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Happy Retreat festival highlights wine, music, local history

By Staff | Jun 15, 2018

Tabitha Johnson/Chronicle From left: Happy Retreat volunteer Sarah Brown, of Texas, fills wine glasses for John DeMary, of Shannondale, and his wife, Carolyn, at the Wine and Jazz Festival.

The Happy Retreat Wine and Jazz Festival, hosted by Friends of Happy Retreat, drew hundreds of wine and jazz lovers from across the Eastern Panhandle on June 9.

The second annual festival featured over 50 fine wines for tasting, free tours of Happy Retreat, four food vendors and four jazz bands, including The Max Kool Quintet, Built 4 Comfort Band, Ginada Pinata and The Jordan English Quartet.

“The music is terrific. For people of our age, it’s not too loud to talk with our friends,” said Steve Schatken of Shepherdstown, who came to the event with his wife, Jill, and some of their friends.

Jill said it was her and her husband’s first time at the wine tasting. The Schatkens belong to a couple of wine clubs in Virginia and regularly attend wine tasting events at Big Cork Vineyards in Rohrersville, Maryland.

“The red wines at the first booth were delicious, and I love Alfredo’s restaurant, so we bought their food as well,” said Jill

Tabitha Johnson/Chronicle Sarah Boothe, left, and Desiree Baker, both of Charles Town, view the interior of the Happy Retreat mansion.

Patricia Fiori enjoyed working as a volunteer at the festival.

“I love to taste the wine, and it’s just nice to see the house and property in use,” said Fiori, whose husband, Bill Jackson, has been a board member of Happy Retreat for several years.

John DeMary, of Shannondale, attended the event with his wife, Carolyn, and friend Sharon Fields, of Ranson.

“We were happy to see a local group doing an event like this,” said DeMary. “We’re definitely planning on coming back next year.”

“We started out trying an array of wines – we didn’t try every wine,” Caroyln said as she waited for her glass to be filled with Sauvignon Blanc. “We skipped over the red wines, and have found some really great white wines.”

Festival volunteer Sarah Brown, of Texas, said she’s not much of a wine drinker. Brown, a direct descendant of John Augustine Washington, is spending a month in Jefferson County to research the enslaved families of her ancestral home, Claymont Court.

“I was here visiting, and was asked if I would volunteer here today, and I said ‘Yes, indeed,'” Brown said. She plans on publishing a book about her research, which she has been collecting for five years.

Friends of Happy Retreat Secretary Marjorie Gaestel has been a member of the board for 10 years.

“Happy Retreat is such an important part of Charles Town’s history,” said Gaestel. She said the purpose of the festival was to raise money for the restoration of Happy Retreat, Charles Washington’s home.

“It’s all about history, and the children of Charles Town should be aware of it,” Gaestel said, before quoting the board’s slogan:

“This is ‘History at its best.'”