Editor’s note: This version was first written and posted in 2012.
An update that draws on the rich oral collective history of our community is in the works and will be posted soon!
Here’s (one) short bedtime story about the Beltane Festival…
Once upon a time, a man (from Charlottesville at the time) called Snehan (John) Ferish started the Beltane Festival under his group the Ecclectic Wiccan Pagan Fellowship. It was held at a 4-H camp outside of Charlottesville. In the following years, other people and groups stepped forward to make sure the story continued. These mighty leaders were named Pat, Steven, Mike, Dreema and others now unknown. After a good 3-4 years of merriment (and some nudity), the Festival lost its site.
After losing the 4H Camp location, there was a rumor that there would be no more Beltane festivals. A mighty cry of sadness filled the hills and hollows. Dedicated souls such as Mary, Tat, Eliot, Ed, Paula, Lisa, Mark and Steven helped locate the Heavenly Acres Campground, and Beltane was resurrected in 1999. This band of merry troopers, coordinated by Mary Fandel under her shop Dream’s Light and others now lost to history, started writing a new chapter in the story.
Central Virginia pagans saw that these activities were good and in 2001, the newly formed Blue Ridge Pagan Alliance organized the festival with Paula (Branwenn) as the coordinator. Times were good and the tribes traveled across the lands to see the wonders of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Folks such as the Warriors Guild, Dave, and Steven took instrumental roles.
In 2004, the folk sludged through the now infamous “Mudtane” aka “Belrain”. In 2005, the precipitation gods were kind and offered less rain but many who had carried the torch for years found a desire to rest from the planning activities. So in 2006, one of our elders and a true stalwart, Steven, hosted a campout/gathering. Very low-key, very relaxing. Then Steven called for a new chapter to begin.
And so it was that in 2007, a whole new team came on board to create another piece of the story. Known faces such as Debbie, Jenn, Michael GreenDragon, Nancy and Sigre stepped up to the plate to lead the charge. Festival goers found new activities such as The Great Fire Rite, a Brewing Competition and Inner Sanctum events.
2008 saw the beginning formation of “Blue Ridge Beltane” as a non-profit, religious education organization (although the paperwork was not officially completed until 2019). The festival was again hosted by robust leaders from 2007 and a few others. That year, close to 250 people came from far and near in search of the Beltane pleasures. Babies were blessed, the May Queen and May King were paraded across the land, and merriment was had by all.
A strong core group charged into 2009 and were joined by new faces such as Denise, Derrick, Joe Dancing Tree, Kerstin L., Nancy B. and Rodi. Attendance was at an all time high and with that came the recognition that the festival had outgrown the 10-year venue. Surveys and discussions encouraged organizers to search for larger accommodations with additional infrastructure. Thus, the festival moved. After a false start, Blue Ridge Beltane came to call Stoney Creek Campground Resorts its new home.
Thanks to Paula-Branwenn and Lisa Starnes for contributing these historical elements!
In 2018, Blue Ridge Beltane experienced transition again. That’s when the Blue Ridge Beltane festival moved to Waynesboro 340 N Campground for an unforgettably wet and wild year.
In 2019, as the festival continued to welcome more and more folks, it found a new long-term home at Buffalo Gap Retreat in Capon Bridge, WV.
And now the story continues …