Virginia’s Eastern Shore: The Chincoteague Cork and Canvas Event

Virginia’s Eastern Shore: The Chincoteague Cork and Canvas Event

Virginia Has Two Parts?

Virginia is an odd state. It is one of only two states in our union that is split into two completely separate pieces (Michigan is the other). Most people seem to believe that the state of Virginia ends at the Chesapeake Bay, but that’s just not true. There is a small portion of the Delmarva peninsula, east of the Chesapeake, that has a lot to offer visitors.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia consists of just two counties, is 70 miles long, and has a population of only 45,000 or so. It’s small, and often overlooked. Just Google images of Virginia and you will find things like this:

Virginia without Eastern shore

The problem with that image is that the Eastern Shore of Virginia is completely missing! Here is an accurate depiction of the entire state of Virginia.


eastern shore virginia cork and canvas chincoteague

Chincoteague Island

Don’t let the size fool you. That little spit of land off to the east is not an insignificant place. In fact, one of its islands is the setting of Marguerite Henry’s famous children’s book, Misty of Chincoteague, and the series of books that followed it.

But there is so much more to Chincoteague than just the wild ponies. For starters, it’s an adorable little town (population 3000). As I crossed the long bridge to get from the highway onto the island, I noticed banners hanging from every light pole. But unlike what you would find in most towns, the banners in Chincoteague were not depicting scenes of the seaside, or autumn, or even advertisers’ names. Instead, each banner proudly featured a photo of a local citizen who was actively serving in the US military, with their name, rank, and military branch.  I have never seen anything like that. Chincoteague appeared to be a very tight knit community.

Journey further into town, and you will see a couple of ice cream shops, small boutique stores, bed and breakfasts, and so on. It’s much more family friendly and less commercialized than the closest resort town, Ocean City, Maryland. Chincoteague is where small town America meets seaside charm.

Chincoteague Cork and Canvas

Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism invited me to check out some of their culinary events. There were plenty to choose from, which really surprised me. I had no idea there was so much going on in those two little counties! The Chincoteague Cork and Canvas event sounded really intriguing, so I thought I would try that one first.

The event site, the Chincoteague KOA (Kampgrounds of America), is very easy to get to once you enter the town of Chincoteague. I picked up my tickets at the gift shop, parked the car, and hopped into a golf cart for a ride to the festival site.

As you might guess from the name, the Chincoteague Cork and Canvas event is all about local wine and local art. So when I checked, in I received a wine tasting glass and wristband:

chincoteague cork and canvas wine festival virginia eastern shore


Sip Happens

A large tent dominated the festival grounds. Inside, twelve Virginia wineries offered samples of their wines. There are 260 wineries in the state of Virginia, spread all across the state. I tried several of the wines, including this Petit Verdot red wine, which I actually liked. (Normally, I would rather drink lemon juice than red wine.)

chincoteague cork and canvas event wine festival art virgiia eastern shore jefferson vineyards

As you can see by this sign, participating vineyards offered a description of their wine’s flavor. As someone who knows almost nothing about wine, I thought this was extremely helpful! It made it easy for me to know what to expect and choose a wine that I was likely to enjoy. In the case of the Petit Verdot, there were a lot of words that piqued my interest – vanilla, pomegranate, black cherry. It almost sounds like it would make a fabulous potpourri! I also tried two Rieslings, a Petit Manseng, and a Rose.

Treasures from the Sea

But this event was about more than just wine. It was also about art, so I got busy looking at all of the vendor booths. As you might expect from a coastal town, sea-themed artwork was prevalent. For starters, there was some really nice sea glass jewelry.

Chincoteague cork and canvas sea glass jewelry eastern shore virginia festival

The man who made these pendants said that he was probably responsible for making the sea glass too, because when he was a boy he and a friend would go down near the beach and shoot bottles for target practice. Great story behind the craft!

