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The clang of carnival rides, the beaming smiles of children, and the sweet smell of fried food. Yep, the familiar sights, sounds and scents of the Arlington County Fair are back.

The county fair, which opened Wednesday and runs through Sunday, features a number of new and unique attractions this year, in addition to long-time favorites like the ferris wheel, the giant slide and the various boardwalk games.

Our Jay Westcott went last night and snapped the photos you see above.

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Morning Notes

Sunset along Columbia Pike near the Air Force Memorial (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

County Fair Starts Today — “The Arlington County Fair will take place from August 17 – 21 at Thomas Jefferson Community Center located at 3501 2nd Street S. The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closure to accommodate the event: From approximately 8:00 a.m. on August 17 to 11:00 p.m. on August 21… 2nd Street S. closed between S. Jackson Street and S. Irving Street.” [ACPD]

Fewer Car Tax Notices — “Arlington County Board members as part of their annual budget process eliminated the $33-per-vehicle decal fee… About 20,000 vehicles will thus have nothing owed on them, and the treasurer’s office has decided not to send notices to them. An additional 30,000 county residents who own two or more vehicles under the same name will see their billing information consolidated into a single mailing in order to achieve ‘significant savings on paper and postage,’ Treasurer Carla de la Pava said in an Aug. 15 letter.” [Sun Gazette]

Senators Hail New Law — “U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law: ‘We’re proud that this law will lower the price of prescription drugs, reduce the deficit, bring down energy bills and fight climate change… We will continue to look for ways to support the health and well-being of our communities, decrease inflation, and lower costs for Virginians.'” [Sen. Mark Warner]

Opera Making a Comeback? — “Supporters of Northern Virginia’s opera scene are hoping to reanimate the dormant Opera Guild of Northern Virginia, which through the years has raised funds and provided other support to opera organizations as well as promoting fellowships among those who appreciate the art form and introducing children to the unique and inclusive nature of opera.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 81 and low of 65. Sunrise at 6:26 am and sunset at 8:02 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Ferris wheel at the county fair (staff photo)

The Arlington County Fair is set to kick off this Wednesday and run through Sunday, Aug. 21.

As usual (though it was not without some debate) the fair is being held at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center, at 3501 2nd Street S. It is free to attend and open to the whole family.

Apart from the usual food and craft vendors, competitive exhibits and amusement rides, we’ve compiled a list of some lesser-known fair features this year.

The poster for axe throwing and the escape room at the fair (via Arlington County Fair)

1. Axe throwing

Fairgoers can try their hands at axe throwing inside a mobile trailer operated by Odyssey Mobile Adventures. Coaches are set to be present. Those interested need to first buy tickets on site, which are priced at $10 for 10 throws.

2. Escape room

The same company that runs the axe throwing is also set to provide an escape room for those interested in testing their problem solving abilities. Tickets are priced at $20 per group of a maximum of five people. Both activities are scheduled to be open all week.

The poster for the sensory hour at the fair (via Arlington County Fair)

3. Sensory hour

A new feature this year, this hour is set to happen between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Saturday (Aug. 20). During the hour, the fair plans to eliminate loud noises and music so that patrons may enjoy the fair without feeling overwhelmed.

This is a collaboration effort with the county’s Therapeutic Recreation Office, which focuses on providing equal access in recreation programs, like the fair, to individuals of differing needs and abilities. Sensory break tent areas are also scheduled at different hours over the weekend, according to an Arlington County Fair Instagram post.

The poster for the beer garden at the fair (via Arlington County Fair)

4. Beer (and rosé) garden

This year’s beer garden is a partnership with Arlington-based New District Brewing Company. Beers on tap include an IPA, pilsner, kettle sour and hard seltzer. For wine drinkers, a Virginia winery is providing its 2021 La Grange rosé as well this year.

The garden is set to open throughout the week, with a special trivia night on Thursday. Packs of beer and wine tickets may be purchased in advance.

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Arlington residents can look forward to music shows, amusement rides and bouncy castles as the Arlington County Fair is set to return next month.

