History Lesson

A few Saturdays ago, on an absolutely gorgeous September weekend, I headed out for a drive to Chadds Ford Days, a yearly two-day event held on the grounds of the Chadds Ford Historical Society. The air was cool, the sky was deep blue, and my drive along the back roads to get there brought back fond memories of growing up in rural Pennsylvania. Fall has always been my favorite time of year, and I was looking forward to kicking off the season with a bit of history, a hayride, music, food, and shopping. 

When I arrived at the festival I took some time to stroll around the host of vendors who were there with their wares. The array was really wonderful, from woodworkers and potters to soap-makers and basket-weavers. The hand-crafted goods on display were quite remarkable, exhibiting a pride of workmanship that’s a welcome change from what’s found in the average big box store. After shopping a bit I sat on a hay bale and enjoyed the sounds of bluegrass music played by the talented Skyline Band.

When the music was done I headed off to watch a demonstration by the Second Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental Line, a volunteer group of history enthusiasts who’ve been authentically re-creating Revolutionary War units and battles since 1966. What a treat! The re-enactors were at the festival all day long to talk about the uniforms, flags, and lives of Revolutionary War soldiers, offering visitors a realistic look into this integral piece of American history, including my favorite, the firing of the regiment’s cannon.

There was plenty of great food to be had, too, from local favorites Jimmy John’s and MomPops, but the highlight for all had to be the chocolate milk from Baily’s Dairy at Pocopson Meadow Farm. The milk was delicious, yes, but accompanying the farmers were two lovely mascots—Prada, a 6-year-old Jersey cow, and Naomi, a brown Swiss calf that was just born on August 26. Pretty much everyone stopped to pet these beautiful, docile creatures, who seemed remarkably unbothered by the cannon fire around them.

After visiting with Naomi and Prada, I took a tour of the John Chads House, a two-bedroom stone-built home that dates back to the mid-1720s and gives visitors a look into Colonial life during the period of the Battle of the Brandywine. Then I strolled through the demonstrations area to see authentic representations of  Colonial caning, blacksmithing, spinning, and more. I also chatted with several young men and women from the society’s Junior Guides program, a group of young history buffs who learn eighteenth-century crafts and skills and then volunteer during Chadds Ford Days. The enthusiasm these kids showed for the day’s events was really incredible. I was even able to by a loaf of bread that they had baked authentically in the John Chads House’s beehive oven.

After having such a wonderful time at this event, I’m definitely going to check out the upcoming Great Pumpkin Carve (October 24–26), featuring the artistry of 60+ local pumpkin carvers, and the Annual Candlelight Christmas tour of homes in the Unionville area and Marlborough Village (December 7). For more information about these events, visit the Historical Society’s website, where you can also find out about the many benefits of membership.

—Michele Kornegay

 

“And of Their Memorial There Shall Be No End”

Summer is here! I just love this time of year, with late nights under warm, starry skies; cookouts, lemonade, and ice cream; and trips “down the shore” for sun and sand. To kick off our summer-long festivities this year, we headed to State Street in Media for the town’s Memorial Day parade. After a rainy, chilly start to the holiday weekend, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the annual event.

I still can’t believe I’m able to be so close to the city yet still live a small-town life. Nothing beats a parade down Main Street USA in terms of Americana, and Media’s was no exception. Hundreds of peopled decked out in red, white, and blue joined us in a festive celebration of local heroes, complete with classic cars, a marching band, little leaguers, and fire trucks to delight the little ones.

Young and old from all walks of life—and a whole lot of dogs, too—lined State Street for the parade. The crowd cheered and applauded as veterans from all branches of the military from World War II forward, men and women, passed by. I thought of my 94-year-old grandfather, a Pearl Harbor survivor who lives in Harrisburg, and how touched he would be to see the outpouring of respect. Beneath the excitement over the unofficial start of summer was a palpable solemnity. The playing of “Taps” at the memorial wall honoring Media’s veterans at the start of the parade reminded us all of the true meaning of the day. 

Following the parade, we strolled down State Street to the Pennsylvania Veterans Museum, which preserves the living history of veterans in its remarkable collection. Normally open Thursdays through Sundays from noon until 5pm, the museum, located at 12 East State Street in the Media Armory, opened its doors especially for the holiday.

