing or martini drinking here, and the really small hamlets don't even have a bar. But in the large cities like Burlington, Bennington, and Middlebury, there are some endearing and comfortable pubs. Most places close by 2:00 a.m., or earlier if you're in a tiny Northeast Kingdom village.

The best live music tends to be in the largest city, Burlington. Venues like
Nectar's (188 Main St, Burlington) and
Esox (194 Main St, Burlington) offer almost nightly bands, while brewpubs such as Magic Hat Brewing Company (5 Bartlett Bay Rd, Burlington) set the standard for Vermont nightlife and drinking. The capital, Montpelier, is also a fun place to drink with the locals. 
Check out Charlie O's (70 Main St, Montpelier), where they only take cash or the Three Penny Taproom (108 Main St, Montpelier) with its huge craft beer selection. The ski towns of Stowe and Killington also have their own little nightlife scenes though much of the action is seasonal.

Dining and Cuisine in Vermont

There is no shortage of quality dining in Vermont. Even the most obscure little hamlet like Plainfield or Hardwick often has a gem of a place tucked along its main street. This state is famous for two things: maple syrup and cheddar cheese. Both make perfect accompaniments for the hearty breakfasts and dinners that are nearly always farm-to-table fresh. Burlington has the most diverse dining scene, with old-time institutions such as the Penny Cluse Café (169 Cherry St, Burlington) for breakfast and surprisingly authentic Italian fare at Trattoria Delia (152 Saint Paul St, Burlington).

Vermont's more aesthetic towns like Middlebury, Stowe, and Woodstock also have a handful of superb, upscale dining with prices that would seem standard on the menu of a big city chain restaurant. Middlebury is particularly well-endowed with both The Storm Café (3 Mill St, Middlebury) and The Swift House Inn (25 Stewart Lane, Middlebury), which combines an amazing local menu with charming historic ambiance.

Woodstock's The Prince and the Pauper (24 Elm St, Woodstock) is the closest thing Vermont has to an expensive menu, but it's worth every penny. Simon Pearce Restaurant (1760 Main St, Quechee) is another gem worth seeking out. Its menu is quintessential Vermont farm-to-table, and the 19th-century mill house it rests in couldn't be more charming for a memorable meal.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

A Classic Waterfront Wedding in Vermont

Though Cathleen DaCosta and Jeffrey Brusven had known of one another for years (he attended the University of Vermont, and Cathleen grew up in Burlington, Vermont, where the school is located), they didn't meet until the fall of 2014. Jeffrey was in New York on a four-month work assignment for The North Face, while Cathleen was working as a fashion publicist for the likes of Reem Acra and Elie Saab. "I invited Jeffrey to an event I was hosting for Fashion Week," Cathleen remembers. The connection was clear, but neither was available, so Jeffrey and Cathleen parted ways. But a year later, on a dare from a friend, Cathleen reached out to see how Jeffrey was doing—and found out he was back in New York on assignment. Two nights later, they had their first date, and when Jeffrey flew back to California, they began a six-month spree of letter-writing that finally led to bi-weekly flights cross country and family introductions. Those weekly letters never stopped, even when, in December of 2016, Jeffrey proposed to Cathleen in front of the fireplace at her childhood home.

Instead of a traditional wedding venue, Cathleen and Jeffrey instead got creative and decided to take over Burlington for their wedding. "We got married in an old lakefront chapel, then invited our guests to celebrate on the waterfront," says Cathleen. The bride did most of the planning herself and stuck to a palette of crisp white, which let the nautical New England setting really shine. " Planning a Vermont wedding from Laguna Beach was a challenge, but we made it work!" says the bride.

Finally, on August 19, 2017, 150 guests gathered in Vermont for Jeffrey and Cathleen's airy waterfront celebration, photographed by Jessica Wright-Moore.

When Jeffrey proposed to Cathleen, he had more than a ring for her: "He surprised me with a dress fitting with Reem Acra herself a few days later!" says the bride.

Cathleen knew she would be in good hands with her former boss, and she was! She ended up floating down the aisle in a stunning Mikado twill ball gown with a sculpted peplum. She adds, "Reem surprised me with a piece I adored from the Spring 2014 collection, a sheer shawl hand-embroidered with the word 'Love.'" With such a gorgeous accent, the bride didn't wear any jewelry except her engagement ring .
The Louisa Howard Chapel, built in 1882, is a small space, so only 50 of the couple's family members and closest friends could squeeze in. "Some of my relatives are buried in the surrounding cemetery," says Cathleen. "Jeffrey and I liked the circle of life feeling of starting our life together in a cemetery."