One booth had some awesome Christmas ornaments, artfully displayed on a driftwood tree:

Chincoteague cork and canvas festival christmas ornaments eastern shore virginia

They all incorporated fun elements like maps of Chincoteague, sand from the beach, and pictures of the wild ponies. As I’ve written before, I believe that a Christmas ornament is the perfect travel souvenir… so, needless to say, I bought one of these.

There were two artisans there that really took my breath away with their wares. First was an artist who specialized in mermaid and fairy portraits. Her booth drew me in and I just did not want to leave. I think you can see why:

chincoteague cork and canvas wine art festival virginia eastern shore

Her mermaid paintings were stunning, with all the right details to make you feel as if you were underwater with them: long tresses that seemed to be floating away from her face, bubbles that floated into the picture, small glittery accents that caught the light – and the viewer’s eye. I bought a small print of a cheeky-looking mermaid wearing sunglasses for my beach-themed bathroom.

By this time I was getting hungry, and I decided to put my shopping art appreciation on hold to go grab something to eat. Chincoteague’s Sandy Dollar food truck was on site offering a delicious sounding menu. It all sounded good, but ultimately, I chose the crab pretzel… a pretzel bun loaded with cheesy crab dip, Cheddar cheese, and Old Bay seasoning. (If you have never tried that particular combination of food items… you have no idea what you’re missing!)

chincoteague cork canvas sandy dollar food truck eastern shore virginia

I feel so sorry for folks that have never tried crab with Old Bay…

Anyway, it was every bit as delicious as it sounds/looks. The food truck also offered goodies like funnel cake fries, Maryland crab soup, and crab balls. Yum, yum, and yum!  I wish I could have ordered a sampler platter!

Back to the vendors. There were several people there selling jewelry they had made.  I spent a lot of time in the booth of one lady whose family made jewelry from seed beads. She told me they were of Cherokee descent, and that beading was part of their cultural heritage. (Forty years ago or more, we used the now politically incorrect term “Indian beads” to describe those little bits of colored glass.)

Her work was nothing short of amazing. Just take a look at two of the many stunning pieces she had for sale:

chincoteague cork and canvas eastern shore virginia wine art festival jewelry

Can you imagine how long it must have taken to create each of those? I bought one in this style but it was leopard print. I can’t wait to wear it with a plain black top. Talk about a piece of statement jewelry!

Finding My Inner Artist

By the time I had visited all of the vendor tents it was mid-afternoon. Several days earlier, I had registered for one of the festival’s two painting workshops. One was called Sip & Paint, which gave participants a memorable keepsake of their day:

Chincoteague cork and canvas sip and paint dawn tarr eastern shore virginia

Grapes, a bottle of wine, water, marsh grass, and even the Assateague lighthouse in the distance. Because guess what? We actually could see the lighthouse in the distance! How’s that for inspiration?

chincoteague cork and canvas wine art festival eastern shore virginia

The second painting workshop, which I signed up for, was Paint Your Pet. I thought it would make a good Christmas present for Hubs. All I had to do was email the artist, Dawn Tarr, a photo of my dog a couple of days before the event. She penciled an outline of my pup on a canvas and when I showed up she got right to work giving me all the colors I would need. All I had to do was follow her instructions about what colors to put where and what type of brushstroke to use.

Chincoteague cork and canvas sip and paint your pet festival art wine eastern shore virginia

chincoteague sip and paint sork and canvas wine art festival eastern shore virginia dawn tarr

The finished product looks so good! (I confess, Dawn had to help me with some of the finer details.) Hubs will be pleased with his gift, I’m sure!

chincoteague cork and canvas wine art festival eastern shore virginia paint your pet dawn tarr

While I was painting this, we listened to great music from local band Lovin Cup. Then a young lady from Special Olympics spoke about everything she had achieved through their worthwhile programs and services. It was a good reminder that the day was not just a festival, but also a fundraiser.

I had a great time at the Chincoteague Cork and Canvas event and I will definitely be returning next year!

** Be sure to check my Instagram page for additional pictures of the Chincoteague Cork and Canvas Event:

Chincoteague Cork and Canvas

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