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Amy & Dan Smith’s Planning For Life: Planning For The Unexpected

April 1, 2015 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on Amy & Dan Smith’s Planning For Life: Planning For The Unexpected
Amy Smith-BRL

– By Amy and Dan Smith

Life-changing medical events of the past week have reminded me to not only review my plans but perhaps serve as a messenger for a “call to action” to any of you who think financial and estate planning is for the well-heeled or something you cannot afford or don’t need.
The situation happened quickly. I had visited my parents last month and, while chronic issues were evident, crisis did not seem imminent. Then one of my elderly parents began falling at home repeatedly. My other parent, also physically impaired, did not register the gravity of this matter and did nothing. My sister, arriving a few days later, immediately called 911, taking my parent to the hospital emergency room.

… Continue Reading

13 Financial Planning Strategies for 2013

June 4, 2013 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on 13 Financial Planning Strategies for 2013
Amy Smith-BRL

Part three of a series
By Amy Smith

Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012(ATRA) on New Year’s Day. A number of changes came out of the act that will affect your tax bill. In this month’s column, I will be offering financial planning strategies for you to consider in 2013 that by taking appropriate action may help you avoid an unexpected tax bill next April.

Charitable giving can reduce your tax burden and also provide a sense of satisfaction by benefiting your favorite causes. Generally, donations to qualified charities count as an itemized deduction for that tax year. This includes cash, real estate, or other assets. The deductibility of charitable gifts is based on several factors, such as the donor’s income, the nature of the donation, and the charity receiving the donation. A sound plan can help offset an increase in taxes in 2013 due to higher taxes. … Continue Reading

The “Fiscal Cliff”

September 5, 2012 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on The “Fiscal Cliff”
Amy Smith-BRL

By Amy Smith

What is the “fiscal cliff”? It’s the term being used by many to describe the unique combination of tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2013. The ominous term reflects the belief by some that taken together, higher taxes and decreased spending at the levels prescribed have the potential to derail the economy. Whether we do indeed step off the cliff at the end of the year, and what exactly that will mean for the economy depends on several factors.

Will expiring tax breaks be extended?

With the “Bush tax cuts” set to sunset at the end of 2012, federal tax rates will jump up in 2013. We’ll go from six federal tax brackets (10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent, 28 percent, 33 percent and 35 percent) to five (15 percent, 28 percent, 31 percent, 36 percent, and 39.6 percent). The maximum rate that applies to long-term capital gains will generally increase from 15 percent to 20 percent. … Continue Reading

What Does the Supreme Court Ruling on the Health-Care Reform Law Mean for You?

July 31, 2012 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on What Does the Supreme Court Ruling on the Health-Care Reform Law Mean for You?
Amy Smith-BRL

On June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision, that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) including the provision that most Americans carry health insurance or pay a penalty, is constitutional.

The ACA, signed into law in 2010, made sweeping reforms to health-care coverage in the United States. Many provisions of the law have already taken effect. A number of other provisions are scheduled to take effect in subsequent years, including the requirement that most Americans and legal residents have qualifying health insurance (exceptions apply) or pay a penalty in the form of a tax. … Continue Reading

Asset Allocation in Retirement

June 6, 2012 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on Asset Allocation in Retirement
Amy Smith-BRL

By Amy Smith

Asset Allocation in Retirement
Your asset allocation should be dynamic and flexible-adjusting with you as you move through life. Finding your unique formula for the many years you hope to spend in retirement is an important consideration as you transition your lifestyle into your non-income producing years.

The asset allocation formula that worked for you as you were building your nest egg will need to change to a more conservative approach, perhaps allocating a greater percentage of your overall portfolio to income-generating investments as you grow older. Simply put, you don’t want to assume the same level of risk since your capacity and investing time horizon to recover from losses is no longer as great. Your focus should now be on preserving capital and generating a predictable income stream to supplement other income sources.

Allowing For Inflation
Although it’s not a problem right now, many observers believe we will be facing higher inflation down the road. That can be a very real problem in retirement. For example, at a three percent inflation rate, $100,000 worth of purchasing power declines to $54,379 in 20 years. Most people also assume that their healthcare costs are going to increase in their later years, so you will want to allow for that, too. These two factors, plus the possibility of other unexpected expenses, mean that you are likely to still need some percentage of growth-oriented assets in your portfolio.

As the market gyrations of the past few years demonstrated quite convincingly, one of the big risks of investing is having to sell at the wrong time. For this reason, you also need to keep a certain percentage of your assets liquid, in cash or equivalent, so you can access that money quickly if needed. Although everyone’s situation is different, keeping six to 24 months’ or more worth of expenses in cash is a good goal. To visualize the benefit of this, think about the difference between an investor who had to raise money by selling stocks during the market crash of 2009 versus another who could wait until a few months later.