The annual county fair is scheduled to be held between Wednesday, Aug. 17, and Sunday, Aug. 21, at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center, at 3501 2nd Street S. It is free to attend and open to the whole family.

Here is the fair schedule for the outdoor area:

  • Wednesday, Aug. 17: 5-10 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 18: 5-10 p.m.
  • Friday, Aug. 19: 2-11 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 20: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 21: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Although canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, the fair has been held for more than 40 years and attracted over 84,000 people from Northern Virginia and the D.C. Metropolitan area to attend in past years, according to the fair’s website.

The Night Market is a new event this year. It is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 18, between 5-10 p.m. It is only open to vendors selling personally made handicrafts and art pieces. Apart from crafts, other business and nonprofit organizations are expected to run indoor booths as well.

The fair is also planning to host local music groups and solo artists for weekend performances on the turf field. The performance schedule has not been released.

For children and families, the fair is set to hold a Kids Court with different games, including a pie eating contest. Additionally, there will be a variety of amusement rides will be provided by the Cole Shows Amusement Company. Each ride is expected to take three to six tickets, with each ticket selling for $1.25.

Other activities include competitive exhibits scheduled on Wednesday, Aug. 17, and Thursday, Aug. 18, where participants can showcase the products they made, in categories such as baked goods, needlework, handicrafts, and photography, according to the Competitive Exhibits Guide. The theme for this year’s exhibit is “What a Ride!” and an award ceremony for the winners is set on Saturday, Aug. 20.

This year’s fair is also expected to feature a beer garden organized with New District Brewery. That’s in addition to the usual fair fare, such as funnel cakes, deep fried Oreos, pizzas and other items.

The executive board for the fair previously discussed changing the venue to Long Bridge Park but ultimately decided against it after public feedback favored staying put the the TJ Community Center, which is centrally located in Arlington but a distance away from transit and the county’s denser population centers.

The upper field at the community center was closed for renovations for the first half of this year and reopened in June after being fitted with a synthetic turf, according to a county website.

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Kids on a car ride at the county fair (staff photo)

The Arlington County Fair will be returning to Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds in 2022, the county parks department tells ARLnow.

The decision comes after the Arlington County Fair Board deliberated a change of scenery for the event for more than a year. Thomas Jefferson’s fields and community center space at 3501 2nd Street S. has been home to the fair for 45 years.

After hearing that a majority of folks did not support relocating the fair, and taking a closer look at the fair board’s preferred alternate location — Long Bridge Park — board members decided Thomas Jefferson is the best location.

“The 2022 Arlington County Fair will be held at Thomas Jefferson Community Center and Park (TJ),” said Laura Barragan, a Department of Parks and Recreation special events manager and spokeswoman. “Contributing factors for the site selection include that the community has enjoyed the fair at TJ for 45 years [and] 60% of the nearly 1,600 respondents of the site location public engagement preferred keeping the Fair at TJ.”

She added that “further review of the Long Bridge Park location indicated that it would not be able to accommodate the number and variety of rides the County Fair Board desires.”

Barragan directed further questions to the fair board, which was not immediately available to comment on the decision and whether it will remain at TJ beyond 2022.

In addition to Long Bridge, Arlington County considered multiple sites — including Virginia Highlands Park near Crystal City and Quincy Park near Ballston — but the board only expressed interest in Long Bridge.

One reason we’re told the fair board mulled the move was that fixing damage to the grass fields, which become muddy and rutted in the rain, is a problem for the county. The community center’s suburban location, meanwhile, is fairly central, but lacks Metro accessibility and has limited parking.

After County Board approval in September, a project is currently underway to replace the upper field at the TJ site with artificial turf. The field is expected to remain closed until mid-2022, but should reopen in time for the fair’s return.

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Fairgoers get food, drinks and treats from vendors at the county fair (staff photo)

The board of the Arlington County Fair has its sights set on moving the annual event to Long Bridge Park.

But many residents who’ve weighed in say they’d rather see it stay at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds.

This potential relocation has been under consideration since at last year, when the fair board first notified the county of its interest in the park, home to the recently finished aquatics center. Last fall, the county convened a committee to study whether Long Bridge Park or six other locations could meet the fair’s needs.

