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Jennifer Bush-Lawson 5K race (via Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation/Facebook)

Get ready to dust off those old running shoes.

The ninth annual Jennifer Bush-Lawson 5K race and festival is set for Saturday in the Yorktown neighborhood.

The event commemorates Jennifer Bush-Lawson, an Arlington resident who was struck and killed in 2014 by a dump truck while placing her child into a minivan near Nottingham Elementary. More pedestrian fatalities have since occurred on the same stretch of Little Falls Road, though new safety measures were installed earlier this year.

The race, first held in 2015, kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road). Those who want to support the cause without running in the cold can participate in a “Family Fun Day” festival, featuring a beer garden, a children’s fun run, moon bounces, laser tag, a rock wall, balloon animals, face painting and live performances.

The registration fee for the race is $40, which includes a T-shirt, or $35 for those opting out of the shirt. Participants can also choose to donate without participating in the race.

Festival-only tickets are priced at $25, granting access to all activities excluding the 5K. A combined ticket for both the race and festival is available for $50.

Proceeds support the Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation, founded in 2015 by Jennifer’s husband, Neal Lawson, to provide women in need and their babies with maternal and infant care.

“This event carries on the legacy of Jenn Lawson, a dedicated mom and runner who was passionate about making available to all mothers the same level of care she received for her own complicated pregnancies,” the event page says.

In line with previous years, the Arlington County Police Department has announced several road closures for the duration of the event.

The following roadways will be closed from approximately 8:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. to accommodate the event:

  • Yorktown Boulevard, from Little Falls Road/N. Greenbrier Street to N. Kensington Street
  • Little Falls Road, from N. Edison Street to Yorktown Boulevard and from Yorktown Boulevard/N. Kensington Street to N. Ohio Street
  • N. Lexington Street, from Yorktown Boulevard to 27th Street N.
  • 27th Road N., from the dead end to N. Lexington Street
  • 27th Street N., from N. Lexington Street to N. Ohio Street
  • John Marshall Drive at 27th Street N.
  • N. Ohio Street, from 27th Street N. to Little Falls Road

When safe to do so, residents of the affected areas will be escorted through the road closures, as necessary, to minimize the impact on the community. All roadways are expected to reopen at 10:30 a.m. Community members are asked to park vehicles in driveways to reduce the congestion on the course and to allow for standard traffic conditions to return as quickly as possible.

Photo via Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation/Facebook

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Scenes from the 2022 Arlington County Fair (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

When the Arlington County Fair kicks off next week, attendees can expect to see more free activities.

After receiving financial support from Arlington County and several businesses, including a $15,000 donation from Amazon, the Arlington County Fair Board decided to increase the number of free indoor and outdoor activities, Matt Richard, the chair of the fair board, told ARLnow.

The fair also plans to donate leftover proceeds from ticket sales to local nonprofits. He said the two changes are reflected in the fair’s new theme: “A Fair for All.”

“We’d like to think of the fair as a place where everyone can gather, no matter their background or their socio-economic background,” Richard said. “We want people to feel like this is an opportunity for anyone to come here and be part of this event… This is fair for everyone, and we’re going to do everything in our power to continue to make it fair for everyone for the years to come.”

The fair at Thomas Jefferson Community Center will run from Wednesday, Aug. 16 to Sunday, Aug. 20.

Some of the new free outdoor activities include the Go Bananas Performance & Family Dance Party, scavenger hunts, mini golf and live music. Free activities indoors include a display of portraits from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Bingo, a popup park with yard games and an interactive robotics demonstration.

Richard noted the board decided to channel any surplus funds into a new community endowment fund, set to be announced during the opening ceremony at 5 p.m. next Wednesday.

“We’re also going to give some of that money back to the Arlington community by way of identifying some foundations in the community or nonprofit organizations in the community that can benefit…they’re not going to be large dollar amount donations. We don’t have a lot of money. But basically ways to show that the community gives a fair and fair gets back to the community,” Richard said.

Entry to the fair is free but attendees can pay for attractions, such as rides, food and pie-eating contests. Ride tickets, $1.25 each, can be purchased on-site or online.

New District Brewing will also serve its last beers at the fair after officially closing its taproom in May.

Due to ongoing construction at the Arlington Career Center, the fair’s shuttle stop has been relocated this year. Instead, attendees can park at the county government headquarters garage at 2100 Clarendon Blvd and take the shuttle service from there.

The shuttle operates continuously, starting 30 minutes before the fairgrounds open until an hour after closing.

Alternate parking can be found at the Faith Lutheran Church at 3313 Arlington Blvd — a nearby pedestrian bridge leads directly to the fairgrounds. Additionally, parking that is accessible for people with disabilities is available at the front left lot of the Thomas Jefferson Community Center.

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Parents and kids celebrate the last bus drop off of the school year with a water balloon fight in the Yorktown neighborhood (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) Out of more than 130 municipalities, Arlington is the third best place to raise a family, according to a new rankings report.

Arlington was evaluated alongside nearly 140 cities nationwide based on factors such as, cost of living, housing, the local economy and quality of life for renting families, according to RentCafe, which analyzes rental data and trends.

Arlington ranked near the bottom for cost of living but clinched second place for “Local Economy” and third for “Quality of Life,” which boosted its overall score – surpassed only by Plano, Texas and Scottsdale, Arizona.

“Arlington provides the ultimate combination of budget-friendly options, a growing job market, and high quality of life,” per the report, which called the county “a place teeming with history, but still keeping up with the younger crowd.”