How Long Should You Plan For?
While you can’t know for certain how many years you’ll spend in retirement, we do know that because life spans in general are increasing, the years people spend in retirement are also increasing. For example, actuaries say that for a couple who are both 65 when they retire, there’s an 85% probability that at least one of them will live past 85. This means that your assets may have to last you quite a long time.

Living longer also means that the growth oriented portion of your portfolio has more time to experience the magic of compounding. For example, if you have $100,000 allocated to that portion and are able to achieve annual returns of 6%, after 10 years you’ll have $179,084.77, and after 15 years, you’ll have $239,655.82. This assumes no losses-a good reason to stick with less-risky investments.

Asset allocation in retirement is a critically important element of your overall plan-be sure to get some expert help in deciding what’s best for you. Also, don’t forget to revisit your formula periodically to be sure your asset mix is increasingly conservative as you get older.

Amy V. Smith Wealth Management, LLC, is an independent firm. Amy is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) and offers securities through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Her office is located at 161 Fort Evans Road, NE, Ste 345, Leesburg, VA 20176. www.amysmithwealthmanagement.com.

The opinions and recommendations here are those of the columnist and not necessarily those of Raymond James or RJFS. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Asset allocation does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.

The Long-Term Care Dilemma: Insurers Leaving, Premiums Increasing

May 2, 2012 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on The Long-Term Care Dilemma: Insurers Leaving, Premiums Increasing
Amy Smith-BRL

If you’ve planned for long-term care, you’ve done well because there’s a pretty good chance you or your spouse will have a need for care at some point. According to the National Clearinghouse for Long-term Care (www.longtermcare.gov) about 70 percent of people over age 65 will need some type of care during their lifetimes and more than 40 percent will require care in a nursing home.
According to the National clearinghouse, in 2010 it cost an average of $75,000 per year ­for a semiprivate room in a nursing home, while one year of care at home costs about $19,700 per year. … Continue Reading

There’s Still Time to Contribute to an IRA for 2011

April 4, 2012 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on There’s Still Time to Contribute to an IRA for 2011
Amy Smith-BRL

Good news! There’s still time to make a regular IRA contribution for 2011. You have until your tax return due date (not including extensions) to contribute up to $5,000 for 2011($6,000 if you were aged 50 by December 31, 2011.) For most taxpayers, the contribution deadline for 2011 is April 17, 2012. Normally, your tax return must be filed by April 15. However, the IRS has extended the deadline to April 17 this year because April 15 is a Sunday and April 16 is a holiday in Washington, D.C. (Emancipation Day). … Continue Reading

The Power of Dividends in a Portfolio

March 7, 2012 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on The Power of Dividends in a Portfolio
Amy Smith-BRL

By Amy Smith

It wasn’t so long ago that many investors regarded dividends as roughly the financial equivalent of a record turntable at a gathering of MP3 users – a throwback to an earlier era, irrelevant to the real action.

But fast-forward a few years and things look a little different. Since 2003, when the top federal income tax rate on qualified dividends was reduced to 15 percent from a maximum of 38.6 percent, dividends have acquired new respect. Favorable tax treatment isn’t the only reason, either; the ability of dividends to provide income and potentially help mitigate market volatility is also attractive to investors. As baby boomers approach retirement and begin to focus on income-producing investments, the long-term demand for high-quality, reliable dividends is likely to increase. … Continue Reading

Modestly Optimistic in 2012?

February 2, 2012 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on Modestly Optimistic in 2012?
Amy Smith-BRL

“We are suffering just now from a bad case of economic pessimism. It is common to hear people say the epoch of enormous economic progress which characterized the century is over; that the rapid improvement in the standard of life is now going to slow down; that a decline in prosperity is more likely than an improvement in the decade which lies ahead.” — John Maynard Keynes … Continue Reading

7 Steps to Increase Your Wealth

January 5, 2012 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on 7 Steps to Increase Your Wealth
Amy Smith-BRL

By Amy Smith

Being rich is not hard. It’s a matter of adopting the right attitude.

After all, the woman convinced by her mother that she’ll always be poor is unlikely to take steps to attain substantial wealth. And the couple who plays it safe to ensure a comfortable lifestyle for the kids won’t take perceived risks to change their financial situation. … Continue Reading

Social Security is Worth the Wait

November 2, 2011 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on Social Security is Worth the Wait
Amy Smith-BRL

By Amy V. Smith

According to the Social Security Administration, more than nine out of ten individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits.