In all, committee members considered Thomas Jefferson, Long Bridge Park, Quincy Park, Virginia Highlands Park, the county’s large surface parking lot in Courthouse, Drew Elementary School and Gunston and Kenmore middle schools. The fair board, meanwhile, has only expressed interest in Long Bridge Park.

“The work of the site review committee was just exploratory,” Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said. “While the Fair asked to move to Long Bridge, we wanted to see what all the options were on public land.”

Arlington County Fair leaders did not respond to requests for comment about the decision to move, the location it has chosen and whether it considered other locations.

Earlier this year, Kalish said the fair’s current location or Long Bridge Park — but not inside the aquatics facility — were the most feasible options in terms of location size, parking and community impact.

Here’s how a few options stack up to the preferred alternatives, per an internal planning document shared with ARLnow.

At 20 acres, Virginia Highlands Park could accommodate all the rides, games, vendors and competitive exhibits outdoors, and it would have auxiliary parking at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and space for storage and performers at the Aurora Hills Community Center. In addition to Long Bridge Park and Thomas Jefferson, this park was the only additional location that came recommended by DPR.

Centrally located in Virginia Square, Quincy Park has four acres of park space, is well-served by transit and backs up to — and could make use of — Washington-Liberty High School and Central Library facilities for competitive exhibits, performer changing areas and storage. Like Virginia Highlands Park, Quincy Park is easily Metro-accessible and adjacent to a major commercial corricor.

Committee members also noted that Kenmore — near the county’s western border, along Route 50 — would be a “good alternative to TJ” because of its similar size and layout.

But after walking through each site’s amenities, the committee noted the following reasons the other locations may not work.

Quincy Park “will get pushback from W-L [High School] — it will be hard to access the facilities the last couple weeks of August,” before school starts, the planning document notes.

Additionally, the fair would have to “work with Libraries to use their indoor space and parking” for the weekend, it says.

Meanwhile, members said Virginia Highlands is “difficult for emergency resource[s] to get access,” despite being adjacent to a fire station, and noted that the park itself only has 60 parking spaces, though the expansive mall parking garage is across the street.

Located near the Fairfax County border, Kenmore is less accessible, the committee noted. It would cause traffic issues on S. Carlin Springs Road and comes with security concerns, as there’s woods nearby, members said.

Having narrowed down the options to Thomas Jefferson and Long Bridge as the preferred options, Arlington County and the fair board are still reviewing feedback from the community engagement earlier this year, Kalish said.

An online feedback form generated more than 1,500 responses “that yielded a lot of interest in the [current] Thomas Jefferson Park and Community Center location,” she added.

“This information will help inform the location decision, with the final decision also considering the needs of the Arlington County Fair Board, public safety and the Fair’s impact to the community at large,” she said.

DPR should have more information after mid-November, she said.

“Once the Fair gets back to us we can dig deeper into the options for more data to support a thoughtful determination,” she said.

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Ferris wheel at the county fair (staff photo)

Fairgoers last week may have noticed a sign asking for their input on the best location for the Arlington County Fair.

That’s because after holding the event at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds at 3501 2nd Street S. for 45 years, the fair’s leaders are pondering a change of scenery.

The Arlington County Fair Board, an independent non-profit which manages the fair, has informed the county that it would like to move the fair to Long Bridge Park (475 Long Bridge Drive), Becky Schmitt, the acting deputy director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, tells ARLnow.

“As such an iconic event, a Site Review Committee comprised of subject matter experts from the Special Events Committee reviewed eight possible sites for the County Fair, including the fair’s current location and Long Bridge,” she said. “The most feasible options based on 21 event needs, such as location size, parking, and community impact, were to either remain at Thomas Jefferson Community Center and Park or move to Long Bridge Park (not inside the aquatics facility).”

The long-time location at the community center gives the fair a large grassy area next to an indoor community center space that’s used for exhibitions. This year, the grounds became muddy and rutted due to persistent rain.

Fixing damage to the field after the fair has been a frequent problem for the county, we’re told. The field is also used by nearby Alice West Fleet Elementary School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

The community center’s suburban location, meanwhile, is fairly central — near the middle of the county — but lacks Metro accessibility and has limited parking.

