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State song is still sound of silence




Like judges on “American Idol,” a panel of legislators this week deliberated over a song – a tune that had been proposed as Virginia’s new state song.

It didn’t make the cut.

“At Home in Virginia,” a bluegrass ballad written by Richmond retiree Evi Bergin, got the boot from the House Rules Committee.

Delegate Betsy Carr, D-Richmond, had proposed that “At Home in Virginia” be designated as “the official song of the Commonwealth.” Virginia has been without a state song since 1997, when the General Assembly retired “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” because of its racially offensive lyrics.

Carr sponsored House Bill 833, which said Virginia “requires an official song that can be sung on all occasions with pride and affection” – a song that “should reference the rich tradition of the Commonwealth and invoke images of the natural and scenic beauty its citizens celebrate.”

HB 833 recommended “At Home Virginia” for that honor. But on Tuesday, the committee tabled the bill on a voice vote.

Bergin spent a decade crafting her song. She believes it is worthy to be the official state song.

“I just kept writing and rewriting it until I got this song,” Bergin said. “It wants to encourage people; that’s why it’s good.”

The song boasts of Virginia’s natural beauty – from honeysuckles and sunsets to “a cardinal that’s singing by the lacy dogwood tree.” It also highlights the commonwealth’s role in history and its nickname as “Mother of Presidents.”

Carr is glad that Bergin and her song got an audition.

“She is a very impressive individual and has been working on this song for about 10 years,” Carr said. “She certainly deserves a hearing, just like everyone else.”

Now living in a retirement community in Richmond, Bergin, 67, has spent a lot of her time trying to make “At Home in Virginia” the official state song. She talks about her song as if it were her child.

“I kept singing and changing it little by little for eight years, until I loved it,” Bergin said.

Virginia had adopted “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” as the state song in 1940. It was written in 1878 by an African American minstrel, James Bland. The lyrics are in dialect and express nostalgia for the days of slavery. The final verse says: “Carry me back to old Virginny… There’s where this old darkey’s heart am long’d to go.”

African Americans and many other people considered the lyrics offensive. In 1997, legislators made “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” the state’s “official song emeritus.” Since then, they have been searching for a new state song.

* * *

Lyrics to ‘At Home in Virginia’
From beyond the Blue Ridge mountains to the seashore or the Bay
Sunset in Virginia can take your breath away
A cardinal that’s singing by the lacy dogwood tree
Boast of Virginia’s natural beauty
Honeysuckle vine by fields of corn
Loving and learning, families are formed
Wisdom from a mentor teaches right from wrong
We’re traveling in Virginia now; won’t you come along?

Chorus:
We are the people of Virginia
Strong and brave, bold and free
Feel right at home in Virginia
Land of hope and liberty!
“Mother of Presidents,” “Mother of States”
First surviving English settlement, opened up the gates
For the first lawmakers, in old Jamestown
The shaping of our nation, history handed down.
We honor those who died, hope with those who live
Each one in our Commonwealth has something to give
Giving love is from above, as we stake our claim
“Virginia is for Lovers,” is more than just a name

Chorus


Community

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

Equestrian clinic planned July 7-8 in Henrico

Henrico equestrians interested in deepening the bond between themselves and their horses have the opportunity to attend a two day clinic, held at Steppin’ High Stables on July 7-8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic, “Become Partners with your Horse,” will be taught by multiple world champion equestrienne Terry Preiser and will focus on how riders and horses can work together to achieve more. > Read more.

Henrico school bus driver honored

The Henrico-based Hephaestus Society recently awarded its first annual community heroes award (the Hephaestus Award) to Hicham Elgharouch (pictured, center) for what it termed his "selfless acts of caring" in his duties as a Henrico County Public Schools bus driver. Henrico County Director of Pupil Transportation Josh Davis, joined Hephaestus Society President Travis Gardner, in presenting the award and an accompanying $1,500 check to Elgharouch last month.

Elgharouch was selected for his clear and demonstrated patience and for his infectious positive attitude, according to the society. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Grab the kids and check out these fun family-friendly events taking place this weekend! Speed over to the Henrico Theatre for the film “Turbo” or watch “Dumbo” under the stars at Clarke-Palmore House Museum. Little ones can meet Thomas the Tank Engine at CMOR-Central or play at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Don’t party too hard on the Fourth because a whole weekend of fun events await! Enjoy a classy date night without the kids at James River Cellars Winery’s second annual Smoke and Vine Festival. Another date night option is at the Richmond Funny Bone, where comedian April Macie will perform all weekend. The kids have their own options this weekend as well. Choose from storytime at Tuckahoe and Twin Hickory libraries or family-oriented karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House – I hear they have hits from Disney’s “Frozen.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

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