I expected to find the scenic beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains when I visited Wytheville, Virginia, and I knew I'd be learning about local history, but I didn't count on finding a dinner theatre in such a small town or enjoying a great visit to an herb farm in a completely remote location. When you're in the area, I highly recommend them both.
When you think about a town with less than 10,000 residents and then imagine such a town having a successful dinner theatre, one with a strange German name no less, it's hard to believe it could be a hit. But, the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and the cars in the parking lot bear license plates from all over the country, especially from the neighboring states of Tennessee, North Carolina and West Virginia.
Owner Peggy Sutphin had a dream and found the right people and programming formula to turn that dream into a popular attraction for Wytheville. Wohlfahrt is the family name of Peggy's ancestors who immigrated from Germany in 1750. The German word "haus" means house and was added to the title. Peggy loves live theater. Her team experimented some with dramas and comedies, but the musicals were by far the most successful, so now the theatre produces all musicals. In fact, there are six musicals each year. The day I visited "How Sweet the Sound" was the title, with performances of hymns and gospel songs (right down my alley, for sure). I understand that the Christmas musicals are always completely sold out, so keep that in mind and quickly make your reservations if you plan to head to Wytheville between October 29 and December 31, 2020.
COVID-19 has impacted the performance schedule, so be sure to check the website for current information. The four-course menu changes whenever the show changes. When Steve and I were there, we were served pita chips and cheese spread, a garden salad, chicken/potatoes/carrots/broccoli and a roll, then blackberry cobbler for dessert. Other entrees might be chicken cordon bleu or during the holidays, the main course is usually ham or turkey. I was surprised that it wasn't a German menu, but apparently, they try to please the majority of the audience and have found that not everyone cares for German cuisine. Servers for the meals often perform dual roles and can be found on stage or with the lighting and sound crews. Guests are asked to wear masks when not eating. Servers are masked, and tables are appropriately-distanced.
Ellen Reynolds, the owner of Beagle Ridge Herb Farm and a teacher at heart, has dug in the dirt, planted, replanted, built garden walls, formed pathways, and experimented on this property since 2001. Her hard work has resulted in a remarkable operation that specializes in lavender and includes a walk-through butterfly house, a gift shop brimming with homemade products, a tea room, a place for school groups to visit and learn, an intensive 2-day workshop about growing lavender, and a picturesque spot for weddings and other events.
Her obvious love for this farm and her enthusiasm are contagious, and I found myself vowing to grow herbs next spring for myself. We were there at the very end of the 2020 season, and many of the plants were "going to sleep," but I would love to see it during the spring and summer of next year and suggest that you plan to visit then.
You will be assailed by the heavenly scent of lavender when you walk into the gift shop. Unsurprisingly, I brought several lotions and spice blends home with me. Check the website if you want to order some for yourself. And, keep a close eye out as you're driving to and from the farm. You might just see deer beside the road or a whole flock of wild turkeys.
As a travel writer, I meet such exceptional people and find so many fascinating attractions. It makes me wish everyone could be a travel writer. The pandemic has cramped travel for the whole world this year, but I'm confident the situation will improve soon. In the meantime, maybe I can continue to share with all of you the wonderful people and places I've found.