Springtime has always been a magical time at Belmont. The gardens are always at their peak around Easter, and Corinne Melchers made sure that her plantings were both colorful and plenty. With the help of the Garden Club of Virginia, we are fortunate to have been able to restore her garden plan and selections to their original variety and beauty.
Gari Melchers also saw springtime as one of his favorite times for painting outdoors, especially at Belmont and the environs of Falmouth and Fredericksburg.
The brilliant colors of St. George’ s Church and Early Spring Landscape embody his late career impressionist delight in breezy landscapes that are among his most popular today.
One of the traditions that Gari and Corinne followed was holding an Easter Egg Hunt on the grounds for the children of their friends and neighbors. They included a Punch and Judy puppet show in the large main hall of the house, where the children could sit on the floor and thrill at the adventures of the hand held characters that we have heard were maneuvered by Corinne herself!
In the spirit of the Melcherses, we have tried to schedule springtime events and activities over the years that attract those who, like Corinne’s flowers, are trying to revive from the dormant winter months.
During the last few years we have hosted a free community spring open house, attracting up to 500 visitors each year. But that number pales when compared to the largest crowd ever to overwhelm Belmont – our 1992 Easter Egg Hunt.
Held in cooperation with the Stafford County Parks and Recreation Department, the April, 1992 event included all that could attract parents and their children: a petting zoo, hay wagon rides, an outdoor puppet show, house and studio tours, and of course an egg hunt for different age groups.
We estimated a turn-out of a couple of hundred children and their families. But bright sunshine and 90 degree temperatures brought out the hordes. The final count was over 700 children and another 1500 adults on the property, and monumental traffic jams on Route 17 and Washington Street. Hundreds more were turned away, and we ran out of eggs (Beware the wrath of a mother whose child did not find an egg!). But we shared Belmont and the Melcherses’ Easter tradition with guests who still remember that day when they visit now with their own families (especially if they found an egg).
While our site still can’t handle the numbers like that Easter event 23 years ago, we have tried to continue the Melcherses’ traditions in other ways.
We are currently preparing to host our Fourth Annual Beeping Egg Hunt for blind and visually impaired children, which reflects not only the historic Belmont egg hunts (see related blog post), but Corinne Melchers’ lifelong support of community services. Throughout her years at Belmont, she led historic preservation efforts (Kenmore Plantation), held Red Cross fundraisers at Belmont, sold war bonds, and volunteered distributing vitamins in the schools for the Stafford County Health Department (some remember her as “the vitamin lady”).
It is fitting that today we help children and families experience Belmont in ways that we think Corinne and Gari would have approved.