Dioramas, interactive kiosks, a mini movie theatre, and exhibits display memorabilia and tell of the true cost—and the valor—of war from the perspective of both the military and civilians. The museum is always free, and there are many excellent volunteers there to guide you through the collection. If you’ve never been, I urge you to visit this remarkably moving museum. We all could learn something from what’s contained in its walls.

Now that the summer season has begun, Media will be abuzz with lots of great events each week. Check out the calendar at visitmediapa.com for a complete listing. See you downtown!

—Michele Kornegay

 

Art in the Family

Last weekend my husband, son, and I visited the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington. Founded in 1912 in honor of artist Howard Pyle, the museum is situated in a residential neighborhood on a beautiful tree-lined street. With the cherry blossoms in bloom and spring finally here, the drive to the museum was just as lovely as what we found inside.

Before we ventured inside we strolled around the outdoor Copeland Sculpture Garden on the grounds of the museum. What a perfect day for it! Magnolias were in their full glory, the sun was shining, a cool breeze was blowing, and people were out among the grounds sketching buds and blooms. Someone was walking in the labyrinth toward the back of the sculpture garden. Built using seven tons of Delaware River Rock, the labyrinth gives visitors an opportunity to slow down and find quietude—the perfect state, in my opinion, for appreciating art.

The museum’s collection includes 12,000 works for art-lovers of all types to enjoy, from Pre-Raphaelite through postmodern American pieces. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum is showing five other exhibits, including “State of the Art: Illustration 100 Years After Howard Pyle,” which features more than sixty works from eight important illustrators. I was pleased to see “Creative Powers: Selections from Art Ability,” which showcases works by people with disabilities, and was particularly entranced by “Imagined Places: The Art of Alexi Natchev.” Natchev’s watercolors from his work as a children’s book illustrator pop with color and whimsy. I couldn’t stop looking at them!

A trip to the Delaware Art Museum is wonderful for families like ours who want to start their children on the path toward art appreciation. Between the sculpture garden, Natchev’s children’s book illustrations, and the illustrations from Finding Nemo, Wall•E, and Ice Age that are part of the “State of the Art” exhibit, there was much to keep my son enraptured. He marveled at the Chihuly Bridge and its extraordinary pieces of glass. But by far his favorite work was an art installation piece, Tunnel (found in the postmodern gallery), which you just have to see to believe. 

In addition to changing exhibitions, the museum has a full slate of evening events, activities, and programs throughout the year, including the upcoming Art Is Social, Artful Yoga, and Movie Night in the Sculpture Garden. Studio art classes at all levels are also offered for adults, teens, and youth. Be sure to check their website for more information!

Visit the Delaware Art Museum at 2301 Kentmere Parkway in Wilmington (phone: 302-571-9590; toll free: 866-232-3714. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. (closed Monday and Tuesday). Visit the website for more about upcoming exhibits, events, and classes, and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter, too!

—Michele Kornegay

A Celebration for All Ages

My family and I kicked off the holidays in splendid style this past weekend with a visit to the Brandywine River Museum. I hadn’t been to the museum in a few years and was looking forward to getting into the spirit of the season, so I was excited to take in “A Brandywine Christmas.” 

At the top of my son’s must-see list were the model trains. Head Engineer Dave Jensen, Curator Steven Clarke, and museum employees like Joe Bauer, who’s been donning his blue-and-white-striped engineer’s cap each year for over a decade, spend six days—even Thanksgiving Day—setting up the railroad for holiday visitors. Comprising 28 separate sections, more than 2000 feet of track, 150 locomotives (as many as 5 running at once), and 300 freight cars, this O-gauge masterpiece will delight kids and grown-ups alike.

Joe handed my son a list of things to find—including a lighthouse, a Christmas tree farm, a Renaissance fair, an oil well, a waterfall, the Herr’s Snack Factory, two lumberjacks, seven refinery workers, eight Santas, and more! Train buffs will appreciate that this year’s display, evocative of the 1950s (there’s even a drive-in movie theatre), includes rare Japanese model trains made by Sakai, Stronlite, Ajin, and IMP; youngsters will enjoy seeing their favorite “Thomas the Tank Engine” characters chugging around the tracks. It’s really a sight to behold!