The groom's favorite moment of the day came at the very beginning of the proceedings. "My father and I approached the closed door of the chapel and knocked on the front door," remembers the bride. "Then my two cousins opened the doors and he saw me walking down the aisle!"

After the ceremony, guests tossed lavender and dried violets, a nod to Jeffrey's paternal grandmother, Violet. The groom wore a navy three-piece suit, and both the bride and groom's flowers featured crisp white calla lilies.

After the vows, Cathleen and Jeffrey boarded a vintage Chris Craft boat to take them from the church to the waterfront reception. "The Burlington ferry honked its horn, and people walked down to the water to wave. It was such a special entrance," says Cathleen. The couple toasted with
champagne, and the bride showed off her violet Manolo Blahnik pumps.

As the couple's boat came in, guests gathered in front of the white sailcloth tent. "We kept all the decor quite simple. The setting was so stunning, and we didn't want to gild the lily!" says the bride.

Guests were treated to an indulgent display of meats and local cheeses, followed by freshly made seafood paella. "It was so fun to watch them cook the paella on site," says Cathleen.

The bride and groom love the atmosphere created by live music, so a six-piece band played all night. And as a surprise for Cathleen's Irish relatives, Irish step dancers performed during the reception. "I wish someone had told me that planning could be emotional and stressful—and that was okay," Cathleen says. "It's one of the biggest moments of your life, so why shouldn't it be emotional?!"

By Jaimie Mackey

*culled from www.brides.com

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Vermont Holidays and Festivals

When Vermont's brief but glorious summer arrives, the festivals roll around like clockwork. Every town of note in the state has at least one or two local festivals highlighting their culture and craftiness. Music, food, and art seem to be required components of every Vermont event so even the smallest village party rarely disappoints. There are even a couple of events in the dead of winter like Brattleboro's Winter Carnival to liven up the long dark winters. Vermont holidays also embrace U.S. traditions like Thanksgiving and Halloween.

Brattleboro Winter Carnival

For 10 days every February, the town of Brattleboro shakes off the winter blues with a huge sporting and entertainment festival. Competitions involving snow sports and activities are a highlight, as are the entertaining performances and other fun events like a parade, a beauty pageant, and a fireworks show. It's free to come and loads of fun!

Stoweflake Hot Air Balloon Festival

Woodstock's lovely Stoweflake Mountain Resort hosts Vermont's top hot air balloon festival every July over a long weekend. More than 25 colorful balloons do mass ascensions in the morning and evening, tethering themselves to the lush green valley for folk to admire. Most balloons are available for rides during the day, while live music, a beer garden, food, and kids' activities create a fun vibe on the mountain.

Marlboro Music Festival

One of the musical highlights of Vermont's summer is this six-week festival that runs from mid-July to mid-August. Talented musicians from all over the country converge on the little town of Marlboro, outside of Brattleboro, to perform a running series of classical music concerts. This prestigious event has been happening since 1951 and the performers are always well worth seeing.

Southern Vermont Art & Craft Fair

One thing Vermont is good at is arts and crafts. The entire state seems to be populated with talented, crafty artisans and this major event in the village of Hildene near Manchester is a big deal. Around 200 artisans from around Vermont showcase (and sell) their work each August. Tasty local food and live music round off this fun, cultural festival in southern Vermont.

Vermont State Fair

Vermont's annual state fair takes place in the town of Rutland over a couple of weeks in September. Unlike other states' big, boisterous fairs, Vermont keeps things typically relaxed and homey. It's a huge event on the calendar, featuring great concerts, fair food, carnival rides, and agricultural exhibits.

Stowe Oktoberfest

Every September, the charming resort town of Stowe transforms its Jackson Ice Arena into a little slice of Bavaria. This three-day weekend showcases Bavarian music, dancing, food, and loads of beer. The parade is a centerpiece of Stowe's Oktoberfest, and loads of kids' activities fill the day so that the adults can play.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Leang + Ben Wedding Salt Lake City Utah

It's so interesting to me how differently people are being brought together nowadays. Leang & Ben met online, on Facebook of all places. He sent her a friend request, and rightfully so, she was a bit reluctant to accept his request. After a short *coughs* 4 months, she finally accepted, based on a single mutual friend. Fast forward 6 years later, May 20th 2017 they finally tied the knot!

