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After a relatively mild winter, cherry blossoms are expected to hit peak bloom in mid-to-late March.

Today the National Park Service predicted 70% of the blossoms along the Tidal Basin will reach their peak between March 23-26, about the same time as last year.

This year’s peak is a few days earlier than historical averages — and getting harder to predict given warmer winters and big temperature changes, the Washington Post reports.

For now, the blossoms are in their budding stage, leaving bloom seekers a few weeks to plan for excursions and events.

For those seeking to avoid the D.C. crowds, there are a number of blossom options here in Arlington.

One notable destination is Arlington National Cemetery, which has cherry trees in a handful of locations on its 624-acre property. Locals can also find clusters of cherry trees at Welburn Square in Ballston, Quincy Park in Virginia Square, Long Bridge Park in Crystal City, in parts of the aptly named Cherrydale, and elsewhere.

As for events, the National Landing Business Improvement District is hosting “Pink in the Park,” a three-weekend series of cherry blossom events featuring live entertainment, food and activities.

The series kicks off Saturday, March 23 with the “Art of Pink,” a pop-up market showcasing local artists and small businesses. It will be held from 1-5 p.m. at Metropolitan Park (1330 S. Fair Street), the public park next to Amazon’s second headquarters.

Next up is a kid-friendly event, “Pink in the Pool,” on April 6 at the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center (333 Long Bridge Drive). From 9 a.m. to noon, attendees can enjoy free access to the pool and free snacks, and participate in an origami class, tea tasting and a story time.

The series will finish off with “Pink Beats” on April 16 at the Crystal City Water Park (1601 Crystal Drive), where guests can listen to live music from local acts and sample food from the park’s dozen vendors from 4-9 p.m.

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After moving from one temporary location to another on Columbia Pike, The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington has settled into its new digs — for now.

The museum is currently located on the first floor of the Ethiopian Community Development Council building (3045B Columbia Pike), but it has bounced around the Pike ever since it transitioned from an online museum to a physical location in 2018.

Museum President and Director Scott Taylor tells ARLnow he is still looking for a permanent home for the museum that stays close to the Pike.

“We were across the street, then we were down the street, now we’re here,” said Taylor. “I would love us to stay in this corridor of Columbia Pike because there’s so much history here.”

Taylor told ARLnow that the museum’s current location was built on Camp Casey, which was an African American Civil War camp from 1862-1865. The home of an enslaved man in the late 1800s, is down the street and the historical African American neighborhood of Queen City was located nearby. Back in the day, he said, the Pike had clear views of Arlington House, the historic home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Taylor’s appreciation for history is what has kept him at the museum without any compensation. He said that the stories of his ancestors inspire him.

“I’m always around these stories and these people, so it gives me energy just to keep pushing,” said Taylor.

Taylor devotes a lot of time and energy toward the museum’s success, which has seen an uptick in attendance this month for Black History Month. Much of that time is spent on fundraising to cover the high cost of rent and exhibits, as the museum does not receive aid. Amazon gave the museum a grant in 2019 but since then, the money for the exhibits have come out of his own pocket.

“Right before Covid, I was driving an Uber as a part-time to have money to pay for the things that we needed here,” said Taylor.

Taylor also said that he would host fundraisers, sell merchandise and write a monthly newsletter to inform people about the museum.

Despite the financial hardships, Taylor said that he does this work “all day, every day” because it matters to him.

“I live and breathe this and I don’t expect anybody else to do that,” said Taylor.

The museum has kept busy in February co-hosting events for Black History Month, but there are a few more to look out for as the month closes out. They include a photo scavenger hunt featuring historic landmarks, taking place all this month, and, in partnership with the Arlington Historical Society, the installation of “stumbling blocks,” or bricks with the names of enslaved people, at former Arlington plantations.

Taylor said he is happy the museum is involved in partnerships this year as opposed to hosting individual events. He said that he hopes more partnerships come outside of Black History Month.

“I’m trying to convey to people that you don’t have to just do this once a month or once a year — we can do this all-year round,” said Taylor.