After taking in the trains, we visited the museum’s other galleries. In addition to its impressive permanent collection of landscape and genre painting, still life and portraits, American illustration, and three generations of art by the Wyeth family, the museum is also showing two special exhibits through January 6, “Pop-Up! Illustration in 3-D” and “Golden Impressions of Andrew Wyeth by Donald Pywell.”

Pop-Up!” features the work of paper engineers who create art for pop-up books; from the whimsical ABC Dinosaurs to the stunning Beauty and the Beast, pieces from the late nineteenth century to the present bring to the fore an art form that would perhaps otherwise go unappreciated. “Golden Impressions,” an exhibit of jewelry by local goldsmith Donald Pywell inspired by paintings by Andrew Wyeth, is similarly impressive. Necklaces, earrings, brooches, and bracelets, hand crafted over three decades by Pywell as gifts for Wyeth’s wife Betsy, are shown in displays designed by Chadds Ford artist Mark Cole that are themselves works of art.

In addition to the exhibits, the museum will be presenting its much-anticipated Annual Critter Sale on December 1 and 2, featuring hand-crafted “critter” ornaments made by museum volunteers; the sale will take place in the museum’s lecture room (admission is free). Also on December 1, from 10am to noon, author Paige Singer and illustrator Rob Dionne will be at the museum signing copies of their newly published children’s book, Teasel and Twigs: ‘Tis a Christmas Critter Tale. Proceeds from both events will benefit the Museum Volunteers’ Art Purchase Fund. 

On our way out of the museum, we perused the artisans’ booths in the outdoor courtyard. Quilts, jewelry, wooden bowls and ornaments, calligraphy, and other wares—all locally made—are available for purchase each weekend. The museum’s indoor gift shop, featuring a wonderful assortment of items (including some of those phenomenal pop-up books), is open during regular museum hours. After a brisk but beautiful stroll on the museum’s grounds along the Brandywine, my family and I returned home to a treat of hot tea sweetened by the local Swarmbustin’ Honey we purchased in the courtyard, marveling at how the museum truly has something for everyone to enjoy.

“A Brandywine Christmas” will be on display at the Brandywine River Museum, located on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, through January 6. The museum is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 9:30am to 4:30pm. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors ages 65 and over, $6 for students and children ages 6–12, and free for children under 6 and Brandywine Conservancy members. To find out more about the benefits of membership, visit the museum website!

—Michele Kornegay

Unplugged

I’ll admit it; I’m probably a little bit too “connected.” With my iPhone always in my hand, I’m usually switching from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, then on to email, text messaging, the stock market app, and Huffington Post—and let’s not forget Fruit Ninja. I could say that I need to stay on top of everything because of work, but that wouldn’t entirely be true. It’s become a habit, an all-too-familiar one in our modern age.

So what struck me most when I walked across the wooden walkway and entered the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation, located on 112 acres inside Ridley Creek State Park, was the silence. Other than the wind rustling through the trees and the sound of a rooster crowing, it was quiet—noticeably so. I slowed down my pace, breathed in deeply, and put my iPhone in my purse—and I didn’t reach for it again until I left, several hours later.

The Plantation seeks to re-create the life of an Edgmont farm family during the mid-eighteenth century. Owned during this time by the Pratts, Quakers who purchased the property in 1720, the land belonged to the family until 1833. The property was privately owned and used as a home until the 1950s. In April 1976, in honor of the Bicentennial Year of our country, the Plantation began welcoming the public as a living history site. Now open on weekends from spring through early December, the Plantation, staffed by volunteers with a true passion for making history come alive, provides visitors with a remarkable look back at our country’s early days.

I lingered as I walked the grounds of the Plantation, stopping to photograph the beautiful fall foliage and to visit with the piglets in their stall (the Plantation is also home to sheep, chickens, and geese that roam throughout the grounds; a horse named Abigail; and Frye, a steer), but the smell of a wood fire coming from the house invited me to keep moving. I was told before I arrived that I’d be able to see a demonstration of authentic Colonial hearth cooking, and this was something I’d been anticipating all week.

