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The 58th annual Miracle on 23rd Street (Photo courtesy of Melwood)

A miracle is shutting down a portion of 23rd Street S. near Crystal City tonight (Friday).

The 58th edition of the holiday event “Miracle on 23rd Street” is taking place on Friday night from 7-9 p.m. at 750 23rd Street S. in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood.

The event will feature a Christmas tree lighting, hot chocolate, a “holiday-themed virtual reality experience,” music from the Bluemont Brass Quintet, and, of course, an appearance from Santa Claus, who usually arrives via fire truck. It is being put on by the local non-profit Melwood, which advocates and employs people with differing abilities.

Online registrations are being requested, though walk-up attendees will be accepted.

“Miracle on 23rd Street” will also close a one block stretch of traffic in both directions for several hours.

From 6-9 p.m., 23rd Street S. in between S. Hayes Street and S. Grant Street will be closed off to vehicular traffic, Arlington County police said.

Last year’s event was mostly virtual, though Santa did drive around the neighborhood.

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The lights are coming on at Shirlington next week.

On Thursday (Dec. 2), the Village at Shirlington is hosting the holiday event “Light Up the Village” from 6:00-8:30 p.m.

The event will feature a Christmas tree lighting, caroling from Bishop O’Connell students, strolling entertainment, performances from Signature Theatre, horse and carriage rides, and selfies with Santa. The evening is being emceed by NBC Channel 4’s Jummy Olabanji and will benefit event partner non-profit Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).

While horse and carriage rides are free and there’s no need to sign up in advance, donations to AFAC are welcomed.

“Donations of non-perishables and cash to benefit AFAC will be accepted from those taking a horse and carriage ride,” writes a spokesperson for Federal Realty Investment Trust, which owns the retail and restaurant center, which is set for eventual redevelopment. “AFAC volunteers will be onsite at the horse and carriage rides to collect these donations.”

Attendees will be able to “sip and stroll” with an an alcoholic drink from a local, participating restaurant.

Performers and musicians from Signature Theatre’s current production of Rent will be performing about a half dozen holiday and winter songs during the event as well.

Shirlington has seen a number of new businesses put down roots recently. In the last two months, Bearded Goat Barbershop, CHIKO, and F45 gym all have opened.

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The former Clarendon Ballroom is once again being transformed into a winter wonderland for the holiday season.

The ownership group behind the Lot, the nearby and popular outdoor beer garden, is putting together the seasonal pop-up. It will open on Friday at 8 p.m. and continue through January, a company spokesperson writes ARLnow in response to an inquiry.

“Guests can expect new holiday drinks, a totally winterized change in decor, and an awesome lineup of events in the space!,” writes the spokesperson.

Cocktails will include ones with festive names like the “Polar Express” (Grey goose, blueberry vodka, blueberry Red Bull with a “white shimmer”) and the christmas cookie-flavored “Ornament Shooters.”

“They’re also bringing back the popular “Jingle Juice Punch,” which is made with a secret recipe but includes White Claw seltzers,” notes the spokesperson.

There’s no cover and the pop-up bar will be open Friday and Saturday nights. This Friday’s “relaunch” party is set to feature DJ Vicious, according to the website.

This version will be pretty similar to last year’s winter wonderland, though it will actually be opened for the holiday season.

The 2020 version was reportedly delayed from opening due to “typical internal delays,” like equipment arriving on time. The County Board also didn’t approve the bar’s request for a live entertainment and dancing permit until mid-December. The food permit wasn’t approved until December 29.

“The winter wonderland theme received a lot of positive feedback last year! People loved the festive decorations, Christmas lights, and holiday spirit, and we’re excited to share this experience with our guests again,” Michael Bramson, co-owner of the pop-up bar, writes ARLnow. “The Winter Wonderland is quickly turning into one of our favorite holiday traditions.”

Since first popping up last year in the midst of the pandemic, Clarendon Pop-Up Bar has decked out the space at 3185 Wilson Blvd with a number of themes. Most recently, it traveled back time to the 1980s with hot pink and blue hues reminiscent of “Miami Vice.”

But the bar will be moving from the hot, sandy beaches of Miami to the cold, snowy landscape of the North Pole.

The long-time nightlife venue Clarendon Ballroom closed as its prior iteration nearly two years ago. In late December 2020, Monument Realty purchased the building at 3185 Wilson Blvd for nearly $7 million and signed a 21-month lease with the Lot’s owners to operate pop-up bars out of the space.

While there’s another nine months on that agreement, Monument Realty told Washington Business Journal that it was a possibility that the ownership group could take over the space permanently.