Taylor said that Black history is American history and that it should not only receive attention in February. He said he hopes his efforts at the museum will have the impact on others that it did on him.

“Arlington is creating a voice for these people, a lot of them were enslaved at one time, a lot of them sacrificed their time, jobs and livelihoods to make things better for me,” said Taylor. “Hopefully, I’m doing the same. “

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A florist from Eastern Europe is bringing her passion for flowers to Arlington.

What started as an online business for floral delivery has blossomed into a brick-and-mortar storefront, Kat Flowers Design and Decor, which had its grand opening at 2342 Columbia Pike this past Friday, Feb. 9.

Yekaterina Allotey, the owner and lead designer, told ARLnow that she stumbled on the future home of her flower shop by accident, while pushing her baby in a stroller along the Pike. Once she laid eyes on the location, she knew it was the place for her.

Allotey says the Columbia Pike community welcomed her with open arms.

“You don’t feel alone when you’re starting something big like a floral business or flower shop,” said Allotey. “It’s so important to have supporters or someone who actually appreciates you here.”

Supporters from all over came to help Allotey settle in. She said her family flew from her home country of Belarus, as well as from Spain, for opening day. Other floral businesses showed their support at the ribbon-cutting, too.

“We are friends with every other shop I used to work with,” said Allotey. “We support each other.”

While the florist says she loves her new home, she still clings to memories of home.

Allotey told ARLnow that her fascination with flowers was sparked in her childhood home in Belarus, where her mother always displayed outdoor plants and flowers in the front and backyard of the house and had some arrangements inside, too.

“I remember in the summertime, when I would have guests coming over, she would ask me, ‘Hey, can you go pick up some flowers so that we can put them on the table as a centerpiece?” she said.

Allotey also recalled obsessing over flowers while at school, spending all of her lunch money on floral and landscaping garden magazines. Little did she know that her childhood obsession would become her career.

“I didn’t know that, at that moment, I was going to be a florist, ” said Allotey. “I think that’s where everything started.”

From then on, Allotey did everything she could to be around flowers. Before coming to the U.S., Allotey worked at a small wedding business, where she sometimes worked with flowers but mostly, due to the high price of flowers, decorated with drapes.

Allotey immigrated to the U.S. and settled on the East Coast, working for other floral shops before starting an online flower business in 2021. Now that her online business has transitioned to a physical storefront, she is eager to connect with customers face-to-face.

“Right now I’m waiting for more walk-in customers to buy flowers,” Allotey said.

As of Tuesday, Allotey served 40 customers and she says she hopes for an even bigger turnout today for Valentine’s Day. She says she is fully stocked up for the day of love and touted her arrangements and specialty roses.

“We have six special bouquets. We don’t use regular roses: Our roses are garden-style and it’s not like something you buy from any other grocery stores,” she said.

Allotey is also willing to break outside the mold of a traditional floral designer. She and her team have done unique requests ranging from money bouquets to sparkling powder on roses.

“None of the florists I worked for would ever accept this type of request because they have their style,” Allotey said.

She says she even works with artificial flowers, if that is what the customer wants.

“I want to try to keep quality and delivery,” said Allotey.  “You know they say happy customer, happy shop.”

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One meeting down and two more to go before recommendations could emerge for a new name to adorn the forthcoming Arlington Career Center building.

Arlington Public Schools last month created a naming committee to discuss potential names for the new building, which will house the Arlington Career Center and the handful of programs within it, including Arlington Tech. As the committee has just starting meeting, no contenders have yet emerged for the building on S. Walter Reed Drive, slated for completion in the fall of 2026.

“It’s been a really great learning experience because we found out that there are clear criteria for how you name a new building in Arlington,” such as inclusive discussions with the community and a pick that reflects its values and the education happening inside, says Margaret Chung, the principal of the Arlington Career Center (ACC).

“Whether you’re within or without from outside, when you hear that name it’s like ‘Ah yeah, I get it, that’s who you are,” she continued.

Monica Caldera, the ACC diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator, says that starting this conversation has helped administrators “to see many perspectives about changing the name and what that means to people.”