When I walked through the front door of the Plantation home and into the kitchen, I was greeted by Vicki, a 9-year volunteer; Sue, who’s been at the Plantation for 2 years; and young Miriam, who’s been volunteering with her father David for 3 years. Vicki was in the midst of cooking, which is how she spends much of her time as a volunteer. All of her cooking is done authentically according to the time period—using the methods and ingredients our forbears would have used. She stepped into and out of the huge hearth, moving cast iron pots from place to place as she prepared a meal, as she does each weekend, for her fellow volunteers.

What’s unique about the Plantation, as opposed to other historical sites and museums, is that visitors are invited to touch and experience everything they see. Sit on the chairs, dig your hands into a basket of freshly shorn wool, pull water from the well—none of it is off limits. I took a brief tour of the house with Sue and the grounds with David, but when Miriam rang the dinner bell, I headed back to the kitchen quickly, anxious to try the meal to which I’d been so graciously invited.

 

I’ve eaten at many of the area’s finest restaurants; you could say it’s a hobby of mine. But I’ve got to say, that meal of Swiss chard with potatoes, onions, and sorrel; pumpkin soup with clove; and fresh-out-of-the-hearth wheat bread with preserves made from raspberries picked in the park was the most soul-satisfying one I’ve had in quite some time. Maybe it was the company of those who enjoy what they do so much, maybe it was the warmth of the fire, maybe it was the stillness of the moment. I can’t quite put my finger on it—but what I do know is that during that meal I felt a deep appreciation for those who came before us and worked together to create what we have today. I can think of no better testament to the hard-working volunteers at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation than that.

The Plantation will be open on weekends through December 8. This weekend (October 27 and 28), join them for their annual Halloween at the Plantation celebration from 11am to 5pm each day (last entry at 4pm). Visitors can enjoy story times, a puppet show, trick-or-treating, visits with the animals, a mock witch trial, and demonstrations of candle making, corn husk dolls, box loom rug-making, and more. Other upcoming special events include a Militia Muster with the 4th Legionary Cavalry on November 10 and Christmas on the Farm on December 8. For more information on these and other happenings at the Plantation, visit their website at colonialplantation.org.

—Michele Kornegay

A Brandywine Christmas: Pt. 4

Did you know that the Brandywine River Museum’s train collection has had the same conductor for 35 years? It’s the responsibility of museum employee Steven Clarke to work year-round to prepare for the six-week display – repairing trains, maintaining the equipment and organizing teams of volunteers for the massive set-up effort.
“Most train displays are either old, wonderful and valuable trains displayed in cases or realistic working models of specific times and locations,” explains Clarke. “We are a combination of both.”
Frequently, Clarke has to play mechanic to rebuild and customize the trains in order to make these objects meant to by toys able to run “industrially” – pulling 150-car freight trains for nine hours straight, seven days a week for six weeks. Clarke compares the train display like prepping for a stage production and his audience is rarely disappointed.
“I don’t think children these days are used to playing with toy trains like they used to,” Clarke continues. “We used to play with toys you built yourself. Children today mostly play with virtual toys, I think, so it’s a novelty to see real things actually doing real things.
“When I was a kid, my Dad was a junior officer and money was tight. When we went somewhere, it was a big deal. That’s why I tell the volunteers that our job is to make the display nice for everyone – it doesn’t matter who you think they are. Everyone who comes, chooses to come here. They easily could have gone somewhere else and we need to be prepared to show them a great display. That tends to be the guiding principle of my showmanship.” Well this sums up our Brandywine Christmas series. Thanks for following along, we hope you all enjoyed reading!

