… You knew it would be back some day.
Nine years ago, to the delight of some and the disappointment of many, Style Weekly did a very un-Richmond like thing: We put an end to an annual tradition.
Since 1985, our “You Are Very Richmond If…” contest offered readers the chance to pinpoint the curiosities, contradictions, intense pride and neurotic self-consciousness of the born-heres and come-heres living in this unique Southern city.
For the next 17 years, the issue tapped into what it meant to understand the idiosyncrasies and inside jokes of this place and its people. The humor ranged from self-deprecating to touching, but it always made a statement.
Even entries about the contest itself reflected Richmond's, uh, issues with change. You could be Very Richmond … if you waited 17 years to actually submit an entry, as Tom Benedetti penned, or … if you send in an entry next year, as Bill Ernst wrote in our farewell issue of the contest. Procrastinators and habitualists both are we.
We decided to check in with you again — just one more time — to mark the 25th anniversary of this contest's beginnings. To see what memories would be triggered, what new points of view may have formed since we last left things. Hundreds of entries were submitted. And if you are Very Richmond, you'll quickly realize that perhaps little has changed about the way we see ourselves. And of course, isn't that what can be the most frustrating — and comfortable — thing about living here?
But seriously, people, this is it. — Jason Roop
Your favorite monument is Arthur Ashe because it proves Richmond isn't racist.
— Mark Schairbaum
You're a runner and a smoker.
— Lesley Bruno
You wonder which one of those nice Ukrop boys is Martin.
— Annette Ernst
You live in Chesterfield County.
— Jay Bohannan
You went to private school but only drink PBR. — Kira Siddall
You consider yourself to be urban just because you go downtown once a month for First Fridays.
— Laura Ashley Floyd
Your roots are deep down and you still perm your hair.
— Moe Moyer
Your home is truly pedigreed because you can point to an item that was rescued from an old Richmond building.
— Diane Klisavage
You make your Christmas wreath with English boxwoods from your own backyard and pretend it came from Strange's. — Kathy Green
You have trouble naming one friend that didn't go to high school here. — Jessica Sims
You attended U.Va. or Virginia Tech and graduated from VCU. — Jim Frizzell
When you hear about gang problems, your first solution is to take away their bikes. — Christian Wright
You've ever written an angry blog entry about the service at Mamma ‘Zu.
— Juliette Highland
You thought “Wicked” was about the burning of Richmond. — Rose Hamron
You can visit a Holocaust Museum in your town but not a Slavery Museum.
— Heather Widener
You had an opinion on the placement of a baseball stadium. — Charlie Diradour
You have a tattoo of the Episcopal flag on your arm. — James Seay
You are still whining about the four-corners offense that led to U.Va.'s loss to UNC in the ACC championship in 1982.
— Trish Lambert
Your idea of great Spanish food is always a Mexican restaurant. — Moe Moyer
You are aware that we are right on the sweet-tea Mason Dixon Line.
— Kamen Gordon
You consider anyone north of Ashland to be a Yankee. — Kerri Pritchard
You have an “Every Month is Confederate History Month” bumper sticker on your Camaro. — Leo Rohr
You know that the three hardest things to find in Richmond are 1) affordable housing, 2) convenient parking, 3) witnesses.
— James Seay
You think crossing the river means going out of town. — Dorothy Holt
You judge a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his tattoos.
— Andy Hollins
You wear shorts and flip-flops in 32-degree weather because it is “supposed to be” spring.
— Bill Barrett
An ex-boyfriend waits on you at every bar in town. — Susan Howson
You bemoan traveling to Short Pump because it sits outside of your five-mile sphere of influence. — Juliette Highland
You ask the host of a barbecue about the dress code. — Krittika Onsanit
You consider it socially acceptable to get so drunk that you vomit in public, as long as it only happens at the Strawberry Hill Races. — Laura Ashley Floyd
You have had your picture taken with Hugh Gouldthorpe at a charity event!
— Barry Hofheimer
You promise yourself every year that this is your last Watermelon Festival.
— Susan Howson
You are divorced but would like to be divorced again someday. — James Seay
Your idea of a great getaway is for you and all your neighbors to rent adjoining houses in Nag's Head. — Paula Margolis
You know exactly where to find “the block party” on Hanover every Halloween.
— Lisa Ann Setchel
Seeing a dog on Easter wearing a pink bonnet, slippers, and a frilly tutu seems normal — John Butt
You met your mate at Jumpin'.
— Suzanne Hall
You rarely (if ever) went to a Richmond Braves game, but already have tickets to see the Flying Squirrels. — Bill Smith
Your dog has a more active social life than you.