The building name matters to ACC staff, who say the Career Center inside is set apart from Arlington’s comprehensive high schools by its name and function. While it offers more career-readiness programming than a typical high school, it is not a “vocational” school, per se.

“I think the term vocational gets into people’s minds of, ‘Oh ok, so you’re only going to go into a shop and you’re going to learn that skill and then you’re going to go out and do that skill, ” said Michelle Van Lare, the program coordinator for Arlington Tech. “And it’s really limiting to a high school student to be told that’s the track that you’re on.”

Instead, she says, ACC offers hands-on programs to students in grades 9-12 that teach skills necessary for their academic or professional goals.

“You can be in auto mechanics and in physics at the same time and learning the same material, but in one you’re actually doing it and in the other one, you’re sitting in the classroom writing about it,” said Van Lare. “That’s how we learn.”

In addition to its core curriculum, Arlington Public Schools offers Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses students either take at the Career Center or at their local high school. About half of all students in grades 9-12, or 4,000, take CTE courses, with 1,000 students either enrolled at the Career Center or traveling to and from there for a course, Career, Technical and Adult Education Director Kris Martini told the School Board last month. ACC students can also take dual-enrollment classes and graduate with an associate’s degree.

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A century ago, a stately brick building in Virginia Square was an elementary school. Now it is the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington (MoCA), perhaps currently best known for a horizontal Lady Liberty out front.

Putting “Reclining Liberty” on the front lawn is looking like a smart marketing move for the recently rebranded museum.

The national monument, in repose, caught people’s attention and sparked an increase in attendance, MoCA Executive Director Catherine Anchin tells ARLnow.

“We will see people walking by, stop and taking pictures, there have been children and people climbing on it and taking their photos with it,”  she said. “That’s what the artist wants, for the public to really engage with the work directly; touch it, feel it, and really consider it.”

That is what Blair Murphy, MoCA’s exhibitions curator, says the museum wants, too.

“We’re really interested in being an accessible sort of warm place where people can come and get an introduction and maybe meet some artists and talk to them about their work and feel like they are comfortable in the space,” Murphy said.

On a recent tour of the museum, Anchin told ARLnow that in decades past, the building was less a museum and more of a studio space that served to “connect the community to contemporary art and artists.” It was founded in 1974 by a group of contemporary artists, who named it the “Community Art Council of Arlington.”

Since then, the organization morphed into the Arlington Arts Center before becoming the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington in 2022. Anchin says the new name does a better job of signaling people can visit.

“The word museum signals to the general public and people walking by that ’That’s a place I can go in, it’s a public space, and it’s somewhere where I can go to see something,’” said Anchin. “The organization has evolved with the community and the name change and the rebrand was just another step in the organization’s evolution and enabled us to grow and serve more people.”

Beyond changing the name, MoCA has added new programs to help people engage with the space and the art. Guests can do yoga in the galleries Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Mondays at 6:30 p.m. or hit up upcoming one-time events, including a sound bath next Saturday at 2 p.m. and a comics for teens contest on March 1.

Now through March 17, visitors can see “Hitched to Everything Else,” an exhibit depicting “where human infrastructure interrupts or collides with the natural environment” and highlighting “humans’ conflicted relationship to nature.

Next up is “Solace and Sisterhood” (Feb. 22-May 26), in which a trio of friends of African descent explore the importance of Black sisterhood through topics such as self-identity, Black female beauty and spiritual discovery. A limited-time solo exhibition series by Mid-Atlantic-based artists will kick off March 30 and end April 6.

Outside its four walls, the museum brings art to local schools and affordable housing communities and has a foothold in Pentagon City. There, it offers “MoCA on the Move,” a free art-making activity at Met Park sponsored by Amazon, and recently opened its Innovation Studio + Store, which offers free classes and opportunities to meet new artists, within Amazon’s second headquarters.

For its 50th anniversary, MoCA will put on an exhibition inspired by the organization’s history, with details to be finalized in the coming months, says Anchin.

