The Callands Festival is homecoming for Pittsylvania County. Old friends share hugs and relax in recollections of days gone by. New friends and visitors catch a glimpse of an historical past and traditions that shaped the county's beginning.
Pittsylvania Historical Society welcomes festival goers Saturday, Oct. 5, for a day-long celebration at the county's first Clerk's Office and Courthouse and Gaol in the Callands community about 12 miles west of Chatham.
Acres of crafts vendors will sell hand-made baskets, soaps, dolls, paintings, prints, woodwork, holiday decorations, jewelry, purses, gourds, wreaths, and gifts.
The pinging of the blacksmith's hammer will summon visitors to the site of the long-established trade.
Revolutionary War and Civil War re-enactors will dress in period costumes and set up encampments. Infantrymen will test their skill with black powder rifles and share artifacts and knowledge of their era.
Bob and Brenda Mills will display a cider press and serve visitors samples of fresh squeezed apple juice. For more than 25 years the Mills family has been demonstrating how apples are peeled and crushed through the hand-operated press.
Entertainment near the Clerk's Office begins at 11 a.m. and will be provided by Southern Gentlemen and Gospel Tones.
There will be a variety of food vendors selling hot dogs, hamburgers, turkey legs, fried fish, fried pies, donuts and cinnamon rolls.
Gretna High School cheerleaders will help stewmaster Jimmy Chaney of Gretna serve up his recipe for traditional Brunswick stew.
Climax Volunteer Fire Department will sell apple butter, peach butter, pear butter, pumpkin butter, molasses and other items.
The Bylers Family will be selling bowls of homemade ice cream.
New this year will be River City Cheesecakes, Kono Pizza and Callands Coffee.
The Historical Society's tent will sell historical publications and special Christmas ornaments. There will be a photograph display by Pittsylvania County archivist Desmond Kendrick.
Steeped in history
The Callands site marks the spot where Pittsylvania citizens pledged to join the revolt against King George III as early as 1775. Callands Clerk's office was built around 1770 after Pittsylvania County was cut from Halifax County in 1767 and served as Pittsylvania's first countyseat until 1777.
In 1966 the clerk's office was given to the people of Pittsylvania County by owners Landon E. Oakes and J. Clyde Oakes. It was later restored to beauty and architectural authenticity by Chatham Garden Club and boasts the charm of Williamsburg.
It has been named to the Virginia Landmarks Registry.
Measuring 19 by 24 feet, the story and a half brick structure has a steep-pitched roof, the original side chimney and a corbel, or four rows of stepped-back brick under the eaves. The brick is laid in Flemish bond (a stretcher and a header, a stretcher and a header) on the main facade and in English or common bond (five rows of stretchers sandwiching one row of headers) on the other three sides.
The interior, typical of colonial design, has four shuttered windows downstairs and a fireplace framed on top by a mantel and bordered by shelves. A narrow staircase leads to a small room above which has three windows.
Located across the road from the clerk's office is a building traditionally known as the Courthouse and Gaol. Built circa 1772 of red brick, the layout of the large room suggests a courtroom with brick fireplace on the north end. Barred windows in the earthen-floor basement indicate it could have once been a gaol, possibly a debtors' prison. A corner staircase leads to an attic with two rooms.
Samuel Calland later operated a store in the building and loaned his name to the community which became Callands. The structure and surrounding site were donated to the county by the family of Peggy Stegall Wood. The Stegall farm and family cemetery adjoins the property. The building was restored by Pittsylvania Historical Society with funds from the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors.
In 1980 Historical Society Board member Frances Hallam Hurt came up with the idea that the Callands site was too important to be seldom seen by county residents. She enlisted the help of board member James "Mack" Doss and with five artisans, the Callands Festival was born.
"Frances called it a hit and told me we had to step it up," said Doss, who continues to chair the event.
It is still a hit with more than 70 craftsmen and thousands of visitors annually. The late Norman Amos, Historical Society board member and master snake cane carver, often said that the festival "put Callands on the map."
As the 40th festival draws near, Doss is especially pleased to remember his good friend, the late Mrs. Hurt, by hosting her son, Henry Hurt, and her grandson, Charles Hurt, to share their latest books. Both are Chatham residents.
Henry Hurt is a well-known writer and former Reader's Digest editor-at-large. His book is titled "The Road Not Taken."
Charles Hurt is opinion page editor of The Washington Times and Fox News contributor. In July he released "Still Winning: Why Americans Went All In on Donald Trump and Why We Must Do It Again."
They also will be selling Mrs. Hurt's book "An Intimate History of the American Revolution In Pittsylvania County, Va."
The Hurts will be located in the Clerk's Office.
The Callands Festival stepped from the archives of treasured local history onto the platform of national acclaim in 2000 when it was named a "Local Legacy" by the Library of Congress. The Local Legacies Project marks the documentation of American Culture and Historical Heritage which is part of the American Folklife Center and the Library of Congress.
The festival site is located on Sago Road off Route 57 about 12 miles west of Chatham. Admission and parking on festival day are free.
Adjoining the historic site is a War Memorial honoring Callands area soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice to their country during World War II, Korea and Vietnam.