A day in the country filled with diversion awaits those who visit Oatlands Plantation near Leesburg, Va., Saturday or next Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The main event is the eighth annual Sheep Dog Trials, which attract sheep dog handlers from such faraway places as California, Kentucky, Canada and Scotland. The two-day competition is the third leg of the nationally sanctioned Virginia Triple Crown. Using only whistles and hand signals, handlers will direct their dogs to herd sheep, cattle and even ducks. During cutting horse demonstrations you'll see border collies working with cowboys and quarter horses to round up cattle as they did in the days of the "old West," when dogs were used to separate steer from the herd for branding. Sheep shearing demonstrations are also on the agenda.
In addition to the trials you can attend a crafts fair, watch Scottish dancers, listen to bagpipe music and hear the Galway Ramblers perform Irish music. There will also be face painting for children, food and self-guided tours of the mansion and its four-acre formal garden.
This year Oatlands celebrates the 25th anniversary of its opening as a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Admission to all weekend activities is $5, $3 for ages 7 to 12, free for children under 6. Oatlands is on Route 15, six miles south of Leesburg. For information, call (703) 777-3174.
Wagon trains, campfires, arts and crafts and musical programs are a sampling of the many activities scheduled during the National Pike Festival Saturday and next Sunday. Now in its 18th year, the festival celebrates the history of the nation's first highway west.
About 80 events are planned along the 200-mile stretch of road that links the western Maryland counties of Garrett, Allegany and Washington to the southwestern Pennsylvania counties of Somerset, Fayette and Washington.
Wagon trains, similar to those used by pioneers on their way west, will be traveling across each of these counties. Towns along the route will hold their own celebrations. In Maryland you will find an Indian encampment and a black powder shoot in Garrett County. You can ride Western Maryland Scenic Railroad's steam train from Cumberland to Frostburg in Allegany County and find celebrations in both cities. Offerings in Washington County include a horse pulling contest, house tours and a concert by Maryland State Fiddling champion Shawn Snyder.
nTC Seventeen towns in southwestern Pennsylvania will hold celebrations. A horseman portraying a Pony Express rider will travel from Brier Hill to Uniontown. There will be a flag exchange between Maryland and Pennsylvania by the DAR in the town of Addison, and Fort Necessity has scheduled activities both days.
Most events are free. For a complete list, call (800) 228-STAY in Maryland and (800) 333-5661 in Pennsylvania.
New Castle, Delaware's Colonial capital, remains seemingly untouched by time. Unlike reconstructed Colonial cities, many of New Castle's old houses continue to be private residences today. The cobbled street along the river boasts a number of these fine old town houses, including the George Read House, considered one of the finest examples of late Georgian architecture in the country.
You can spend "A Day in Old New Castle" on Saturday touring these 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings, churches and museums from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is the 67th year of the tour, sponsored by Immanuel Episcopal Church-on-the-Green, which will use the proceeds for preservation and restoration of historic church buildings.
Special events are planned throughout the day and luncheon will be served at the Presbyterian Church. Snacks will also be available at various locations.
Tickets can be purchased at the Old Court House on tour day for $10. A map for a walking tour of private gardens is included.
New Castle is on Route 9, three miles south of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. For information, call (302) 328-2413.
The 29th annual Colonial Highland Gathering will take place at Fair Hill on Saturday.
A full day of athletic events, music, dancing, food and other attractions is planned from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. You'll see the tossing of the caber, a test of strength that goes back to ancient times; sheep dog demonstrations; bagpipes and pipe band competitions; and Highland and Scottish country dancing. At clan tents you can trace your Scottish lineage and shop for Scottish gifts and food. Highlight of the day will be the parade of massed bands of pipes and drums with more than 100 traditional pipers.
Admission is $8 for adults, $2 for ages 6 to 12, free for children under 6. Fair Hill is in Cecil County, four miles west of Newark, Del., on Route 273. For information, call (302) 453-8998.
The Claude Moore Colonial Farm at Turkey Run in McLean, Va., depicts a low-income farmstead in northern Virginia in the late Colonial period. It is open to the public from April through December.