The Eastern Panhandle offers plenty of activities for all tastes

Bonnie Williamson

Are you a car fancier who enjoys looking at vintage cars or wants to learn how to drive like a pro? Do you love great beer, good music, and history? Do you want to test your metal as a shooter, run for a good cause, or watch racehorses do the running?

If any of these activities tickle you fancy, you should be visiting West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, which is less than a two-hour drive from the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas.

More than 400 cars from all different years will be on display at Charles Town’s annual Car Show on Sept. 3, 10:00am–3:00pm. If you come the day before, from 6:00–8:00pm, you can see a variety of cars cruising down Fairfax Boulevard in Ranson, not far from Charles Town.

Duane Marcus, one of the volunteers who promotes the event, said it’s the largest car show in the area and Charles Town’s most heavily attended activity.

“Main streets in town are closed for about six city blocks,” Marcus said. “Signs will be located all over town, telling people where they can park.”

It’s a different kind of race on the track at Charles Town on Sept. 17, as participants take part in the Race for the Ribbons event to support breast cancer research.

It’s a different kind of race on the track at Charles Town on Sept. 17, as participants take part in the Race for the Ribbons event to support breast cancer research.

Registration is $20 if you want to bring your car and be part of the fun. People who register their cars vote for the top 50 cars in the event. Plaques are awarded, and there are also 14 specialty trophies handed out. Spectators can come to the event for free. A disc jockey will be on hand and plenty of food will be available.

Located just a few miles from Charles Town, Ranson has its own car show and festival each June. The town is at the center of the Eastern Panhandle’s historical sites and cultural history, making it a good home base for tourists. Lodging in Ranson puts visitors in the center of their itinerary when visiting Jefferson County.

If you enjoy driving fast and want to gain the skills of a professional race car driver, try “Friday at the Track” at Summit Point Motorsports Park, just west of Charles Town. The track is a 2-mile road-racing circuit, and during Fridays’ instructional events, participants can drive their own cars on it. There is classroom instruction, skid pad instruction in the park’s cars, and four sessions of in-car instruction in the participant’s car. The sessions begin at 8:00am Sept. 9, Oct. 7, and Nov. 6 and cost $250.

Summit Point Motorsports Park is also the site of the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center.

The FASTC provides practical, security-oriented training for diplomats and diplomatic security personnel serving overseas in volatile conditions worldwide. The training center specializes in soft skills, like computer work, and hard skills like driving and hand-to-hand combat training.

Music, beer, and more

The Craft Beer and Music Festival will take place on Sept. 10, 11:00am–6:00pm, at Happy Retreat in Charles Town. Happy Retreat is the historic home of Charles Washington, brother of George Washington and the town’s founder.

The event will feature four regional touring bands, The Hillbilly Gypsies, The Woodshedders, Dale and The ZDubs, and The Woo Yeahs. In addition, there will be 20 regional and national brewers who will have more than 40 different varieties of craft beer to sample throughout the day. Food vendors will be on site and tours of the historic house will be offered.

Tickets are available online for $20. The price includes a commemorative beer sampling glass and three beer sample tickets. Additional sample tickets can be purchased at the event. Non-drinking tickets are $15.

The world shooting champion will be crowned during the 2016 NRA World Shooting Championship, Sept. 15–17 at the Peacemaker National Training Center in Gerrardstown, just outside of Martinsburg. More than $250,000 in cash and prizes will be available.

The World Shooting Championship takes place at the Peacemaker National Training Center, near Martinsburg, on Sept. 15–17.

The World Shooting Championship takes place at the Peacemaker National Training Center, near Martinsburg, on Sept. 15–17.

This is the third year for the competition, which gathers the top shooters in the world to compete in every type of major firearms shooting sport including pistol, rifle, shotgun, and combined firearm sports.

Peacemaker National Training Center has 700 acres and 22 firing ranges. Cole McCulloch, the president and owner of Peacemaker, opened it in 2011.

“People will see the ‘heavy weight champion’ in shooting sport,” McCulloch said. “They’ll also gain an understanding of how firearms should be used.”

Nearby Martinsburg has plenty to offer visitors, including 23 historic districts. Historical buildings open for tours include the Adam Stephen House built in the late 1700s; the Triple Brick Museum, which was constructed as housing for railroad workers in the mid-1870s and features artifacts and local history items; Boydville, an 1812 mansion; and the famous B&O Roundhouse Center. (

They’ll be hosting a different kind of race on the track at the Hollywood Casino and Racetrack in Charles Town on Sept. 17. Humans, instead of horses, will participate in the Race for the Ribbon Events to support breast cancer research. The events include a 5K fun run, a track walk, a silent auction, and a night of thoroughbred racing.

The 5K run starts at 8:30am and is open to all runners. Following the 5K is the ceremonial walk around the track at noon where each $25 donation for participation in the walk will come with a commemorative T-shirt. The Replenish Wellness and Massage Center will be providing massages on site. A silent auction begins at 5:00pm, as does the first race. The night of racing includes eight stakes races altogether and is headlined by the $350,000 Charles Town Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

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