Another big difference compared from last year’s pop-up is that indoor capacity restrictions and mask requirements have been considerable loosened. There are no longer any capacity restrictions and masks are no longer required indoors, though they are encouraged.

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A local Christmas tree lot (courtesy of Peter Golkin)

(Updated at 6:30 p.m.) With cold weather here, holiday music returning, and Thanksgiving a week away, it’s time for many to pick out that perfect Christmas tree.

Arlington has several Christmas tree sales, though that number seems to have diminished in 2021 compared to recent years. Unsurprisingly the pandemic is playing a role, but another cause is a reported tree shortage.

Supply chain issues, wildfires and heat waves in the Pacific Northwest, shipping delays, and a pine tree pest infestation in Kentucky are all contributing factors to the nationwide shortage.

The Knights of Columbus Christmas tree lot at Our Lady of Lourdes, on 23rd Street S. near Crystal City, won’t be having a sale this year, after cancelling in 2020 due to Covid-related concerns. This time around, the shortage is the primary reason.

“Our supplier for the last 15 years recently informed us that he had supply chain issues and would not be able to provide us with trees this year,” a spokesperson told ARLnow. “We contacted various other farms in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia but none were able to provide trees either.”

They plan on coming back next year, however.

“We will work during the offseason to establish a relationship with a new supplier and plan on opening next year,” the group said.

The Arlington South Lions Club also won’t be having its sale near the intersection of Columbia Pike and Four Mile Run Drive in 2021, a club member said. It would have been the sale’s 59th year. The cancellation is not Covid- or shortage-related, we’re told.

Below is a list of sales that ARLnow has confirmed are happening.

  1. The Optimist Club of Arlington is holding its 75th annual sale at the corner of N. Glebe Road and Lee Highway, directly behind the Wells Fargo Bank and next to Metro 29 diner. It starts at noon on Friday, Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving. The sale will be daily until the trees are sold out. Organizers claim it to be “the LARGEST tree lot in all of Northern Virginia by volume” and sell about 2,500 trees a year. All trees are grown on the Virginia and North Carolina border and cut on Nov. 23 and Nov. 30. They recommend buying early since it’s anticipated they’ll sell out by Dec. 12. Proceeds go to youth sports programs and scholarships.
  2. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church at 4000 Lorcom Lane in Cherrydale also kicks off its sale on Friday, Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving. Two-hundred trees will from Vermont will be offered. The hours are Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Organizers are recommending buying early since 85% of the trees were sold during the first weekend. Volunteers are needed.
  3. The Clarendon United Methodist Church at 606 N. Irving Street is holding its pre-sale now with tree pick-up starting on Saturday, Nov. 27. There will also be a lot set up for those who wish to come in person. However, only 200 trees are available (plus a number of wreaths) and the church expects to sell out quickly. All the trees come from Canada, cost $75, and proceeds will go to the non-profit Arlington Thrive.
  4. The boys and girls of Scout Troop 167 are partnering with Mount Olivet United Methodist Church at 1500 N. Glebe Road in the Ballston area this year for a Christmas tree sale. The sale will only be for three days, the weekend after Thanksgiving. It starts Friday evening and runs through Sunday afternoon. A rain date will be the following weekend. Wreaths, medium, and large trees will be available. There’ll be no small trees this year due to drought but bigger trees can be trimmed. Pre-ordering and, even, home delivery are available this year.
  5. Boy Scout Troop 162 is again hosting its Christmas tree sale at the Dominion Hills pool parking lot at 5960 Wilson Blvd. The sale kicks off on Friday, Nov. 26 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Regular hours are Monday-Friday from 4-8 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wreaths and garlands will also be sold. Cash, checks and credit cards will be accepted. “Boy Scout Troop 162 has been selling Christmas trees to their Arlington neighbors since the early 1970’s,” says the troop’s Facebook page. “We are proud to say that we have sold trees to generations of families and look forward to many more years!”

Aware of any other local Christmas tree sales? Let us know in the comments.

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Santa Claus (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan Meath)

You better watch out, you better not cry, because a fully-vaccinated Santa Claus is coming to town.

Santa is going to return to the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City starting next Friday (Nov. 19) through Christmas Eve (Dec. 24). Reservations are “strongly encouraged,” notes the mall’s website.

Santa is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a Fashion Centre at Pentagon City spokesperson confirmed this to ARLnow.

The website of the photography company behind Santa’s appearance also notes that all employees, including Santa and his elves, were required to be vaccinated by October 14, except for those with valid medical and religious exemptions.

Guests will have the choice to sit with Santa or be socially distant for their photos this year.

Masks or face shields are being encouraged for those over two years old, but not mandated at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, a spokesperson confirmed.

