Rolling hills dotted with white wooden fencing, stone architecture and throngs of foxhounds were among the subjects of the many photographs taken during the Grace Church Historic Farm Tour on Saturday.
Peggy Bacon, visiting from Manassas, spoke with enthusiasm about her first experience with the tour, now in its third year.
“There’s so much to see in between the sheepdog trials and foxhounds demonstrations,” she said. “The houses have so much history and everyone has been very gracious and welcoming.”
At Airslie Farm, rescue workers with the Wildlife Center of Virginia allowed visitors to see and learn about several animals, including a great-horned owl named Quinn.
Former race horses, rescued by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, grazed in a field on the 507-acre property.
At Castalia, visitors took in historic structures built using stones from the farm and neighboring properties. The property was owned by relatives of explorer Meriwether Lewis during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Grace Episcopal Church, which counts Thomas Jefferson among its early members, offered tours, artisan vendors and children’s attractions.
Children petted horses while adults stood back to take in the aesthetics of the tour’s eight picturesque sites along Routes 22 and 231 that are normally closed to the public.
“It’s been fabulous,” said Janet Anastasi, a newcomer to Charlottesville, as she toured Airslie. “Without the church doing this, I don’t think anybody would be able to see any of this.”
Anastasi’s words reveal in part why the church hosts the event, said event co-chairman Bill Anda.
“What we’re really trying to do is create a fun day in the country for everybody,” he said.
Through tickets sales, the tour also helps the congregation to continue supporting a host of causes in the aftermath of the economic downturn, Anda said.
“It became evident that we just weren’t going to be able to sustain the same level of contribution to the community because of the recession,” he said. “We did our research and came up with the idea of doing the farm tour. It’s been wonderful, and today’s crowd is the largest in three years.”
Anda said he expected more than 1,500 people to participate in the event.
The church had hopes of raising $40,000, he said.
The funds are set to benefit several local organizations, including Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville, The Boys and Girls Club of Central Virginia and the Grace Church Food Closet.
The church also provides relief internationally by supporting endeavors such as The Water Project: Cameroon, which seeks to bring clean drinking water to rural areas of the African country, and an effort that provides school supplies to children in Tanzania, said Cathy Bodkin, chairwoman of the outreach committee for Saturday’s event.
“People have felt really committed to the idea of doing what they can through just joining together as a neighborhood,” she said. “We also encourage people to think about how they can volunteer and get involved. We really stress hands-on participation.”
Bodkin said the event also allows visitors to get to know the Keswick area.
“We want them to experience what a wonderful community this is, both in terms of personal relationships and beauty,” she said.