Purcellville’s Loudoun Grown Expo showcasing the county’s rural offerings was a smash hit Saturday—outpacing the town’s expectations for a third year in a row.
Rural vendors, from wineries to produce growers, meat and dairy producers, filled the Bush Tabernacle at Fireman’s Field and about 3,000 visitors converged on the expo to learn more about the products available in the area.
Mayor Bob Lazaro said crowds were up 1,000 from last year, which in turn was up 1,000 more than the town’s inaugural expo that drew approximately 1,000 visitors three years ago.
Lazaro said the town likely would extend the hours next year to accommodate the larger crowd. Between the peak hours of 2-4 p.m., the event was “jammed from wall to wall,” in the words of one visitor. Several had to send resupply their booths during the day to keep pace with demand.
Sara Brown and her husband Scott Maison, co-owners—with Sara’s mother Jean Brown—of Oakland Green Farm, found they had not brought enough of their frozen Angus beef. Jean Brown, who had staffed the stand last year, said her daughter told her the demand for steaks was particularly high, and Maison had to run back to Lincoln to get more.
Vendors credit the town’s expo with providing the exposure that helps spread the word about what’s available in Loudoun. Oakland Green, for instance, now finds its Angus beef in demand at several restaurants, including Market Table Bistro in Lovettsville. Last year, the restaurant opened a hamburger, home fries and ice cream eatery in Purcellville.
“They wanted fresh meat,” Jean Brown said, noting the farm usually deals in only frozen meats. At one point last year, she said, “Sara and I had to dash to Hagerstown to pick up 200 pounds of fresh ground meat,” to meet the demand.
Likewise, Mary Ellen Taylor, co-owner of Endless Summer Harvest, a hydroponic operation between Round Hill and Purcellville that produces lettuces and herbs for farmers’ markets and top restaurants, had to send for more supplies during Saturday’s event.
Magnolia’s at the Mill Restaurant was one of the providers of fresh cooked food, available for the first time during the expo. General Manager Shawn Malone was impressed. “It was fantastic,” he said.
Magnolia’s and Monk’s Barbecue were outside, along with two food trucks. Magnolia’s did a brisk trade: “We sold almost 200 hamburgers, using Lothar’s beef,” which guests hastily took inside to the warm to eat at tables set aside for the purpose. By the end of the afternoon, “we were getting a bit cold,” Malone admitted, but no one was fussing.
He liked the variety of items showcased during the expo. “There were tons of different things to see—food, candy being made, wineries, craft items, produce.” Malone said he was impressed by the variety of events the town and the downtown merchants have been offering in recent years. “They’re doing a lot of cool, different stuff,” he said.
The most important effect of the expo, Lazaro said, is “bringing awareness to people of what’s available.” People came from a broad swath of Northern Virginia, including as Alexandria, Arlington and Herndon, as well as locally. The most common comment heard from visitors was “I didn’t know this was here,” Lazaro said. “And that’s what we’re trying to do, raise awareness of the rural economy.”
That goal will be repeated in a venture designed to go public at the end of next month or early April, when the Purcellville Visitor/Wine Center is set to open at weekends at the Purcellville Train Station. The weekend venture is supported by the Loudoun Wine Association and Visit Loudoun.