Long Bridge Park is not as centrally-located, but would offer more transit options, ample parking nearby, and sweeping views of D.C., the river and the airport — particularly from the ferris wheel, assuming it would be allowed within the DCA flightpath. The location might also draw more visitors from outside of Arlington, helping to bolster the fair’s finances.

Long Bridge Park (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

The fair’s board and the Special Events Committee are soliciting community feedback, Schmitt said. Representatives from the fair could not be reached for comment.

At the fair, people were able to submit their feedback on a slip of paper in a dropbox. Post-fair, people can fill out an online survey asking whether and why they would prefer the fair to remain at Thomas Jefferson Community Center and Park or move to Long Bridge Park, or to another alternative location.

The survey also asks participants to check their top three considerations for choosing a site: such as adequate space, access to public transportation, location, impact on the neighborhood, parking availability, room to grow and access to indoor options.

So far, Schmitt said feedback has not yet been reviewed, but that it will figure into the final decision.

“Community feedback will help inform where the County Fair is held; however, the final decision will also consider the needs of the Arlington County Fair Board, public safety and the Fair’s impact to the community at large,” she said.

Dana Munro contributed to this report

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The Arlington County Fair kicked off Wednesday afternoon complete with rides, games and deliciously high-calorie fair food. And there’s more fun ahead this weekend.

The fair is open from 2-11 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday) and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday at Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds, at 3501 2nd Street S.

Baby goat yoga classes, introduced in 2019, return to the fair this year. Classes start at 9 and 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and cost $40 a session.

There will also be robotics demonstrations today, tomorrow and Sunday in the gymnasium.

And, for $5, folks can enter the fair’s pie-eating competition on Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m. Contestants will compete to see who can eat a slice of Triple Berry Pie, from Arlington-based Livin’ the Pie Life, the fastest.

Synetic Theater will also perform its show, The Miraculous Magical Balloon, for the second and final time at the fair tomorrow at 4 p.m. This kid-friendly performance tells the story of a traveling actor and his magical trunk through pantomime and choreography.

The fair will continue to feature rides, games, food vendors, axe throwing and musical performances.

In addition to transit options, this year’s event will have some on-site parking spaces for fairgoers in the Alice West Fleet Elementary School garage on 115 S. Old Glebe Road. Overflow parking will be available at the Faith Lutheran Church (3313 Arlington Blvd).

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Live music, theatrical performances and fair food are all on tap as Arlington County Fair returns two weeks from today.

After being canceled due to the pandemic, the event will return to the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds, at 3501 2nd Street S. The fair kicks off Wednesday, Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. and concludes at 10 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 22.

“We weren’t sure we were going to be able to have the Fair this year but we made the decision a few short months ago and have been working tirelessly ever since to plan some exciting things for our community to enjoy,” said Arlington County Fair Board Chair Barbi Broadus.

For five days, people can experience county fair classics such as face painting and bounce houses, or try newer, trendier activities, such as axe throwing and goat yoga.

Fair attractions include:

  • Goat yoga — Saturday and Sunday starting at 9 and 10:30 a.m.
  • New District Brewing Company beer garden — opens Wednesday and Thursday at 5 p.m, Friday at 3 p.m., and noon on Saturday and Sunday
  • Robotics demonstrations — Friday, Saturday and Sunday
  • The Miraculous Magical Balloon performance from Synetic Theatre — Thursday at 5 p.m. and Saturday 4 p.m.
  • Pie eating championship — Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m.

All things kids can be found at the “kids court,” where there will be face painting, bounce houses and magic performances from Drew Blue Shoes.

Meanwhile, attendees can browse exhibitions of talented bakers and artists, who will receive awards on Saturday at 7 p.m.

While admission is free, rides and activities may require tickets that can be purchased on-site or online, where a detailed schedule of events can also be found.

After living through shutdowns, attendees can expect sizable crowds.

“For the past 45 years, the fair has been one of the largest free events on the East Coast with over 84,000 attendees from Northern Virginia and the Washington metro area,” said a fair representative in a press release.