Their traditional Vietnamese Tea 

Ceremony brought both sides together with a dash of humor, and a lot of Asian hospitality. I have always loved experiencing different cultures wedding traditions as they are so different from American wedding traditions.

In the process of shooting video for their wedding, I managed to shoot a few still shots, here are a few of my favorites. Don't forget to subscribe for all future blog posts if you want to see their video as it unfolds!

Vietnamese traditional weddings.

While traditional clothes of Vietnam have always been very diverse depending on the era and occasion, after the Nguyễn Dynasty women began to wear elaborate Áo dài for their weddings. These dresses were modeled after the Áo mệnh phụ (royal Áo dài) of Nguyễn Dynasty court ladies. The style of the Nguyễn Dynasty has remained popular and is still used in current-day Vietnamese wedding attire. The difference between the Áo mệnh phụ and the typical Áo dài is the elaborateness of its design. The former is usually embroidered with imperial symbols such as the phoenix and includes an extravagant outer cloak. This gown is preferably in red or pink, and the bride usually wears a khăn đóng headdress. The groom wears a simpler male equivalent of the dress, often in the color blue.

Previous to the Nguyễn Dynasty, it is likely that women simply wore fancy, elaborate versions of Áo tứ thân.

Engagement

An engagement ceremony usually occurs half a year or so before the wedding. In the past, most marriages were arranged by the parents or extended family, and while children were sometimes consulted, it was nearly always the parents' final decision. It was not unusual for the bride and groom to meet for the first time at the day of their engagement. However, in the last few decades, Vietnamese women and men marry based on love rather than arranged marriages.

The wedding

Preparation for the traditional Vietnamese wedding begins with choosing a date and time for the marriage ceremony. This is decided by a Buddhist monk, Spiritual leader, or fortune teller due to the spiritual nature of the occasion. This tradition may change if the family is Catholic.

The wedding consists of an extensive set of ceremonies: asking permission to receive the bride, receiving the bride at her house, and bringing the bride to the groom's house. Both Vietnamese and oversea-Vietnamese who desire to have a hybrid traditional Vietnamese and Western-style wedding will often incorporate the last two ceremonies with the Western-style wedding.

At the end of the ceremonies, there is a wedding reception for the two families and guests.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Utah Holidays and Festivals

There are a handful of Utah holidays worth planning a trip around. Wit for the famous Sundance Film Festival, which takes place each January in Park City, most of Utah's special events are scheduled over the summer and fall months when the weather is at its nicest. From art and theater to live music and classic American state fairs, there is a good selection of fun on the menu in all of the state's main tourist towns.

Sundance Film Festival

This famous independent film festival has been running for years now, sponsored by the actor Robert Redford and his Sundance Resort. Screenings of new and exciting films are held all over Park City, which serves as the base for this hugely popular festival in January. You'll need to book your rooms months in advance to have any hope of sleeping in Park City during this great film festival.

St George Art Festival

The weather in St George in March is simply sublime, so the city holds its annual outdoor art festival to celebrate. With a strong focus on the American West, thousands of visitors and artists flock to this city to show off their work, buy, and sell art and other crafts. It's a lively week to be in St George, with plenty of side events planned.

Utah Shakespearean Festival

The small city of Cedar Rapids holds a little-known secret. It's a haven for thespians, with one of Utah's most vibrant theater scenes. From June to August the city hosts a series of special plays by both local and visiting professional theater groups. Most of the plays are by Shakespeare, but a handful of original contemporary plays are also performed during the festival period.

Deer Valley Music Festival

When the snow melts from the ski resort of Deer Valley, people turn their attention to outdoor activities of another kind. This is festival season in the alpine valleys of the Wasatch Mountains, and one of the highlights is the music festival at Deer Valley each July. Many different genres of music are represented, and the outdoor setting could not be prettier.

Utah State Fair

In September when the weather begins to enter that perfect zone the capital Salt Lake City hosts the annual Utah State Fair. Like all American state fairs, there are fun carnival rides, tasty fair food, a rodeo, and livestock shows. Live concerts and other entertainment round off this hugely popular event that runs for several weeks, starting in mid-September.

