Whether they are out picking wild raspberries, tubing on a scenic river or harvesting cantaloupes with their neighbors, Loudoun County residents agree it would be hard to find a nicer place than home for enjoying the good old summertime.
The county is famous for its creeks and scenic rivers, specifically Goose and Catoctin creeks. Although some residents shy away from sharing their favorite swimming and tubing spots with strangers, a string of lazy, laughing youths can usually be found bobbing down Goose Creek on a sunny Saturday.
And there is always fishing.
"The Potomac is a good clean river, right through Loudoun County, and there's plenty of pan fish," said Craig Tufts, a Sterling resident who often takes his two small sons out fishing.
"There are some days when there are only a few boats, and you can get out on the Potomac in spots where it looks like a wilderness area," Tufts said. "It's beautiful."
But Tufts agrees that the small-town festivals are perhaps the best of the summer fun.
"They are not real fancy, but there's usually some great bluegrass," he said.
Hillsboro Mayor Alexander Muir, however, prefers the berry picking.
"There's an excellent crop of wild red raspberries this year, what we call wine berries, and then there are the blackberries and huckleberries later on," Muir said.
"All you need to do is find some country lanes that go back up into the mountains, and there will be the berries, everywhere."
Barbara Tulip, who lives west of Hillsboro on Rte. 9, said she is fond of the dewberries, small, round, red berries that "come in between the blackberries and raspberries."
"I can't believe there isn't any place in this county where you couldn't find berries."
"It's the rural atmosphere, the country life that we like," said Barbara Evans-Smith, a Hamilton resident. "And it's still a family county. Most everything--recreation, neighborhoods and churches--is geared towards family life."
Nancy Lentile, who lives in Countryside but spent many years in Hamilton, says her favorite memory of small-town summers in western Loudoun County was the local strawberry festival sponsored by the women's auxiliary and the local volunteer fire department.
"There were always these great cakes and big covered-dish suppers, and always, always, homemade ice cream," Lentile said. "Everyone would come."
Tulip explained how a town manages to get together enough homemade ice cream for everyone who shows up for a festival.
"First, they get five people to call around to assign some to bring cakes and others to bring ice cream. Then the ice cream is made up at home, packed in ice and insulated and brought to the fair. It's so much fun to see people come in with their ice-cream freezers because they try to make it festive and wrap them in quilts and things. We always have more ice cream than we need."
Tulip, like many Loudoun residents, spends much of her summer tending her large garden. She raises all the produce her family eats as well as a selection of herbs that ranges from woodruff to lemon verbena.
On dry summer days she slices apples, gets her kids to string the slices on twine and hangs the strands on the porch in the sun.
"When you are out chopping wood in the winter, there's nothing nicer than chewing on a handful of dried apples," Tulip said.
When Joshua and Tawvis Tulip aren't busy helping their mother, they can sometimes be found taking care of their pigs.
Both Tulip children are avid 4-H participants, as are 1,300 other Loudoun children. This summer, they are trying to fatten up two young pigs for the 4-H contests at the annual Loudoun County Fair, scheduled for Aug. 9-13 at the fairgrounds west of Leesburg.
The Tulip's pigs, which weighed about 50 pounds when the children bought them earlier this year, must weigh in at 250 pounds to qualify Joshua and Tawvis for the market hog project. But lately, Barbara Tulip said, it's been up to her to take care of the pigs. Joshua and Tawvis are at 4-H camp.
"You know what it is around here? It's small-town U.S.A.," Lentile said. "On the Fourth of July, they have those old-fashioned parades and everything. It's kind of corny stuff, but that's what makes it nice. I wouldn't leave it for the world."