Apple Ridge Farm observes 30-years of educating youth to outdoors
Music from an eclectic line-up of bands rang out over the Blue Ridge Mountains Saturday, June 9 as Apple Ridge Farm (ARF) celebrated the camp’s Homecoming 2018.
John Lewis, son of ARF founder Peter Lewis, presently serves as directer–a position he’s proudly held for two years. Together with his father and help from a host of volunteers, John led the project in efforts to celebrate 30 years of the academic summer camp with a bang.
With his vision to establish a summer camp for inner-city youth, Peter Lewis launched ARF in 1976. The camp, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Copper Hill, VA sprawls out over 96 acres.
The camp has a variety of provisions that allow kids and adults a unique opportunity to explore life away from the city.
“We started summer camp 30 years ago offering it to under served youth from the communities free so that they can have an outdoor experience through the summer that’s unparalleled,” said John. “I feel elated at the energy this outing is going to generate because we are trying to market our facility for public use and we know that this is going to grow… and it’s just a great reason to come and have fun at Apple Ridge.”
Throughout the day small buses took groups on tours of the camp grounds and its various features. Along the way, John as tour-guide, gave a brief synopsis of some of the camp’s main attractions as the Climbing Tower, Zip Line, tennis courts, and several vintage railway cars.
One car, a 99-year-old 40 ft. boxcar is an EBase (education base) that opened as an off-grid classroom in June 2016 as the first facility of its kind in the nation and fourth in the world.
Another attraction is the 70 ft. Climbing Tower that Lewis said had “the highest elevation on the property–standing at 2,900 ft. above sea level.” The tower was one of the main attractions and many kids took advantage of the opportunity, yet with adult supervision.
The event also offered several food trucks with tasty delights as well as beer for those who prefer to indulge–quite naturally, while listening to certain types of music.
The Mountains of Music Homecoming Concert series featured musical groups on what’s known as the Marshal McAden Performance stage Apple Ridge Farm featured such bands as Soulacoustix, Leftover Biscuits and The Bell Hornets–groups that provided an impressive and eclectic line-up playing everything from Blue Grass, Blues, R&B to ole’ school Rock ’n’ Roll.
Particularly interesting was a well-executed rendition of one tune “Who Knows” originally by Jimi Hendrix and his “Band of Gypsys.” The selection, performed that day by the Bell Hornets, is one of Hendrix’s funky rhythm and blues jams that deeply resonates with any rock aficionado of the 70’s. The music alone raised the tone of this unique event to a level all its own.
Hoppie Vaughan and the Ministers of Soul did a rip-roaring Blues set closing the event’s musical performances that perfectly added to the day’s festivities.
The camp is presently reaching out for more volunteers and also for others interested in joining the staff.
John came to the area from Richmond where he spent 14 years working with the school system, community engagement and youth programs that deal with substance abuse.
“Over the years, I was in most every school in that area doing something, after school sports, science, reading programs, you name it,” said John who also mentioned the “homecoming” event as being his vision “his brainchild.”
In 2009, he started and partnered with two other investors who formed a non-profit that focused on urban agriculture for poverty mitigation. The project was an effort to get more kids and communities growing food. Such a background steeped in people, education and agriculture, equipped him for the position of Apple Ridge director and no one could be more pleased than his father Peter.
“Having people to come to this affair and spend time at Apple Ridge having fun and fellowship is a success in itself,” said John reflecting on the outcome of the first Apple Ridge Homecoming–an extraordinary event.