A Brandywine Christmas: Pt. 3

Yesterday, you learned the train and ornament tradition of A Brandywine Christmas. Now we will learn another tradition that has been around for quite some time. Another facet of the Brandywine Christmas tradition comes from the legacy of N.C. Wyeth’s youngest daughter, Ann Wyeth McCoy, who began collecting beautiful bisque dolls in her childhood. Through the generosity of her children, more than 60 dolls will be arranged in small groups as though engaged in familiar wintertime activities, dressed in antique doll clothing or costumes designed and sewn by Mrs. McCoy from antique fabrics.
While Mrs. McCoy began collecting the dolls at the age of eight, she didn’t acquire a dollhouse for her beloved toys until 1966 when her husband, artist John McCoy, renovated a former tool shed that was on their summer property near Port Clyde, Maine. Mr. McCoy divided the interior into two floors with six main rooms and added a bow window, chimney and front porch. The “dollhouse” – significantly larger than most – measures 8 x 10 feet and stands 9 ½ feet high, large enough for two people to walk into.
The dollhouse was moved decades ago to the McCoys’ Pennsylvania property and is a featured part of the 2011 Christmas display. During her life, Mrs. McCoy decorated the rooms and furnished them with pieces from her collection. She especially enjoyed decorating the house for Christmas, recalling her own childhood when Christmas was the special purview of her father. From an old fashioned Christmas tree to the scaled reproduction of N. C. Wyeth’s Old Kris that hangs above the mantelpiece in the living room, the McCoy dollhouse is a delightful miniature world.
And so, the question is this: what are you asking for this year at Christmastime? Maybe to experience again the wide-eyed excitement of seeing a train coming around the track? Being able – as an adult – to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of the dolls your grandmother had in her parlor? Perhaps your family tradition is picking out an annual critter for your tree, in order to one day hand them down to a special little someone. However – and with whomever – you choose to enjoy A Brandywine Christmas, it’s guaranteed to make your holiday season magically bright. Stay tuned for some fun facts about our train collection!

A Brandywine Christmas: Pt. 2

Yesterday, we learned about what A Brandywine Christmas meant for some families. Today, we will take a closer look at what makes this experience so special for many. The trains have been a part of A Brandywine Christmas since 1971, with Steven Clarke serving as the curator for the past 35 years. The layout features “O” gauge trains running on approximately 2,000 feet of track. Both scale model and toy trains are included, including one car that features a camera to provide an engineer’s view through a mounted monitor. Some train “celebrities” – a.k.a. Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends – can often been seen in the layout which is home to a town, a working train yard, model dairy, quarry, oil refinery, concrete plant and Herrs Food factory. And yes, even Santa and his sleigh fly over the busy scene.
Just as famous as the train display – perhaps even more so – is the grand collection of whimsical “critter” ornaments that appear every holiday season. The critters, made by volunteers from dried flowers, grasses, seeds and pods, fill several themed Christmas trees within the museum. For many families, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without admiring these natural little charmers who have been around since the early days of the museum when a group of volunteers decorated a small tree with natural materials, to emphasize the museum’s role as part of the Brandywine Conservancy.
Those first ornaments were somewhat simple creations, but as the years have gone by, the critters have become more and more elaborate, eventually gaining national attention. In 1984, museum volunteers were asked to decorate the main Christmas tree in the Reagan White house and more than 3,000 critters were required for the project. Critters have also been on display at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. No matter where they are, they always bring delight to the audiences who admire them.
“In addition to the trains, my daughters also loved the Christmas trees adorned with ornaments made from pinecones, twigs, and other forest finds,” continues Fackler, the mom of two from Ambler, PA. “They were so delighted to see the little “woodland creatures” the artists created.”
And artists, they are. Every year, over 100 volunteers give Santa’s elves a run for their money as they gather to create the ornaments in a workshop on the conservancy campus. These dedicated critter creators work for over 30,000 hours in order to make almost 9,000 ornaments – some for display, but most for the popular Annual Critter Sale, scheduled this year for Saturday, December 3rd and Sunday, December 4th from 9:30am to 4:30pm. (Following the sale, critters can be purchased at the Museum Shop with proceeds benefiting the Volunteers’ Art Purchase Fund, which has added more than 200 paintings, drawings and prints to the Museum’s holdings since 1975.) That’s all for today folks! Please come back tomorrow to learn more about this special occasion!