Oktoberfest

The ski resort of Snowbird hosts a number of great festivals during the summer and fall when the ski slopes are closed. Its annual Oktoberfest event is one of the highlights because it's the only one of its kind in Utah. German food, music, dancing, and of course loads of beer, are featured at the resort to a backdrop of beautiful golden aspens changing color on the slopes. The taps turn on for a week in early October.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Traditional Nigerian Wedding In Houston, TX

It all began in 2009. Emeka was in Houston for a work-related training course. He called a local friend of theirs for restaurant recommendations. That friend offered to take him out to dinner and brought Chioma along because she thought Chioma and Emeka might "get along." However, neither Chioma nor Emeka seemed particularly interested in each other that night. Emeka was starving and only had eyes for his dinner; Chioma thought Emeka could do with a haircut and be more outgoing. 

However, a few months after this meeting, plus a handful of game nights, backyard BBQs, and potlucks specifically done so that Chioma and Emeka would get to know each other better, Emeka asked Chioma out on a date to SeaWorld in San Antonio. After an extremely hot day roaming around the park and dinner at a local steakhouse, Emeka asked Chioma to be his girlfriend. She totally went for it!

Chioma is very intutive; she knew the exact day and time that Emeka was going to "pop the question."  So when he asked her out to dinner with two of their friends, she carefully planned her outfit and practiced crying. On the way to dinner, Chioma's friend Uche, asked her to stop by and help her pick out an outfit. Chioma obliged because the Texas humidity had messed up her hair and she wanted to look perfect. What Chioma didn't know, was that this was just a way to stall her so that Emeka more time to set up his proposal. 40 mins late, the ladies finally made their way to Emeka's apartment.  When Chioma opened the door, the entire living room was filled with candles and rose petals, there was soft music coming through the speakers and Emeka was standing in the candlelight holding a single rose. A friend popped out of the kitchen to photograph the special moment. To add to Chioma's surprise, when they finally made it to dinner, a dozen of their close friends were waiting there to celebrate with them. It was PERFECT!

When asked to describe their wedding theme, Chioma shares, "[It was ] Simple, Clean and Personal. We love straight lines and block print, but didn't want anything ultra modern. We wanted to have a personal touch on everything, so we had a lot of DIY projects including invitations and all stationery, wedding magazines, centerpieces, aisle runner, paper flowers for some of the decor, table numbers, escort cards...it was a long list!" Pedro Damian Photography captured all the beautiful details of their union, which included a 400 guest traditional wedding in Lagos, Nigeria!!

Quick Facts

Wedding Date: 3.1.14
Wedding Location: Ceremony~ First united Methodist Church. Reception~ The Petroleum Club of Houston
Wedding Flowers: Baby's breath, carnations, and garden and spray roses. Her bouquet was made of orchids.
Favorite Accessory: Lapis Lazuli earrings, necklace, and bracelet; all gifts from her mother. She prefers heavier, earthy pieces and the gift from her mother was perfect!
First Dance Song: "Love Song" by Adele.
Wedding Cake Flavors: Chioma and Emeka had a 4-tier wedding cake with a flavor for each layer; red velvet with cream cheese filling, vanilla cake with chocolate ganache & hazelnut mouse, vanilla cake with strawberry mouse, and chocolate cake with chocolate mouse and ganache.
Wedding Menu Favorite: The appetizer, "The Mark Twain." It was half of an avocado, filled with a mixture of crabmeat, shrimp, tomatoes, and olives.
Bridesmaids Gifts: Scarves and personalized mugs with a message in the bottom.
Groomsmen Gifts: Personalized cufflinks, ties, and pocket squares.

Wedding Style

My wedding dress was an ivory, silk dupioni, drop-waist, fit-and-flare gown with a sweetheart neckline. For the ceremony I paired it with a wide, blinged out belt from my MOH and a matching sleeveless lace jacket that created a scalloped illusion neckline. For the reception, I removed the jacket and replaced the belt with a soft, floral, highly textured belt with minimal bling. My favorite wedding accessories were my Lapis Lazuli earrings, necklace and bracelet given to me by my mother. I'm not into sparkly jewelry and prefer heavier, earthy pieces, so this set was perfection!

Incorporation of Culture

We had a traditional Nigerian wedding "process" with all the trimmings, including an Introduction ("Door Knocking") and a 400 guest traditional wedding in Lagos, Nigeria.