Anyone considering retirement and drawing Social Security retirement benefits should have an understanding of how this important decision will affect his or her family and themselves. For someone whose full retirement age is 66, drawing benefits at age 62 permanently reduces an individual’s per year base benefit by 25 percent. While it is true that some people needed to retire, or found themselves in situations where the decision was made for them, it is more financially advantageous to wait. “If you wait, you will receive a guaranteed increase each year of seven to eight percent per year until you reach age 70,” says Raymond James Senior Tax and Estate Consultant Susan Hartman. … Continue Reading

Save a Fortune on Herbs and Spices

October 6, 2011 Columns, Uncategorized Comments Off on Save a Fortune on Herbs and Spices

By Cat Morris

We are coming into spice season. Mmmmmm! Cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove come to mind as the weather begins to turn and the days get shorter. Now is a great time to clear out your old herbs and spices so you can start the cool weather season on a fresh, flavorful note.

If you’re like me, you never remember what you have in the cabinet, and often return from the store with a container of herbs or spices as insurance against being left short on a special recipe. I believe we all have that spice we can never recall seeing recently in the cupboard, and that spice, for me, is cinnamon. No matter that I possess pounds of the stuff: I inevitably find myself staring at grocery shelves, wondering, “Am I out of cinnamon?”

Now is the time to officially take inventory and update my holdings. In addition to lots of cinnamon, I admit to owning ancient jars of stuff I’ve barely touched. It hurts to think of tossing something for which I paid a pretty penny, and just possibly might need someday.

The good news is that since I first bought some of those ancient, pricey jars, I have discovered that quality herbs and spices are not expensive. In fact, if you have been buying your herbs and spices from a mainstream grocery store, as I used to; cease and desist: Supermarkets impose scandalously large mark-ups on spices. That .12 ounce jar of McCormick bay leaves that costs $3.99 at your favorite grocery store? The same quantity from a local health food store will set you back a whole 17 cents. Did that get your attention?

Let’s do some math:

As of this writing, McCormick bay leaves at one major grocery store cost $3.99 for a .12 ounce jar, which comes to $33.25 per ounce, or $532 per pound (not that you’d ever need a whole pound of bay leaves).

By contrast, Frontier brand bay leaves from the bulk section at Natural Mercantile of Hamilton cost about $1.21 per ounce, or $19.30 per pound. Yes, that would be a $512.70 price difference from the grocery store for a pound of the same product.

[Incidentally, if you were to actually need a whole pound of bay leaves, Costco sells a one-pound container for a whopping $6.40.]

Would you like another example? Ground cloves are priced between $6-8 dollars per ounce at one major grocery store right now. I found them elsewhere for $.86 per ounce. In a recent comparison shopping exercise, I found that I could replace one-ounce quantities of fifteen common herbs and spices for less than $14 total by buying them outside a supermarket, versus upwards of $60 at the supermarket.

Another fantastic, and often even less expensive, source for herbs and spices is ethnic food stores. Indian markets, or Mediterranean and Mexican grocers will have large quantities of excellent quality spices for a fraction of the cost at a mainstream grocery store.

Unless it’s a seasoning I use a lot, I prefer to buy herbs and spices from a health food store because I can purchase as little or as much as I like. I am charged only for what I take. If I need a larger quantity, I’ll hit a local ethnic store for high quality spices sold in larger amounts, and store them at home in pint sized mason jars. And of course, if you can use a pound or so of a seasoning (I can’t) warehouse stores such as Costco offer fantastic prices.

How long will your freshly purchased herbs and spices keep? The Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Food Storage Guidelines for Consumers indicates that dried herbs and ground spices will stay fresh at room temperature for six months, or one to two years in the freezer. Whole spices will last 1-2 years at room temperature and 2-3 years in the freezer. (Interestingly, the shelf life of ground mustard is reduced by chilling it, so always keep mustard at room temperature.) If you keep your spices at room temperature, keep them in a dry, dark location. Avoid storing them above your cook top, where their flavor will suffer from heat.

The best way to check the freshness of herbs and spices is to open the container, put some in your hands, and check for strong aroma, taste and color. Seasonings kept longer than recommended won’t hurt you, so don’t fret if your oregano is five years old. It won’t do harm, but it won’t have much taste, either.
I’d love to hear where you find the best bargains on herbs and spices in the area. Email me at Cat.Morris@earthlink.net or visit us online at brleader.com and leave your comment following my column.
In last month’s column I promised an article on extreme frugality. I spoke too soon. My apologies, but I couldn’t resist writing about getting great deals on herbs and spices first, what with holiday cooking right around the corner!

