Hundreds of people are camped out at the Swannanoa Palace on Afton Mountain this weekend for an annual homecoming. The event celebrates the teachings and philosophy of a couple that once lived in the mansion.
The center for the One Heart nonprofit has held the annual homecoming festival since 2006. Groups from across central Virginia have come together to share and learn under this year's theme - "The Power of Love in Action".
"Their purpose is to teach you to love one another and by loving one another, you are in balance, you are in light - that's what this place has always been about. Truly it's a magical mountain top," Michael Hudak said.
Hudak is the University of Science and Philosophy president and carries on the practices of Walter and Lao Russell, the couple that lived in the mansion previously.
"They lived in this house for 50 years. This was their headquarters for giving out and disseminating their illuminated knowledge - the purpose of which was to teach universal law based upon natural science expressing the living philosophy," he said.
Their work and teachings are at the heart of the homecoming festival held at the Swannanoa estate each year.
"It's a little bit of sort of a metaphysical Woodstock. We have food, we have vendors selling jewelry, and wearable art, and doing massage and Rekei readings and taro readings," Richard Dulaney of the One Heart Center said.
The event started in 2006 to give people interested in similar practices a platform for outreach and networking.
"We'll be teaching people how the mind works, how your bioenergy fields work, how they interact with other people. We have it all animated so they can see that," Geoffrey Bullington, a spiritual cosmologist said.
Organizers say it's a chance for followers to connect with themselves and others around them.
"We call it homecoming not so much as an alma mater - even though the University of Science and Philosophy was here for 50 years and not so much even homecoming to the place Swannanoa. It's really a homecoming to our own heart," Dulaney said.
The festival continues Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Swannanoa Palace. A $7 parking pass gets guests access to all the vendors and activities.