“Santa’s helpers will be wearing masks throughout the duration of your visit,” notes the website.

Other safety measures in place include frequent cleaning of high touch-points and access to hands-free sanitizer.

Last year, despite increasing COVID cases and vaccines not yet being publicly available, Santa still came to Pentagon City for “safe and socially distanced” visits. At least he wasn’t in a bubble, like some other Santas across the region.

There’s no word yet on whether Santa will also be making an appearance at Ballston Quarter like in prior years.

Via Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan Meath

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If you have a Christmas tree in your house — a real one, like 44% of respondents to a recent ARLnow poll — you’ll need to keep it watered for at least the next week.

Arlington County is not beginning its annual Christmas tree collection until Monday, Jan. 4. The two-week curbside collection will run through Friday, Jan. 15.

Residential waste collection customers — primarily those in single-family homes — will have trees collected on their regular trash collection day. Residents of apartments, condos and townhomes can drop trees off at the county’s Earth Products Yard in Shirlington.

Collected trees will be turned into mulch and reused throughout the county.

More from the county website:

Trees collected by the County the first two full weeks of January are turned into mulch available from County facilities.

From Jan. 4 through Jan. 15, place trees at curb no later than 6 a.m. on your regular trash collection day after removing ALL decorations, nails, stands. Do not place trees in plastic bags.

After Jan. 15, Christmas trees are handled at curbside as part of regular year-round yard waste collection. Make sure the tree is bare and ready for composting. Trees over 8-feet long will need to be dismantled.

Tree Drop-Off

Residents without regular curbside pickup, including those living in townhomes, apartments and condominiums, can bring Christmas trees to the Solid Waste Bureau’s Earth Products Yard in Shirlington. For safe dropoff, call 703-228-5000 Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. to schedule a weekday appointment. You will need proof of residence in Arlington to drop off.

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Va. Supreme Court Passes on Pot Prosecution Case — “The Virginia Supreme Court has rejected an effort by Arlington’s chief prosecutor to rein in judges who are skeptical of her refusal to prosecute marijuana possession. But the court did not resolve the conflict, saying it could not weigh in because it had not been asked to consider any specific case.” [Washington Post]

Big Response to Mailbox — “‘We’ve collected at least probably 500 letters in the two weeks that we’ve had the [Santa] mailbox out,’ Rachael Tolman, the Park Manager at Gulf Branch Park said. ‘It’s a lot of letters.’ The lists some children put in the mailbox looked different, with requests for masks and good health.” [WUSA 9]

Nonprofit Merger Complete — “Bridges to Independence, a Northern Virginia provider of housing and vital services for at-risk families and individuals, has finalized its merger with the Bonder and Amanda Johnson Community Development Corp., a community-based non-profit with a mission to address the health, education, financial empowerment and social service needs of people living in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood.” [InsideNova]

Pedestrian Struck in Ballston — “Police and medics on scene of a pedestrian struck by a driver in front of the Ballston Harris Teeter on N. Glebe Road. So far, the victim’s injuries sound minor.” [Twitter]

Holiday Pop-Ups in National Landing — “As part of National Landing’s mission to activate public spaces, the BID has unveiled ‘Turn Up the Love,’ a winterlong campaign featuring a series of engaging outdoor pop-ups. These festive installations include a larger-than-life boombox adorned with thousands of colorful ornaments, three shareable photo frames and even more surprises to be announced after the holidays.” [National Landing BID]

Nearby: BB Gun Shootings in FC — “Police investigated calls of vandalism and found a teen who confessed to at least 50 incidents of shooting vehicles and people. Some victims have been identified, but police believe there may be more.” [City of Falls Church]

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(Updated at 6 p.m.) This year, Arlingtonians spread Christmas cheer in new ways to bring hope to people virtually or from a distance.

Choir directors at Arlington Public Schools and Bishop O’Connell High School spent hundreds of hours stitching together student videos to create virtual Christmas concerts. A troop of Brownie Scouts virtually judged a gingerbread contest for folks at a local retirement home. And Santa is making special stops in Arlington in his pickup truck, visiting with children from a distance.

Bishop O’Connell choir director Kyra Stahr burned the midnight candle to publish videos to replace the Christmas concert, which is normally the most well-attended performance, she said.

“I feel like I got more creative in how to make that excitement and cheer possible,” she said, adding that she and her students donned Christmas sweaters and watched all the performances on Zoom.

“It worked out better than I could’ve hoped for,” DJO choir student and junior Tommy Green said. “It was a nice way to exit the year.”

Fellow junior Melanie Greig said “it was almost like we were actually singing together in a concert.”