— Marny Hackley
You pay more for your children's elementary education than for their college education. — Trish Lambert
You think that Twitter is something that only happens South of the James. — Jose Simbulan
You bemoan the technological disconnect of today's youth while secretly following every @genecoxnbc12 tweet. — Leo Rohr
You spend a lot of money to make your house look tacky for Christmas. — James Seay
You meet someone for the first time but through Richmond's three degrees of separation, you discover you know each other anyway ... because your mothers were hall-mates in college, your ex-husbands were fraternity brothers at the university, and you both babysat for the same family when you were 14. — Sarah Paxton
You knew Tinsley (Mercer) Mortimer when she had a different nose.
— Patricia Lambert
Your phone number begins with Elgin 8.
— Cindy Jez
Your grandparents told you stories about alligators living in the Jefferson Hotel. — Shaun Amanda Herrmann
You remember when you could actually take your family to picnic at Bryan Park. — Brian Vaughan
You, your children and their children all took cotillion with the same woman.
— Nancy Riddlemoser
You knew who the Mayor of Two Street was (“The Deuce”) before the founders of Foursquare were out of diapers.
— John Sarvay
You refer to visiting Hollywood Cemetery as “going to see your relatives.”
— Berkley McDaniel
Eddie Weaver ever sang “Happy Birthday” to you. — Susan Wagner
You can recite Agee's Bicycles radio commercial theme song at the drop of a hat. — Trevor Butler
You sponsored one of the original cobblestones in Shockoe Slip.
— Charles Jones
You keep your prized possessions in hatboxes from Miller & Rhoads and Thalhimers. — Diane Klisavage
You know that ironically, Open Door Christian School was always the first to close on snow days.
— Whitney Beadles
Every time you see a UPS, Geico or Maytag ad, you find some way to turn the conversation to Richmond — even though everyone in the room has already had this conversation. — Robin Pritchard
You brag to your friends in New York City because a national publication named Richmond the best at something, even if the statistic ends with “per capita” or “in the South” or “among midsized cities.”
— Mark Schairbaum
You tell all your friends in Portland and New York that Richmond is PBR's favorite city. — Aaron Roth
You were one of 57,638 people who have submitted an entry lamenting the sale of Ukrop's. — Tom Foster
You think we will have a Ukrop's Museum before we have a Slavery Museum. — Victor Gottlieb
Your favorite grocery store closes and you rewrite a 1980s power ballad to show your feelings.
— Andrew Vehorn
You look nervously around to make certain no one sees you entering Martin's on a Sunday and then again when paying for the six-pack of sin juice you found in the store's new heathen department. — Shawn Loehr
You have already started saving those paper grocery bags from Ukrop's because you know they are collector's items.
— Mary Eovino
You were born in a hospital at Lombardy and Monument avenues. Now you're thinking about retiring there for your twilight years and wonder if you can buy the condo unit which contains the room you started out in. — Alison Seaborn
You have known all your life that your last Richmond address would be in Hollywood where you will live forever.
— David B. Robinson
You were wondering what happened to your entries from the past eight years.
— Annette Ernst
You love Richmond as it is, but complain how it could be better. — Emily Griffey
Despite opportunities and the possibilities of other places, despite everything, you choose to stay here because in the end, Richmond is all you really need.
— Mariane Jorgenson
When you were there, you couldn't wait to leave. Now that you're gone, you miss it like crazy. — Whitney Beadles
Victor's Last Stand
One of Very Richmond's most loyal and prolific entrants, Victor Gottlieb, gets one more crack at the contest.
You Are Very Richmond If … You contributed money to help reopen the rest stops and one of the toilets is going to have your name plaque attached and you traded away a noble, Native American sculpture for a Flying Squirrel and somehow, you think that's progress and nine years ago you buried some “Very Richmond If” entries in a time capsule and when you dug them up they still were not funny and you trained your bladder to expect closed rest stops and now that they have reopened, you can't go and you are telling your tearful children that Connecticut “missed his mommy and went home” and you insist that you are going to remain loyal to Ukrop's, but you don't know what that means and you sold your soul to the devil for a table at the Taste of China restaurant and you sell hot dogs at The Diamond and when you throw one to a customer, it looks just like a flying squirrel and you think it's only a matter of time before they are selling Frying Squirrels at The Diamond and you like the name “Flying Squirrels” about as much as you like the new health care bill and you promised yourself that you would not cry when Ukrop's closed and you lied and you think Style Weekly is replacing the short-story contest with this contest because they tired of reading about gumshoe detectives from outer space and their three-headed sidekicks and next year, for Christmas, you want a snowplow and you think Ukrop's would have survived if you had asked for paper bags instead of plastic and you would have to slow down in order to comply with a 70 mph speed limit and you know that Connecticut is in Virginia and you know that it's only a matter of time before the meals tax costs more than the meal itself and you think Richbrau could have survived by brewing ethanol and you want an iPad but you're going to wait until it has an app for avoiding potholes and it took you nine years to kick the “Very Richmond If” habit and now you're going to have to start ALL OVER AGAIN.