Most Memorable Moment

While our guests were at the cocktail hour, my husband and I had a private dinner together in a room above our reception hall. We had originally planned it that way because with 350 guests we would have been too busy making rounds at tables to eat. It turned out to be more than just practical, it was a quiet, special moment for reality to set in. We were MARRIED and sharing our first meal as a married couple quietly and privately while our family, friends and the world raged on around us.

Help A Bride-To-Be Out

As important and memorable as your wedding day is, it only lasts one day. Remember that all the planning and prep work is part of the excitement, too. I was lucky enough to have 435 days to plan my wedding and I cherished every single day of it. I wrote a letter to my fiancé every day of our engagement telling him how excited or frustrated or nervous I was feeling. I took pictures of EVERYTHING wedding related, and now have a wonderful album with images of my mom buried in half-stuffed favor bags, my fiancé splattered in spray paint, my sisters asleep in awkward positions while making escort cards, my face after eating 11 slices of potential wedding cakes, and many, many more. Honestly, looking back on those goofy pictures and re-reading those unedited letters gives me just as many chuckles, tears and face-palms as looking at our (ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS) wedding pictures.

Texas Holidays and Festivals

Texas goes over the top celebrating its cowboy heritage every year with most of the world's largest and most famous rodeo events. It also fires up the fiesta for its huge Hispanic population several times, and even hosts one of America's leading music festivals in Austin's South by Southwest event. Most of the special events are held in the pleasant seasons of winter, spring, and fall, capped by October's State Fair of Dallas, the largest event of its kind in the country. These festivals are always done up Texas-style, which means big attractions and many days, but Texas holidays also include national celebrations like Independence Day and Veteran's Day.

Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show

This massive rodeo and livestock expo in Fort Worth, Texas is the nation's oldest and one of its most famous. The Will Rogers Memorial Center attracts around one million spectators each January for two weeks of Western-style action. It starts with the world's largest horse-drawn parade, the All-Western Parade, and carries on with some 30 different rodeo performances.

South by Southwest

One of America's most popular and exciting music events takes place in Austin every March. It's both an awards ceremony and a giant music festival featuring the hottest known and undiscovered bands in the country. They play for several days at numerous venues around Austin, making this event the capital's top attraction. Keynote speakers and workshops with famous musicians round off the program.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

For over two weeks at the beginning of each March, the city of Houston, Texas holds its big rodeo event. It is billed as the largest rodeo in the world, featuring all the usual performances, competitions, and livestock expositions along with a solid line-up of country-western musicians. It is Houston's main event.

Fiesta San Antonio

San Antonio's big city festival takes place at the end of April, combining everything from society balls to concerts and food fairs. It's a huge 10-day party that brings most of this city together for a daily revelry including parades, live music, art exhibitions, and the elaborate costumes of the fiesta's royal court.

Gran Fiesta de Fort Worth

The rich Hispanic culture and heritage of Texas is celebrated every July with a week of everything Latin. There are amazing food fairs, live music, parades, traditional dances, and other fun Hispanic-themed activities throughout Fort Worth. This is a great chance to experience the diversity of Texan society.

State Fair of Dallas

America's largest state fair takes place in Dallas. For one month this city gets seriously festive from the end of September right through October just as the weather turns pleasant. The location of this Texas-sized fair is just as impressive as the carnival rides, livestock shows, concerts, and awesome food. The Art Deco fairgrounds were built in 1936 and have the perfect atmosphere for Texas' main event.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Bulgarian Folk Music

Bulgarian folk music is unique in its complex harmonies and highly irregular rhythms. These kinds of rhythms, also called uneven beats or asymmetric measures , were introduced to musicologists only in 1886 when music teacher Anastas Stoyan published Bulgarian folk melodies for the first time. Examples of such beats are 5/8, 7/8, 8/8, 9/8 and 11/8, or composite ones like (5+7)/8, (15+14)/8 and (9+5)/16 – (9+5)/16. Each area of Bulgaria has a characteristic music and dance style. Bulgarian folk music inspired and was used by musicians like Kate Bush and George Harrison.
Bulgarian vocal style has a unique throat quality, while the singers themselves are renowned for their range. Their voices are low and soprano, and the children love singing, and anything artistic. (Orpheus is said to be from Thrace, a region partly in Bulgaria.) Diatonic scales predominate but in the Rhodope mountains, for example, pentatonic scales occur, while in Thrace chromatic scales with augmented intervals (similar to the music of Classical Greece). Also, the intonation varies, and is quite different from the modern Western equal temperament. Depending on whether the melody moves up or down, an interval can augment or decrease by a quarter tone.