Meanwhile, Glebe Elementary student and Brownie Scout Leah Meder virtually judged a gingerbread decorating contest at the Sunrise Senior Living facility near the school, on N. Glebe Road, along with other members of Troop 60095. From 11 participants, the young judges awarded the most festive, most creative and most delicious-looking houses, and also created a special holiday greeting for the residents.

“I still felt the spark of holiday spirit when we did this online,” said Meder, who is eight years old. “Since [the residents] are living away from people they know, and can only see them a couple times a year, they can probably have more holiday spirit.”

The festivity creativity in Arlington extends to visits by the jolly one himself.

This afternoon (Wednesday), Santa is parading his sleigh — a converted pickup truck — through Arlington neighborhoods from Foxcroft Heights to Columbia Forest, the final route after two mobile Santa visits through Lyon Park and Ashton Heights.

“It’s a tough year for everybody,” said Lyon Park resident Paul Showalter, who is playing the role of Santa. “It’s really fun to see the faces of the little kids as they see Santa drive up in his sleigh.”

This morning (Wednesday), Showalter said he made a special delivery to a boy named Charlie, who had asked Santa for boxes, thread and tape for Christmas. Neighbors and Glebe Appliance donated the boxes, and Charlie will use the supplies to make a British fleet ship.

Also spreading joy is the Yorktown High School choir, which sent the musical videos it produced to faculty, friends and family, reaching an even greater audience this year.

“These videos are my Christmas gifts,” said Jocelyn Mullins, the Yorktown choir director, who directed renditions of “Holiday Road” and “The Sleigh.”

“That’s how it’s keeping my holidays alive,” she said.

Read More

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Christmas and the New Year are coming up, and with the holidays come a number of closures and changes in Arlington.

“Arlington County Government offices and services will be closed on Thurs., Dec. 24 and Fri., Dec. 25 for the Christmas holiday, and Jan. 1 for New Year’s Day,” according to the county website.

Arlington libraries will also be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, and parking meters will not be enforced on those days.

Additionally, residential trash and recycling collection on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 will be shifted to Saturday, one day later. ART buses will operate on a modified Sunday schedule on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

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Morning Notes

Schools Closed, Federal Gov’t on Delay — Due to anticipated icy conditions this morning, Arlington Public Schools has closed schools, though distance learning is still on. Federal government offices have a 10 a.m. delayed opening. [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlington Xmas Decorations Go Viral — Two Arlington homes, next door to one another, have very different approaches to holiday decorating, as seen in a tweet that went viral. [Twitter]

Might Mayor Pete Live in Arlington? — “Pete and Chasten have an affinity for airports — Pete proposed to Chasten at O’Hare in Chicago and Chasten proposed to Pete at an airport in Berlin — so why not live walking distance from DCA? Besides having a great beer bar and Synetic Theater, the area also known as Crystal City is a major transportation hub, which could work in Pete’s favor as he starts his new role.” [Washingtonian, Twitter]

Bill Would Strip Lee’s Name from Arlington House — Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s name is likely to soon be removed from Lee Highway in Arlington, and potentially from his former home in Arlington National Cemetery as well. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has introduced legislation that would rename what’s currently known as “Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial” as just “Arlington House.” Arlington County is in the process of removing an illustration of the house, which critics say is a symbol of slavery, from its logo and seal. [Press Release, Twitter]

Wreaths on the Way — The wreaths for this weekend’s Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery are currently making their way to Arlington from Maine via convoy. [Twitter, Facebook]

Funeral for Vietnam War Hero — “Despite the winter elements that hit the [D.C. area] Wednesday morning, Medal of Honor recipient Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins was given modified military funeral honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Adkins died from COVID-19 earlier this year in April at the age of 86.” [WJLA]

Local Nonprofit Gets Grant — “The Arlington-based nonprofit organization, Latinas Leading Tomorrow (LLT) announced their latest financial contribution from the Arlington Women’s Civic Alliance (AWCA) to support LLT’s leadership training and college readiness programs. ” [Press Release]

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It has been a boom year for live Christmas trees.

Various news outlets, including the New York Times, report that sales of Christmas trees — the real ones — have soared amid the pandemic, leading to shortages in some areas. Those stuck at home, it seems, have taken to holiday decorating as a way to enliven one’s living space and spend some quality indoor time.

Despite the good news for Christmas tree farmers, the overall Christmas decorating trend has been moving toward artificial trees, the sales of which seem destined to overtake their live counterparts.

Real trees may look pretty and smell nice, but the convenience factor of artificial trees — and the long-term cost savings — has led people to increasingly opt for the latter.

Which, if any, are you putting up in the living room this year?

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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