The fair is working with Arlington County to ensure the event is as safe as possible, according to a press release. Federal and state Covid-19 guidelines will be followed.

In Arlington, case rates are starting to rise and Northern Virginia health officials are recommending people wear masks regardless of vaccination status. There is no renewed statewide mask mandate, however.

This year’s event will have some on-site parking spaces for fairgoers in the Alice West Fleet Elementary School garage on 115 S. Old Glebe Road. Overflow parking will be available at the Faith Lutheran Church (3313 Arlington Blvd).

For those looking to help out, the fair is looking for board members, volunteers, donations, sponsorships and local vendors.

The hours for the fair are:

  • Wednesday, Aug. 18: 5-10 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 19: 5-10 p.m.
  • Friday, Aug. 20: 2-11 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 21: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 22: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Outdoor entertainment consists of a daily lineup of musicians, from jazz and funk to rock and pop. The music schedule is below.

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Morning Notes

Body Found in Metro Tunnel Last Year — “On April 2, 2020, a report said, a person jumped on top of a Yellow Line train at L’Enfant Plaza station. A track inspector found the person’s body three days later between the Pentagon and Pentagon City stations in Arlington, Va.” [Washington Post, WMSC]

Runway Reconstruction for DCA — “Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $13,715,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded to four airports… [the] Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will receive a grant of $1,700,000 to go toward a runway reconstruction at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.” [Press Release]

Theme Announced for County Fair — “We are officially 50 days away from the Arlington County Fair! This year’s theme is… *drum roll please*… NIGHTS, LIGHTS, AND BITES! We are so excited for all the colorful nights, bright lights, and yummy bites at this year’s Fair, and we can’t wait to see you there!” [Twitter]

VHC Gets Grant for Remote OB Appointments — “Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), a community-based hospital providing medical services to the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 75 years, has received a $38,000 grant from the Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation (JBLF) for the pilot of the Hospital’s OB Connect program, which provides patients with the flexibility to receive prenatal care from home.” [Press Release]

Robbery at Pentagon City Mall — “At approximately 9:30 p.m. on June 25, police were dispatched to the late report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that the employee was assisting the suspect when he began to give her commands and directed her to open the display cases and place merchandise into his bag. The suspect then ordered the employee into the back of the store until he left the business.” [ACPD]

Restaurant T0-Go Drink Changes Extended — “During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many restaurants were shuttered, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) created a safe and secure way for restaurants to offer cocktails to go with a meal. The General Assembly has now continued this practice in statute for one year. In addition, restaurants who are delivering wine and beer can continue to do so for another year.” [Zebra]

Outdoor Balloon Launches Banned — “The revised law, sponsored by Del. Nancy Guy (D-Virginia Beach), takes effect on July 1, and will prohibit the intentional releasing, discarding, or causing to be released any balloon outdoors. Violators are liable for a civil penalty of $25 per balloon. The bill provides that if a person under the age of 16 releases a balloon at the instruction of an adult, the adult shall be liable for the civil penalty.” [Sun Gazette]

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The county fair, a longstanding event and summer staple, is returning to Arlington this August.

Last year, organizers canceled the fair and took some events online due to the pandemic.

Now set for Aug. 18-22, the annual event will feature goat yoga and a beer garden — both of which debuted at the 2019 fair — as well as carnival rides, vendors, exhibits, music, and fair food. It will return to the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds, at 3501 2nd Street S.

“2021 is the 45th anniversary of the Arlington County Fair!” said Barbi Broadus, chair of the Arlington County Fair board of directors. “We are planning a full fair experience for our fairgoers.”

And fairgoers are ready to experience fairs in all their glory, according to Broadus.

“Our ride vendor, RC Cole of Cole Shows, has been providing rides for fairs on the East Coast and said he was surprised by the enormous turnout he is seeing,” she said.

The news comes as other local programming, from food events to college commencements, are returning to normal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now say that fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear a mask even at crowded events. Virginia ended distancing requirements Friday, but businesses can still impose restrictions. Some exceptions still apply for wearing masks, such as health care facilities, public transit and indoors in Virginia schools.

The fair’s schedule is “coming soon,” according to its website.

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