Market Volatility and Your Emotions

August 31, 2011 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on Market Volatility and Your Emotions
Amy Smith-BRL

“Market volatility: period when financial instrument prices fall quickly or go up by an unusual amount.” That’s a dictionary definition. Mine is more like the “I’m going to be sick” feeling that usually accompanies a roller coaster ride at my daughter’s favorite theme park. Unless you’ve not been checking your emails, reading newspapers, or watching television (a.k.a. “vacation”), you know it’s been a bumpy ride the last few weeks, and some financial experts say it might be like this for a while.

Here are some things you might want to consider before F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) kicks in:

  1. Don’t Panic: No matter how careful you are, you can neither predict nor control the future. No one has a crystal ball.
  2. Know what you own and why you own it: When the market goes off the tracks, knowing why you originally made a specific investment can help you evaluate whether those reasons still hold and whether a lower price might actually be a buying opportunity. It is individual stocks that determine the market, not vice versa. Buy value, not market trends or the economic outlook. … Continue Reading









2016 Energy Summit – George Washington University


On Friday evening, October 28, George Washington University, Virginia Campus in Ashburn will host the 10th annual Don Sandros Energy Summit in cooperation with local businesses and non-profits. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for a reception with wine donated by …

Attributing Disaster


“Humans are likely to create a catastrophe, and possibly an associated disaster, that vastly exceeds our own ability to recover from it. In the face of all our efforts, it will persist.” – Richard Guthrie [1] “Here we show that …

Concerned Parent


By Michael Oberschenider Psy.D. Dr. Mike, We recently signed our four-year-old daughter up for gymnastics. It wasn’t cheap, but her friends from the neighborhood do it, and she has been begging us to go. It turned out to be a …

Invisible Illnesses

Lunde new

By Mary Rose Lunde It is general knowledge that when people think about illnesses, they don’t think about illnesses that aren’t physically apparent. Sure, people know about conditions such as multiple sclerosis and other diseases with visible symptoms, but many …

Robinson Park

robinson park

Looking back, now – I’m glad it wasn’t what most people would’ve considered a nice day; I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my share of hot and sunny to last me for at least a generation (especially since …

Are Your Estate and Financial Plans Shock-Proof?


Don’t wait until “what if?” becomes “what is.” Where will you live as you age? Think about your housing options now, so you have choices and won’t have to make a hasty decision should an unexpected health event force you …

In Defense of ‘Adulting’


By Samuel Moore-Sobel Most friends transitioning from college to the workforce long for the days of college, wishing to be back in class and participating in campus life. To be honest, I may be in the minority, but I have …

Student News

Congratulations, Class of 2016

6 Jul 2016


Woodgrove High School’s Class Of 2016 Graduation – By Amanda Clark On June 16, Woodgrove’s Class of 2016 was the 5th graduating class to walk the stage and accept their diploma. The ceremony was filled with anticipation as the chorus, …

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Buckland Earns Degree In Medicine

6 Jul 2016


Molly Buckland, D.O., graduated from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine with a degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine on May 28. While at WVSOM, Dr. Buckland received the Dr. Roland P. Sharp President’s Award and the James R. …

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Adams Promoted To Lieutenant

6 Jul 2016


Lt. James Adams, from Sterling and a Potomac Falls Halls Graduate, earned the promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. Adams is a Navy Week and Executive Outreach Planner for the Navy Office of Community Outreach in Millington, Tennessee. U.S. Navy …

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October 2016
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
September 26, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 27, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 28, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 29, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 30, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

October 1, 2016

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

October 2, 2016
October 3, 2016 October 4, 2016 October 5, 2016 October 6, 2016 October 7, 2016 October 8, 2016

Virginia Outdoors Foundation 50 years of Conservation Celebration

October 9, 2016
October 10, 2016 October 11, 2016 October 12, 2016

Barefoot Puppets: Dreamtime, Tales From Down Under

October 13, 2016 October 14, 2016 October 15, 2016

Loudoun Centre Theatre: The Scamps Of Scapin!