Musical instruments (also characteristic of the whole Balkan region) include gaida (bagpipe), kaval (rim-blown flute), zurna or zurla (another woodwind), tambura (guitar-like), gadulka (violin-like), and tapan (large two-sided drum).
Dances have complex steps matching the rhythm, and are often fast. Most are circle-dances or line dances called horo ; but some are done singly or in pairs, like the 7/8 dance Rachenitsa.

Although traditional music and dance are not popular among Bulgarian city youth, they are often performed at weddings, and generally countryside fiests. They are also performed in Bulgaria and abroad by amateur and professional performing artists.

*culled from www.mm-travel.eu

Chisom & Izu's Idyllic Chapel Wedding In Nashville, Tennessee

Tradition is a bridge, connecting the past to the future. By its path the lives of our ancestors remain present and forever unforgotten. To honor tradition within the most important moments of our lives is to give thanks to all those before us whose actions helped shape the world in which we live.

Read all about the beauty of Nigerian tradition in Chisom & Izu's idyllic chapel wedding in Nashville, Tennessee - beautifully captured by MunaLuchi Coterie photographer
Fotos by Fola.

Bride & Groom : Chisom & Izu
Wedding Date : 07/23/2016
Wedding Location : Nashville, TN
Occupations : Izu - Physician, Chisom - Physician

Tell us how you met and all about the proposal. Proposal story: Izu and I both belong to the Igbo tribe, a major cultural group from Nigeria. Our proposal paid honor to our culture's tradition of honoring our parents' wishes with every step of marriage. Our proposal had multiple steps, but began in May 2015 when Izu brought his father, along with the male elders of his family to meet my father, as well as male elders from my own family. Izu's father made the desire of his son to marry me known to my father, after which they discussed traditional marriage rites for hours on end.


Ultimately, our traditional bride price was agreed upon, and Izu and I were actually married in a traditional Igbo sense by the agreement of our families.
Fast forward to June 21, 2015. At the time, our relationship was still long distance, and I traveled to spend a week of vacation with him in Memphis. In hindsight, he was anxious all week! One would think he would be calm knowing that I already wanted to marry him- our traditional marital rites had already been done. Nonetheless, he was so giddy and clearly had something else on his mind all week. He took me to visit his family halfway through that vacation, and I had such a great time I delayed our trip back to Memphis by an additional day. Little did I know, I ruined plans that he made of proposing that evening when we returned to Memphis. The next day when we returned to Memphis, he whispered softly to me, "Will you marry me?" I replied yes in a joking, very matter of fact way. Of course, I wanted to marry him! He then gave me a black jewelry box and asked me to marry him again.

At this point, I was laughing hysterically- still thinking that we were playing around. He then asked again- and presented me the most beautiful ring I've ever seen. On that day, in a room with just the two of us, I said yes to my future husband.

What was wedding shopping like for you? Wedding dress shopping for me was initially overwhelming! I had watched so many episodes of a popular show where brides try on wedding gowns prior to selecting "the one", and I just expected the experience to be different than it ultimately was. My first time looking for a dress was in Nashville- and I fell in love with the most beautiful dress on a mannequin. 

But, after it didn't look as perfect on me as I thought it would, I realized that finding the right dress is much like many other things when it comes to planning a wedding- it's very much a process.

Little did I know, the very next time I went looking for my dress would be the last time. The first dress I tried on- a beaded mermaid dress by Lazaro- was everything I had ever wanted in my dress. I wore that dress to say "I do" to my groom one year later.

Did you incorporate any culture into your wedding? Of course! After all, no Nigerian wedding is complete without the bride/groom changing outfits halfway through the reception. Ours was no exception. Halfway through the reception, I changed out of my wedding dress and Izu changed out of his tuxedo, and we donned our new attire (and honestly, my favorite of the night)- a glittery, royal blue ensemble with shades of silver and light blue. Our entire wedding party changed as well into ankara fabric with shades of dark pinks, purples, and reds. Our second entrance was just as regal as the first. Love reliving it in pictures!