You Are Very Richmond If … you love to look back.
Here are the winning entries from the contest's 17-year (now 18-year) run.
At a party, you drink Virginia Gentleman and ask unfamiliar guests who their mothers were before they got married.
— D. Mark W. Kemp
You give your daughter two last names for her first name, then end up calling her something like Mun Bun.
— Elaine J. Lidholm
You apologize to out-of-town guests for what they've done to The Jefferson.
— Phil R. Phelps
You see Gov. Baliles on TV and think it's Dick Strauss.
— John S. Finn Jr.
You know shad planking is not an architectural feature.
— Bob Bargamin
You think there really was a person named Lee Jackson King.
— Jeff A. Gorham
You know how long it takes for boxwoods to grow, but you're willing to wait.
— Elizabeth C. Pope
You are related to eight U.S. presidents and can work that into casual conversation.
— Chase Banard
You know that de la Burde is not the “Saturday Night Special” at The Butlery.
— John L. Barnes
You think that coming out is something you do in a ball gown at the country club rather than something you do in a ball gown at Fieldens.
— Susan Corbett
Your “Information Superhighway” is the Junior League phone tree.
— Anne Marie J. Leake
The size of your preschooler's hairbow is four times the circumference of her head.
— Michelle Gottschalk
You love today because tomorrow you know it will be the past.
— Derek Mason
You are Talbot's on the outside and Victoria's Secret on the inside.
— Ellie Andre Vanias
You are not worried about the Y2K problem because in Richmond it is always 1900.
— Joseph Marks
You believe Gen. Ulysses Grant's reply to Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox was, “Is that your final answer?”
— Ernie Mackey
You send in a “You Are Very Richmond If…” entry next year.
— Bill Ernst
You can't get much more Very Richmond than spending spare time writing Wikipedia articles about the place. (Someone has to.) When Mark Schairbaum moved here in 1999, he took up Richmond as a kind of hobby. It started after his graduation from the University of Michigan with a degree in mathematics. While his friends moved to New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, he moved here. “And I felt like I needed to compete with them,” he says. “So I was constantly looking for reasons why Richmond was a world-class city as well. And I think I found them.” He just celebrated his 33rd birthday — where else — at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' grand opening. Schairbaum works as an operations research analyst for the U.S. Army at Fort Lee. He attends church at West End Assembly of God, plays folk music with the Park Avenue Players and might be spotted with a Frisbee, basketball or tennis racquet around the Fan. Speaking of tennis, there's his winning entry, which taps into the visual contrast, sensitive undertones and generally under-discussed issues that surround a statue of Arthur Ashe on Monument Avenue. With the $250 he wins here, he says he's considering throwing a Very Richmond party.
Running and smoking. “I thought it was one of Richmond's charming quirks,” Lesley Bruno says of the city's dual appreciation for fitness and tobacco-related recreation. Perhaps she's done a little of both herself, she says, but it really struck her recently after the Monument Avenue 10K, spotting her husband and some friends after they'd run the race, hanging out at brunch in their running gear, taking a puff or two. Bruno knows Richmond well, having lived here since she was 6. She grew up in the South Side, where her childhood memories include her and her sister, Susan Howson, getting wrapped in life jackets by their dad and being sent down the rapids at Pony Pasture. (They survived!) She lives in the Museum District, cites Hollywood Cemetery as one of her favorite local spots, and works as director of public relations and marketing for the Valentine Richmond History Center — headquarters for Very Richmond everything.
Originally from Brecksville, Ohio, Annette Ernst has lived here since 1976. Coincidentally, her husband, William J. Ernst III, wrote the winning entry in the last “Very Richmond” contest in 2001. “We did a lot of these together in our heads,” she says. They live on the South Side near Forest Hill Park, proudly. “We've always lived in the city, raised our kids in the city,” she says. Their children are grown, 28 and 26, and she's retired as an occupational therapist from what is now VCU Health Systems, picking up work here and there for HCA. It leaves her more time to volunteer with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. “Moving to Virginia was my first time moving to the South,” she says, and she can't imagine living anywhere else: “I'd miss the crazy mocking birds, and the magnolia trees and the boxwood.”