I crossed the river and paid the toll to see the Parade of Sails and my first Norfolk Harborfest last Friday. It was more than worth the toll to watch the tall masts, spraying fireboats and colorful sails emerge out of the mist and dock right in front of my nose.
In fact, my nose just missed getting whacked by a big fat rope thrown off the Coast Guard training cutter, the Eagle. It was fun. A great big party to celebrate the heritage of Norfolk, kind of like your company’s annual summer picnic, where you don’t know half the people, but everyone is having a good time.
all images | David Neef
I was up early Saturday morning. I’m always up early. I love the morning, when the day seems limitless and open to all kinds of possibilities. I thought I would spend the day on my side of the river. See what was happening in Portsmouth on the first Saturday of June. It was a perfect morning. The rain and mist had finally gone somewhere else, and I was hungry for breakfast.
We had an excellent breakfast in a little spot between our house and downtown Portsmouth. The Corner Café opens at 6:30 am, Monday through Saturday. They stay open until 7:00 pm, with lunch and dinner, but you can get breakfast all day. It’s a cute little brick building; it looks like it was one of those ‘40’s corner gas stations, totally remodeled, with a patio underneath some tall shady trees. It sits right at the corner of Western Branch and Rodman, a block away from Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center. Hospital staff were coming in a steady stream for carryout. My only complaint was the weak coffee, but the hash browns were crispy, just the way I like them.
There is free parking on the street and in the parking decks every weekend in Portsmouth. You can park free in Portsmouth and take the ferry across if you want to visit Norfolk without the traffic and parking hassles. Turns out there were a whole lot of motorcycles taking advantage of the free parking in Portsmouth on Saturday. They were beautiful motorcycles, parked in front of Roger Brown’s Restaurant and Sports Bar.
Roger Brown, football great and one of the Detroit Lions “fearsome foursome,” was out front and greeting everyone to the Christian Motorcycle Association, Beacons of Tidewater 8th annual Kidz 2 Kamp Run. The motorcyclists raised over $11,000 for Camp Hope Haven, affiliated with the Union Mission in Norfolk. Lenny Stowell, VP of the Beacons of Tidewater, told me that over 130 motorcycles were heading out for an 80 mile ride throughout Tidewater, ending up at Camp Hope Haven, with 100% of the money raised going to the camp.
It was 9:00 am and the bell was ringing down the block to announce the opening of the Portsmouth Olde Towne Farmers Market. There isn’t a more picturesque farmers market around. The farmers and other vendors set up at the corner of Court and High Streets, under the shade of 150 year old live oak trees and right in front of the historic courthouse housing the Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center.
Colonial William Crawford, founder of Portsmouth, and recreated by Thomas Eric Price (top image), had just put his garters on and was ringing his bell to let the public know that the Farmers Market was open and ready for commerce. Colonial Crawford adds local color to the Farmers Market and lets people know that Portsmouth “has the most incredible history in all of Hampton Roads, a rich history, that mingles with the water, going back to John Smith in 1609.”
The Portsmouth Olde Towne Farmers Market is full of fresh produce, artisan bread, those delicious Whole-ly Rollers, flowers, grass fed lamb and beef, local seafood and more.
We sat down and had a treat from the Artisan’s Bakery in the quiet courtyard of the Portsmouth Arts and Cultural Center and enjoyed this year’s outdoor sculpture exhibit, the ultimate in recycled art by Virginian artist Robert Cage.
We took a quick stroll down to the waterfront to look at all the ships we saw yesterday from the opposite side of the river, and then headed over to the Middle Street parking structure to browse the Olde Towne Antiques to Flea Market. This popular flea market is held the first Saturday of every month. There are over 70 vendors in and out of the parking garage. Prices are good and I had more than one vendor let me know they were willing to negotiate. You can find furniture, old toys, new flip-flops, costume jewelry and that thing you need to do that project you saw on Pinterest.
I’m a morning person and my morning was over, but there was lots more going on in Portsmouth on Saturday, all of it free. There was the Friends of the Portsmouth Public Library Book Sale in the basement of the beautiful old downtown library. I have gotten some real bargains on books there.
The Seawall Music Festival was scheduled on the Water Stage (the stage is built right over the water) of the Portside Landing, one of the stops for the Elizabeth River ferry, with a beautiful view of the river.
The people of Portsmouth are pretty sure they have the best view of the Harborfest fireworks and remember, parking is free. A great place to go for everything that is going on in Portsmouth and some good life lessons is the Portsmouth Official Facebook page.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love Portsmouth. So do a lot of other people. Come on down on a Saturday morning and see what’s going on.