Arts & Culture Trail
The Virginia-10th has been represented by Freshman Representative Barbara Comstock since January of this year.
Cities & Towns in the Virginia-10th include:
You know that phrase misspent youth? I have a problem with it. It is not so much that I disagree with the concept, I know exactly what people that say it mean. It is also fair to say, I suppose, that what the term conveys pretty accurately represents a portion of my teens, twenties and even thirties, It’s just that a lot of that time, while not lived in exactly a responsible manner, I think I’ll look back on as quite well spent when it is time for life’s final timekeeping.
I spent a good part of one summer a couple of decades ago, for instance, following the Dave Matthews Band (who coincidentally had long-since adopted Virginia as his home) around on its summer outdoor amphitheatre tour. A friend of mine and I had a truly half-baked idea of trying to sell enough burritos at these concerts to support ourselves and go to concerts too. Suffice it to say that there were some holes in this business model. However, I came away from that summer with a lifelong love of attending concerts outdoors. There is something really magical about the sun going down, the buzz of the crowd building during warm up acts and taking it all in while sitting on the cool grass with a favorite beverage in hand. While we saw several really good concert venues that summer we did not see anything like Wolf Trap – kind of the gold standard for indoor/outdoor venues and the only U.S. national park devoted to the performing arts.
One Great Day in the Virginia-10th
A note about this section. One day isn’t long enough to spend in any district – it’s not nearly long enough to really understand the place and everything that makes it unique. But time for both real and virtual expeditions is often limited so I’ve chosen a day to try to encapsulate what the district is like. If you go…and have longer to spend, you should.
Furthermore, these are just the things my family and I would find interesting, many of which I’ve never been to – you probably would find and suggest others. Let us know where it says Leave a Reply at the bottom of the page or better yet, drop us a line if you’d like to write a guest post about any district.
Our great day in the Virginia-10th will end with the iconic music venue but we’ll start about 20 miles south of that at the Manassas National Battlefield Park. Thirty miles outside Washington, Manassas is the site of the first major military battle of the Civil War. Bull Run, as you may remember from history class, is actually a stream and it was to a field overlooking this stream that General Irwin McDowell had led the 35,000 members of the Union Army upon leaving Washington in July 1861. He had been hoping it is said, to lead his army to the southern Capitol in Richmond and bring about a quick end to the war.
However, McDowell encountered 22,000 Confederate troops guarding the fords of Bull Run and the route south and after another 10,000 southern reinforcements arrived from the west, Stonewall Jackson (who earned his nickname in this battle) turned the Union back over the course of a day and then followed that victory with an ever more decisive effort (the Battle of Second Manassas) in the same area a year later. There is a nice historical account of both battles on the Manassas Park Web site.
With a couple of hours to spend we will start at the Henry Hill Visitor Center where the bulk of the fighting in the First Battle of Manassas took place. There is a museum and a short walking trail here and then after this we’ll follow the 20-mile driving tour of 12 historic sites related to the battles before heading for our second stop of the day.
In the few days since we covered the first stop on the Arts & Culture Trail – the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum, I’ve discovered an error. The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the world’s fastest jet, isn’t actually housed at the Washington museum site as I thought – it is in another facility called the Udvar Hazy Center a few miles outside of the district. As fortune would have it, though, it just happens to be about seven miles from Bull Run, in Chantilly, and thus we will continue our Smithsonian tour in the Virginia 10th.
The Hazy Center has two enormous hangars housing thousands of aeronautical artifacts besides the Blackbird including a Concorde and the Space Shuttle Discovery. There is also an IMAX Theater that shows a variety of films that today includes DDay 3D: Normandy 1944 – I can imagine this is pretty cool.
As historic and beautiful as the Virginia-10th is, what may be its most defining characteristic is a little less apparent. It is wealthy…comparatively very wealthy. Based on the most recent census data, the district has the highest median household income at $111,910 of any of the 435 congressional districts in the U.S. Loudoun County, which makes up a good portion of the district, has been ranked first in the country since 2008 with an MHI of $119,134, more than double the national number, according to Wikipedia.
Not surprisingly, the area is home to dozens of great looking restaurants, golf courses and shopping as well as a thriving local wine industry. The county’s tourism site Visit Loudoun bills itself as “DC’s Wine Country” and indeed the site counts over 40 wineries in the region divided into six clusters.
The Bluemont Vineyard in the Snickers Gap Cluster is said to have beautiful views as far as Washington from over 1,000 feet in elevation. We will take a tour and pick up a bottle to bring to the concert with us and on the way there, perhaps stop at Market Salamander in Middleburg for the makings of a picnic dinner to go with it.
The next stop is both beautiful and an important part of U.S. history. The Great Falls Park, administered by the National Park Service, preserves the falls of the Potomac River through narrow Mather Gorge. George Washington led the building of the Patowmack Canal, which was to become part of a canal connecting Chesapeake Bay with the Ohio River and eventually serving as the primary trade route to the west. But at least partially because of the expense of building locks over the Great Falls, the Patowmack Company ultimately went bankrupt and the C&O built the canal to Cumberland on the other side of the river in Maryland; when the railroads got to the west first, the final sections of the canal to Pittsburgh were never completed.
There are several hiking trails here including one that goes to the ruins of the town of Matildaville, which was built by Washington’s Patowmack Company during construction of the canal. We will opt for the River Trail, which runs 1.5 miles (one-way) along cliffs from 25 to 75 feet above the river.
