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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

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at Three Lakes Nature Center, 400 Sausiluta Dr., from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. April 15-18. Staff naturalists will provide information on birds, turtles, snakes and… Full text

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