Al Minor, who has curated for Georgetown University’s art galleries, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Hirshhorn Museum, created a show that will “include artists from every decade of MoCA Arlington’s history while reflecting the vision, range, adventurousness, and ambition of the museum’s 50 year legacy,” she said.

“As the only art museum in the region founded by artists, we thought it was fitting to work with one of the area’s most accomplished artist-curators for our 50th anniversary exhibition,” Anchin continued.

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This spring, tackle cleaning out that junk drawer full of electronics or the garage with leftover paint and old lightbulbs.

Next month marks the return of Arlington County’s Environmental Collection and Recycling Event (E-CARE). On Saturday, March 23, residents can safely dispose of old electronics and household hazardous materials.

This biannual event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wakefield High School (1325 S. Dinwiddie Street). There will be several collection areas where Arlington residents can drop off their unwanted items.

Residents are asked to bring proof of Arlington residency and to pack their vehicles in reverse order, with electronics going in first and hazardous materials afterward.

Below is a list of items that will be accepted and not accepted, per the county website.

  • Automotive fluids
  • Batteries
  • Care care products
  • Compact fluorescent light bulbs
  • Corrosives (acids/caustics)
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Flammable solvents
  • Fluorescent tubes
  • Fuels/petroleum products
  • Household cleaners
  • Lawn and garden chemicals
  • Mercury
  • Paint products (25-can limit)
  • Photographic chemicals
  • Poisons
  • Printer ink/toner cartridges
  • Propane gas cylinders (small hand-held or larger)
  • Swimming pool chemicals

Items containing mercury, such as thermostats and thermometers, will also be collected.

Metal items, bicycle donations and business and commercial waste will not be accepted, along with these items:

  • Asbestos
  • Explosives and ammunition
  • Freon
  • Medical wastes
  • Prescription medications
  • Radioactive materials
  • Smoke detectors

Residential trash, recycling and yard waste customers can request request free curbside removal of computers, keyboards, copiers, scanners, printers, cell phones and televisions online or by calling 703-228-5000. There is a small fee for picking up for older cathode ray TVs and computer monitors, the county website says.

Arlington County residents and employees who miss the event can drop off their hazardous household materials year-round at a recycling center at 530 31st Street S., near Crystal City.

Scrap metal, appliances and electronics can be dropped off at the Earth Products Yard in Shirlington at 4300 29th Street S. or scheduled for pickup for a fee. Inert material such as cement can also be taken to the Shirlington facility.

Unsure of where to dispose of something? Look up specific disposal instructions using this county tool.

Photos via Dept. of Environmental Services/Flickr

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The Rosslyn skyline and Arlington National Cemetery at sunset (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County awarded $225,000 in grants to five local startups working to solve problems in their respective industries, from keeping track of freight trucks to helping veterans with disabilities.

The five winning startups are the first to receive grants — of $25,000 to $50,000 apiece — from the Arlington Innovation Fund. This new pot of money, which the county approved last year, is intended to support early-stage tech companies, particularly those owned by women, veterans and minorities, while pushing down office vacancy rates.

Arlington Economic Development (AED), which oversees the fund, says it selected the five startups from 22 applicants because of “their executive and and technical capabilities, as well as their potential for significant revenue growth and societal impact.”

The companies are as follows:

  • Dispatchr Technologies, LLC, which developed software to reduce the energy costs and carbon emissions of power plants.
  • Freely Payments, LLC, which aims to cut processing fees when  businesses accept credit card payments from customers.
  • GenLogs Corporation, an artificial intelligence company that tracks freight trucks and tractor-trailers.
  • Phalanx AI, Inc., a cybersecurity company that helps protect sensitive documents in online products such as Office 365 and Google Workspace.
  • Seamless Transition, a medical device company that helps wounded veterans transition from active duty to civilian life through use of “a prosthetic knee that mimics the movement of natural human limbs.”