October 16, 2016

Harvest Celebration & Fall Farm Tour


October 17, 2016 October 18, 2016 October 19, 2016 October 20, 2016 October 21, 2016

Anthony Semiao Live at North Gate Vineyard


October 22, 2016 October 23, 2016

Come Paint with us at Breaux Vineyards

October 24, 2016 October 25, 2016 October 26, 2016 October 27, 2016 October 28, 2016

October Fourth Friday

October 29, 2016

2 Pound Sterling Live at North Gate VIneyard

October 30, 2016

Music With A Cause - Music of Colonial America

October 31, 2016 November 1, 2016 November 2, 2016 November 3, 2016 November 4, 2016 November 5, 2016

Glenfiddich Farm Pottery Annual Fall/Holiday Sale

OysterFest at North Gate Vineyard

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

Spaghetti Dinner

Old Time Country Ham and Turkey Dinner

November 6, 2016

Glenfiddich Farm Pottery Annual Fall/Holiday Sale

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Leesburg-Daybreak Rotary Club Sends Supplies and Funds to Haiti

24 Oct 2016


The Rotary Club of Leesburg-Daybreak shipped water purification supplies and emergency funds to Haiti following the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew. Partnering with an anonymous local corporation, the club shipped 3,000 water purification tablet packages via FedEx to Haiti. These packages, which were sent to an area battling a cholera outbreak, will clean 3,000 liters of unsafe water. Instructions translated …

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Veteran’s Day 10k Raises Funds for Veteran Causes

13 Oct 2016


On November 6, the Loudoun County Road Runners Club will again conduct the annual Loudoun 10K Trail Race in order to raise funds for veteran causes. Since it’s origin in 2011, the trail race has generated more than $90,000 with 100 percent of proceeds going directly to veteran’s charities, specifically Boulder Crest Retreat and Pets for Vets.

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FBRM Clean-Up Day at Blue Ridge Regional Park

6 Oct 2016


Join Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains for an Autumn clean-up to remove invasive vegetation from Blue Ridge Regional Park on Saturday, Oct. 15 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Some tools and equipment will be provided, but please bring your clippers, pruning shears, or saws if you can. Directions: From Leesburg, drive west on Route 7 past the turnoff …

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Grief and Greed


By Matthew Parse What would drive a single individual to cause so much emotional stress and financial burden on hundreds, if not, thousands of families? What would drive the Town …


Opinion: Terrorism, Debt, and China: Oh My!


– By Nick Reid world can be a very dangerous place sometimes, especially for a nation state such as the United States. Although danger is always present, the number and …

Metro Money Mess Pushing West


– By Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33rd) A local paper recently quoted Loudoun Board Chair Phyllis Randall as saying that in her observation “some of the concerns raised by the people …

Dear Editor

New Proposed Uses for Western Loudoun

Loudoun County Seal Color

If you live in the middle or western part of Loudoun where you enjoy a parcel of open space near your property (which probably was put into an open space …

Bennett Knows How To Make Economy Work for All


In the election for the 10th District House seat, only one candidate has a more than three decades of success growing a local business. As the owner of a successful …

View From the Ridge

Broken Promises, Hidden by a Six-Foot Berm


By Andrea Gaines On August 9, 1825 at the age of 69, French military officer the Marquis de Lafayette was honored in Leesburg by former President James Monroe. The French-born …

Around Virginia

History’s Holy Places: Four Local Sites Worth Exploring This Fall


The Journey through Hallowed Ground is a 180-mile long, 75-mile wide trek from Gettysburg to Monticello, encompassing nine presidential homes and places, 18 national and state parks, and thousands of small and large historical sites. Dozens and dozens of these sites and related museums are short ride from just about …

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Land Trust Receives Large Donation

land trust

On August 22, The Land Trust of Virginia received a $10,000 gift from the Sharon D. Virts Foundation, based in Herndon. The presentation of this grant was part of the Foundation’s official launch event, held at Selma Plantation in Leesburg. Notable speakers included Sharon D. Virts, FCiFederal Founder and Chair, …

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Farmers Urged To Be On The Lookout For Marijuana


Farmers in Southwest Virginia are being urged to check their property for marijuana planted by trespassers. Within the past year, hundreds of marijuana plants have been discovered between rows of hay bales on farms in and around Pulaski County, according to the Claytor Lake Regional Drug Task Force. “Unfortunately this …

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Hunter’s First Professional Race

7 Sep 2016


Drew Hunter and Loudoun Valley classmates at his first professional race, Sir Walter Miler in Raleigh, NC in early August , l to r:  Marcos Pierce, Matt Slook, Drew Hunter, Max McNerney. Hunter finished with a time of 3:57.15. Hunter turned professional and signed with Adidas.

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Let’s Make Some Memories

3 Aug 2016


American Legion Baseball At Fireman’s Field, August 3 – 7 By Andrea Gaines American Legion Baseball is here at Fireman’s Field in a big way, featuring five consecutive blockbuster Mid-Atlantic Tournament games – August 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Our local Leesburg Post 34 Rangers had some nice wins …

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