Note:
Founded in 1971, the Brandywine River Museum holds American art, especially the foremost collection of art by members of the Wyeth family, including N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth. The museum also features renowned collections of American illustration, landscape and still life painting. The museum is located in a restored, mid-19th century grist mill on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania along the banks of the Brandywine River. A Brandywine Christmas runs from November 25th, 2011 through January 8th, 2012. The museum is open daily, 9:30am to 4:30pm, except Christmas Day, and with extended hours until 6:00pm December 26th through 30th. Admission is $10 for adults; $6 for seniors ages 65 and over, students, and children over six; free for children under six and museum members. Due to the large number of visitors during the holiday season, the museum is unable to accommodate baby strollers. For more information, call 610-388-2700 or visit www.brandywinemuseum.org.

A Brandywine Christmas Pt. 1

Every December, the Brandywine River Museum transforms into an old-fashioned winter wonderland, faithfully delivering the Christmas spirit to children of all ages.

Christmas is truly a magical time. All you have to do is take a few moments and watch the anticipation of a child filling out his Christmas list, trying to choose which Christmas cookie she should take off the tray or staring in amazement as they sit on the lap of a man with a long white beard.
Sometimes, these days, catching those moments is a little more challenging than it used to be. In a world where everything seems to be instant, it’s important to take time to appreciate loved ones and make memories…and that’s what makes A Brandywine Christmas at the Brandywine River Museum such a beloved tradition.
For decades, families have visited the museum to see the extensive model train layout, adorable and all-natural “critter” ornaments and charming antique doll collection as an important part of their own holiday celebration. As a matter of fact, A Brandywine Christmas is such a Delaware Country tradition that it isn’t very difficult to find people enthusiastic about the memories they have.
“We went to the River Museum when my children were 6 and 7 years old,” says Susan Taylor, an Army wife currently living in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. “It was a tough Christmas for us (as their Dad was deployed in Iraq at the time) so I was all about making memories for them. The trains at the Brandywine River Museum did not disappoint! We were all just blown away by the details in the displays; we even talked about which one we would pick to live in if we could. It was especially neat to share this experience with my own parents – showing that this truly is an attraction that appeals to all ages.”
Janel Fackler, a stay-at-home mother of two from Ambler, Pennsylvania, agrees that the exhibit is a great one to visit.
“I took my daughters, ages 2 & 4, to the Brandywine River Museum, along with my parents and my sister,” she explains. “The train display was definitely a highlight of the visit for all of us. My father, who has been a train enthusiast for years, both enjoyed and appreciated the intricacy of the set and my daughters loved that there were so many moving parts, and that they could look for Santa in the scene. This was a fun, inexpensive day trip, which added to the magic of the Christmas season.”
The trains – as well as the entire seasonal display – have also been an important tradition to the Naismith family of Media, Pennsylvania.
“We have gone almost every year with the boys, from toddler age to last year at ages 18, 16 and 14,” says mom Louise. “They love to see the additions and changes to the layout. We even “steal” ideas for our own train setup under our tree!” Please check back tomorrow for some more train and ornament stories!

Philadelphia Racecar Museum Gets Visitors Revved

All little boys — and a good share of little girls — at one time or another play racecar. Gripping a death-defying speed, flashy colors and shouts of “vroom, vroooooom.”

No child imagines a racecar parked behind a velvet rope — where’s the excitement in that? They want to feel the sound of the engines reverberate in their ribs, hear the squeal of tires on asphalt, and smell the rubber, the leather and the gasoline.

And that is exactly why the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum is so much fun.

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum is located at 6825 Norwitch Dr., Philadelphia, PA 19153, directly behind the Airport Auto Mall and 5 minutes off of Interstate 95. The museum is open on Tuesday–Friday from 10am–6pm and Saturday–Sunday from 10am–4pm. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for students. Children under 8 are free when accompanied by a parent. Group rates are available. The museum partners with the Marriott Airport Courtyard to accommodate guests staying overnight in the area. Visit the museum’s website to find discounted room rate pricing and availability. For more information, call 215-365-SAFE or visit www.simeonemuseum.org.

 

 

 



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Delaware County�s Brandywine CVB  |  1501 N. Providence Rd.  |  Media, PA 19063
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