“We are excited to support these innovative companies in their startup journey as they launch, scale and advance out-of-the-box solutions right here in Arlington,” AED Business Investment Group Director Michael Stiefvater in a statement. “Their dedication to innovation and entrepreneurship aligns with Arlington’s vision as a leading technology hub offering a dynamic and inclusive business environment for startups.”

The grants can be used for business expenses such as hiring employees, leasing office space, and purchasing equipment. Many recipients told AED they plan to add new hires, enhance current features of their products and increase their marketing presence.

One entrepreneur, Seamless Transition CEO Sarah Malinowski, said she plans to patent the design of the prosthetic knee.

“With these resources, we’ll be able to secure a full patent for our innovative design using the current provisional patent,” said Malinowski. “This grant propels us forward on our trajectory, eliminating any potential delays and allowing us to focus unwaveringly on out mission.”

AIF still has $425,000 to award, having received $650,000 in the county’s 2024 budget. A second round of applications opened yesterday (Monday) and will close on March 10.

Depending on how many approved in the second round, there may be enough funding for a third, AED spokeswoman Destiny Esper told ARLnow.

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Tattoo lovers from all over are expected to gather in Arlington next weekend for the DC Tattoo Expo.

The 13th annual event, beginning on Friday, Feb. 16, has been “completely revamped” from years prior, according to its hosts, Exposed Temptations Tattoo and Baller Incorporated.

In the past, the expo has offered contests, live entertainment and special guests from the reality show “Ink Master.” This year, attendees can look forward to more live art and entertainment as well as opportunities to shop and get tattoos and body piercings, according to the website.

“It will be the best, not the biggest, but the best show we’ve ever had,” the hosts said.

Returning guests may notice some familiar faces from previous years, including burlesque dancer Cervena Fox and sword-swallowing couple Captain and Maybelle. The Miss DC Pin Up Contest, a fashion contest that determines the best old-school pin-up fashions, will also make a comeback.

Attendees can also showcase the tattoos they came with or those they get while at the expo.

The expo will start at 1 p.m. on Feb. 16 at the Sheraton Pentagon City hotel, located along Columbia Pike at 900 S. Orme Street. It will wrap up on Sunday, Feb. 18. The full event schedule is available on the event website.

Guests can purchase tickets at the door on each day of the expo.

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Black History Month event at Arlington Public Library in 2023 (Courtesy of Daniel Rosenbaum)

(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Black History Month starts today and events are planned throughout the month in Arlington to honor the history and achievements of African Americans past and the present.

As Black History Month, February pays “tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society,” according to the Library of Congress.

Arlington Public Library will kick off a month of programming this Saturday (Feb. 3) at 1:30 p.m. with a presentation by Maryland-based oyster farmer Imani Black on the Black history of Chesapeake Bay aquaculture. The event is taking place at the Aurora Hills Library (735 18th Street S.).

Black comes from a 200-year lineage of watermen and today runs a nonprofit called Minorities In Aquaculture that supports underrepresented populations in aquaculture.

On Monday (Feb. 5), local nonprofit Coalition for Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) will host a panel discussion about the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies curriculum course. The new course is set to launch this year after coming under scrutiny from conservative critics, including former GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.

“African-American history is one of struggle and triumph, and its impact and importance to how it has shaped this country presently has a rightful place to be taught in this nation, as Black History is American History,” said CEO founder and board member Zakiya Worthey, in a press release. “Therefore, history must always be protected for our children and future generations.”

Attendees can register online for the discussion, to be held at Wakefield High School (1325 S. Dinwiddie Street) from 6-8 p.m.

Later this month, the Charles Drew Community Center will host the county’s annual “Feel the Heritage” festival. Held from 12-5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24, the festival showcases Arlington’s historical African American neighborhoods and will have live entertainment, food and tables and digital art displays from local vendors and artists.

The Dept. of Parks and Recreation has also organized a month-long Black History Month-themed scavenger hunt featuring “Sam Sandiego,” “a fun-loving spy who wants to help you discover the hidden gems in Arlington,” per a county webpage. Clues will be posted on Facebook and YouTube.

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From witty retellings to hyperlocal stories, Shakespeare to contemporary musicals, a wide range of shows is set to hit Arlington theaters this spring and summer.