Bridesmaids/Groomsmen gifts : Bridesmaids : ankara fabric, jewelry; Groomsmen : native Igbo attire
Favorite item on the menu : Nigerian jollof rice, of course!

First dance song : Maxwell- "Stop the World"

What is your best memory from your wedding? My favorite memory from the wedding was the three hours of nonstop dancing at the end of the reception. At a point in the night, I was dancing around barefoot in a circle with my bridesmaids without a care in the world. I turned around to see that a swarm of my husband's friends had hoisted my groom into the air. They carried him in the air as they danced for much of one of our favorite songs. Truth be told, our reception was the party of our lives, and we still reminisce over moments from that party today.
What is the best wedding advice you can give to engaged couples? Enjoy the process, and don't rush it!! At a point, wedding planning can truly become such a task. It starts out exciting, but as the planning becomes more detailed and the stress starts to build, you begin to forget what it's all about. The truth is- your wedding isn't special because of the hours you spend obsessing over your colors, or time you spend designing and redesigning your cake. It's special because you finally found the right one, and never will there ever be a love story like yours.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Experience Small Town Tennessee Charm During This Holiday Season

Walk along town squares; slip into family-owned boutiques; and, enjoy a Made in Tennessee Christmas in our charming small towns.

December has officially marched in with its pomp and cheer. Tennessee has loads of holiday celebrations to fill your calendar in every big city and small town. You can experience some Christmas charm from some of the cutest Tennessee small towns by checking out these celebrations.


EAST

Discover old time traditions of the local region during the Holiday Homecoming Celebration Dec. 9, at Norris Dam State Park. Bring a flashlight and dress warmly for this walk that will take you through the east side of the park to the rustic cabins. Decked out in Christmas cheer, the area is transformed into a winter village filled with festivities, live animal demonstrations, and historical depictions of Appalachian life, horse-drawn wagon rides, and so much more.


Gear up for another Christmas season in Historic Jonesborough as it's decked out for the holidays during Christmas in Historic Jonesborough which includes events like the Lighting of the Tree Nov. 25; Christmas in Olde Jonesborough every Saturday from Thanksgiving to Christmas; Celebration of Trees during December; the annual Holiday Tour & Tea held mid-December each year; At Home with Santa which takes place the second Saturday in December; and the Jonesborough Christmas Parade held the second Saturday in December.

Stay in touch with your inner child by taking an imaginary journey to the North Pole on the Tennessee Valley Railroad's North Pole Limited. Storytelling and refreshments enhance the journey through Tennessee's picturesque valley. Once to the destination, a special guest boards the train. On the return ride, Santa visits with children and gives each child a keepsake item to remember their magical Christmas trip.

MIDDLE

Leiper's Fork Christmas Parade
From decked out tractors to horses in holiday finery and a celebrity Grand Marshall every year, you can guarantee Leiper's Fork will have one of the memorable Christmas parades you've ever seen. Get a taste of small town charm and inspiring creativity as vintage cars, bicycles and even 18-wheelers herald in the arrival of St. Nick. The parade is 2-4 p.m. Dec. 9 in downtown Leiper's Fork.

Courtesy of Milky Way Farm
Travel to Pulaski, Tenn. in Giles County to tour the world-famous Milky Way Farm which boasts over 1,000 acres of pastures filled with deer, wild turkey, barns, trails, and vistas. The farm has one of the largest magnolia plantations of the South and tours of the Manor House are available. Sundaes with Santa will be hosted by Milky Way Farm noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 3,17 with hay rides, huge helpings of ice cream sundaes and Christmas tours of the manor. Say hi to Santa and be sure to tell him what's at the top of your wish list this year.

WEST

At Discovery Park of America, take in the annual Let It Glow Light Show beginning Nov. 24. More than 380,000 lights (that's more than 24 miles!) adorn the property as guests drive through and experience this unique drive-through show in Union City. A live nativity provided by churches in the surrounding area is also featured. A Polar Express component and performances by the David Johnson Chorus also take place.

Finally, enjoy holiday displays and luminaries via trolley or horse-drawn carriage ride Dec. 8-9, at Pickwick Landing State Park as it hosts Christmas in the Park . Get into the holiday spirit with the drive-thru display of lights. Carriage and train rides are free to experience. A visit from Santa and his elves and bedtime stories are also on the schedule for this family-friendly event.

*culled from www.tnvacation.com
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