This would be a great day to have an annual National Parks pass as our final stop is the third national park of the day. Great Falls Park is only four miles from Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. While musical acts this summer (the season runs from May to September) range from the Jazz vocalist Diana Krall to Counting Crows to regular performances by the National Symphony Orchestra, music is only part of the art at the Filene Center (pictured above). The Wolftrap Foundation’s site describes the facility thusly: “Built of Douglas Fir and Southern Yellow Pine, the Filene Center is a beautiful outdoor amphitheater designed to be in harmony with its national park setting.” Though I haven’t been yet to see in person, from the pictures I’ve seen I think they nailed it.
There are also two other facilities within the Wolf Trap Park. The Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods puts on a variety of different shows for kids all summer and The Barns at Wolf Trap offer opera all summer and bands across the musical spectrum in the winter. But this great day ends at Filene Center with a rare opportunity in the world of musical venue concessions -a BYO picnic. Although there are several food options available on site, coolers and picnic baskets, with whatever you want in them are also permitted in the park – hence the wine and tailgating stop.
More Days? – More Things to See and Know in the Virginia-10th
- Old Courthouse Civil War Museum – Winchester. Courthouse built in 1840 served as a prison and hospital in the Civil War – good introduction to the significant battle sites in this area
- There are some spectacular looking golf courses designed by the likes of Norman and Crenshaw in Loudoun County and they are all within a few miles of each other
- The National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg celebrates the culture of Virginia’s Hunt Country
- There are shopping options for just about anyone in this district as it is home to several residential community “town centers” that combine restaurants, residential and commercial space
- Winchester Royals Baseball – The Royals play in the Wooden-Bat College Valley Baseball League. Think the Cape League, except more mountains
What Matters Here?
It is dangerous to assume that the issues that get talked about by politicians in a congressional campaign are the ones that actually matter to the people of their district. Lots of things can get in the way – most notably the fact that the media covering the races don’t make the time to cover the complex issues that matter and instead rely on hot button issues having to do with ideology to try to differentiate between candidates. Also, once a campaign starts heading downhill into a negative attack ad morass, it’s hard to recover and address substantive issues.
That being said, we have to start somewhere and looking back at the news coverage of Representative Comstock’s race against John Foust to replace her longtime retiring mentor Frank Wolf last November seems like a place to begin. One of the Washington TV stations listed five key issues that summarized the race, although in a picture-really-is-worth-more-than-254 -words bit of sad reality, most of the video that accompanies the article focuses not on those issues, but on the attack ads the candidates had used against each other. Let’s pause and think about that for a minute.
Even when television news is trying to get it right and gives us more than a sound bite or a constant running stream of negative advertising vitriol during the election season, it leads off that coverage with the attack ads themselves. Isn’t this a little like saying to your kid… “Damn it Bobby…I told you not to use that “f*ing language in the house?” To be fair, the video did promise snippets on the candidate’s view on the issues later in the week but shouldn’t we just start there?
Back to the 254 words on the issues of import in the Virginia 10th. Among the issues the article says are “issues of significance”
- Health Care: Comstock wants to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. Foust says he does not want to repeal it but wants to improve it.
- Taxes & Budget: Comstock has pledged not to raise taxes and signed the Norquist “no tax” pledge. Foust says he has balanced budgets at the county level and has relied at times on raising property taxes.
- Transportation – Comstock opposed a bipartisan plan from the state’s Republican governor to increase transportation funding because of its tax increase implications. Foust said he supported the bill, which passed the state legislature.
The first two of these are issues in every district in the country and the third is key in many of them. But I would submit that they are all much more complicated than they look at face value. The Virginia 10th is a very good case in point, here’s why.
At first blush, this district probably more than any other, and certainly much more than the nation as a whole ought to be pretty happy with the status quo. As described earlier, the Median Household Income is higher here ($111,910 from the latest Census data) than any other district in the country and more than twice the national median. Any time you finish first in a race of 435 you are doing something right. While those average wage earners in Northern Virginia probably feel some of the same pressures that the middle class does in the rest of the country, they are certainly better off than many. Representative Comstock’s commitment to lower taxes, then, seemingly ought to be good – at least at a personal level, for most of the residents of the Virginia `10th? They would get to keep more of their paychecks….right?
But would it be better? A part of this district is a long tee shot from the District of Columbia. Cutting federal taxes means cutting spending. Many of those cuts would be to programs felt far away from the Beltway. But those funds also pay federal employees who live in…you guessed it. Lower taxes would also certainly mean fewer federal contracts. Here you can read up on all the secrets of economic success for this area straight from the source at the Loudoun Economic Development office. Here’s an excerpt:
“As one of the most highly educated locales in the U.S., Loudoun and the Washington D.C. metro area offer highly sought employees for information and communications technology businesses, federal government contractors and other knowledge-intensive industries.”
Okay – do your best Austin Powers now… pinky to mouth. Hmm…”knowledge-intensive” industries….Washington D.C….Federal Capitol…hmm….What if the Federal Government and the many local companies that contract with the government for Defense and IT services suddenly have less money to spend? This formula might go like this:
lower taxes = budget cuts = fewer government jobs + fewer government contracts = fewer government contractor jobs = less demand for service sector jobs at aforementioned golf courses, shopping malls, restaurants and wineries.
Maybe the formula doesn’t work that way but it is certainly something the candidates should be talking about here, instead of the standard party line on taxes or no taxes or worse, what the other person said that was insulting in an attack ad. Live here? What’s your formula for success? Start now – tell the candidates and the local media what you want the next campaign to be about.
The Parks & Nature Trail continues in NV-4 this weekend
The Arts & Culture Trail moves to the other side of the district next week and the MD-5.