Next Thursday is the opening night for the musical “Private Jones” (Feb. 6-March 10) at Signature Theatre. The audience will be taken on a journey, based on a true story, of a deaf Welsh sniper during World War I.

Also this spring, Signature will put on “Penelope” (March 5-April 21), which retells Homer’s epic about Odysseus from the perspective of his wife, Penelope, and “Where the Mountain Meets the Sea” (May 21-July 7), which follows a young man who tries to bond with his deceased father by retracing his steps through a journey across America.

Other upcoming Signature shows will let attendees relive the ’60s or experience for the first time and get a behind-the-scenes look at how the Broadway musical “Hair” came to be, leading up to the theater’s performance of the musical from April 16 to July 7.

Shakespeare lovers, meanwhile, can rejoice in a trio of plays this spring.

First up, from this coming Friday to Sunday, theater-goers can see a playwright reckon with Shakespeare’s legacy in “Historic Doubts” by Avant Bard Theatre. The show is being held at Mason Exhibitions Arlington, at 3601 Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square.

Next is Synetic Theater‘s rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” (Feb. 9-March 24), followed by an interactive adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” (Feb. 29-March 23), also by Avant Bard Theatre. In it, the audience becomes “directly involved and implicated in the conditioning of a man” who has been groomed into thinking antisocial brutality is normal.

The Arlington Players (TAP) will reprise the plays-about-plays genre in its two shows this spring. First up, starting this weekend, is “Anton in Show Business” (Feb. 3-18), about the “joys, pains and absurdities of putting on a play.”

Stories about acting continue in the “The Prom” (March 23-April 7) in which four struggling Broadway stars looking for their next break find it in small-town Indiana, where they help a young gay girl best a PTA set on not allowing her to bring her girlfriend to the high school dance. Both TAP productions will be held at Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre (125 S. Old Glebe Road).

Meanwhile, local children’s theater Encore Stage and Studio will start the year with an adaptation of the “Adventures of Swiss Family Robinson” (March 1-10). Director of Marketing and Design Aileen Christian says this show — also held at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center — “is full of humor with talking animals, silly characters, and the beloved treehouse.”

Next, Encore will revisit original theater pieces focused on Arlington’s African-American voices in a double feature of “The Day Nothing Happened” and “Nauck to Green Valley, Transforming a Community” (April 26-28).

Christian says she believes that these stories “share a special meaning right here in Arlington.” The show will take place at Theatre on the Run (3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive).

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Rumble Boxing Gym will open a new location in Courthouse in a few months.

The gym, which offers fast-paced boxing classes, will be located on the ground-floor level of The Commodore, a recently completed apartment building at 2055 15th Street N.

Rumble expects the new location to open in “late spring.” It will be joined by a Japanese restaurant and bar called Gingerfish and a handful of other still unannounced businesses.

The New York City-based fitness chain has some 17 locations, including local outposts in Ashburn and D.C., as well as one that’s opening imminently in Falls Church.

Maria Grenke, who co-owns the local locations, told ARLnow that the Arlington expansion is an attempt to “connect the Rumble community and offer members more options in terms of staying on track of their fitness journey.”

Grenke met her husband and future business partner, Brad, in a fitness-based martial arts class and began training together.

“After successful careers in finance and technology, we were looking for our next chapter and Rumble was the perfect fit,” Maria Grenke said. “We were part of an inclusive community, developed fighting skills (in and out of the ring), and always put in the work. Sounds just like Rumble, right?”

After opening another Rumble in Philadelphia, the newest location in Arlington marks a return to the D.C. area for the couple, who were both raised here.

“[It is] definitely a full circle moment for us,” she said. “We [are] excited to bring the good vibes and killer workout to one of the fastest growing areas in the country.”

To celebrate the opening, Rumble is planning a free “Love Yourself” open-house event on Sunday, Feb. 11, at the gym at 2001 M St NW in D.C. There will be giveaways, samples from wellness lifestyle partners, and a chance to meet the owners.

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