With a cost of living 40% above the national average, the county ranked 128th in the “Cost of Living & Housing” category. In addition to having the 10th highest rental rates in U.S., RentCafe says renters looking to “upsize” for a growing family can expect to pay, on average, $645 per additional room.

While that “may not be so appealing for many renter families,” the report notes, “Arlingtonians can rest assured that they are raising their children in one of the finest locations in the U.S.”

RentCafe highlighted that 85% of apartments in Arlington are situated “in prime locations” near “excellent schools” and family-friendly spots, including parks and museums.

The reported also noted Arlington has one of the highest child school enrollment rates nationwide, at 92%, and the second lowest percentage of children living below the poverty line, at 6.8%.

In terms of its economy, RentCafe highlights that 76% of Arlington residents possess a higher education degree, ranking it second-highest. Additionally, there’s been a 1.6% uptick in job growth and a mere 2.9% unemployment rate, marking the lowest among the top 10.

“The city proves that it knows how to both play hard and work hard,” the report said.

The list of the top 10 municipalities is below:

  1. Plano, Texas: Top-ranked for its balance of urban and suburban life, high-quality schools, and spacious apartments.
  2. Scottsdale, Arizona: Offers upscale living, stunning views, and over 330 sunny days a year.
  3. Arlington, Virginia: A history-rich city with a youthful vibe, boasting excellent economy and quality of life.
  4. Marietta, Georgia: Provides a low cost of living, large apartments, and excellent schools.
  5. Sunnyvale, California: Heart of Silicon Valley, offering diverse kid-friendly activities and top-notch schools.
  6. Round Rock, Texas: Known as the “Sports Capital of Texas,” it’s perfect for active families who love their space.
  7. Austin, Texas: A cultural hub with a vibrant entertainment scene and an appealing cost of living.
  8. Fayetteville, Arkansas: Leads in cost of living and housing, blending small-town charm with ample family apartments.
  9. Raleigh, North Carolina: A perfect blend of Southern charm and a busy college town, perfect for raising a little scientist.
  10. Ann Arbor, Michigan: A renter’s paradise with dense forestation, great schools, and a thriving cultural scene.
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Get ready to “explore the world of recycling” next weekend at the family-friendly Rock-n-Recycle event in Shirlington.

The open house, put on by Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services (DES), is set for Saturday, Sept. 17 and will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m at the county’s Trade Center on S. Taylor Street.

The event will feature big trucks and machinery, many with “wrestler-like names such as the Rock Crusher, the Tub Grinder and the Food Composter” per DES spokesperson Peter Golkin.

Plus, there will be three dozen hands-on learning stations, take-home art activities, an ice cream truck, and “mountains of mulch.”

“The purpose of this very family friendly open house by the Solid Waste Bureau is to provide a behind-the-scenes look at the world of recycling, composting, trash-to-energy, inert materials collection and other key environmental services provided by Arlington County,” Golkin told ARLnow.

No RSVP is required and the event is rain or shine. This will be the third time the county has put on the event, having done it previously in 2019 and 2021. DES expects at least “several hundred people” to attend.

The hope is that the open house “leaves a big, fun and lasting impression on kids and their adults too” while encouraging them to recycle, compost, and a better understanding of DES’s services.

From the county’s event listing: “See the big work machines (The Rock Crusher! The Tub Grinder!) up close, sit in the driver’s seat and meet the experts who keep Arlington clean and sustainable.”

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The playground outside the Lubber Run Community Center (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington is the No. 3 most family-friendly locale in the country, according to a new set of rankings.

Online real estate platform Opendoor compiled the “best cities for families” list, which is based on the presence of various amenities like playgrounds, community centers and pools.

“We found that most family friendly cities like Arlington have quite a few common features — whether that’s a small-town feel or plenty of outdoor spaces to explore,” said Opendoor’s Beatrice de Jong, the author of the rankings.

De Jong said Arlington gets high marks for schools, local businesses, family-friendly amenities and transportation.

“Many young professionals live here and the public schools are highly rated,” she said, listing the county’s selling points. “Good public transportation and a mix of urban and suburban. Very walkable and bikeable… Lots of restaurants, coffee shops and parks… Close to D.C. with great museums for kids. Local museums include: Arlington Arts Center, Arlington Historical Museum, etc. Parks include: Rocky Run Park, Lubber Run Park, Fort Barnard Park, etc.”

Per Opendoor, the top 15 family-friendly cities and towns are:

  1. Cambridge, MA
  2. Cliffside Park, NJ
  3. Arlington, VA
  4. Chandler, AZ
  5. Tracy, CA
  6. North Richland Hills, TX
  7. Denver, CO
  8. Portland, OR
  9. Boulder, CO
  10. Anaheim, CA
  11. Coral Gables, FL
  12. Kent, OH
  13. Ann Arbor, MI
  14. Mission, KS
  15. Avondale Estates, GA

The study’s methodology leans heavily on a user-editable mapping project.

The best cities for families are identified by analyzing and averaging the number of OpenStreetMap ‘family friendly’ tags that are within 3 miles of all addresses in a city where Opendoor Brokerage operates. These tags include: bench, community center, drinking water, garden, kindergarten, museum, park, picnic site, playground, school, swimming pool, supermarket, and waste basket.

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Connie Freeman with her dad Richard Ziadie (courtesy of Ancestry.com/Connie Freeman)

Editor’s Note: The following article first appeared in the ARLnow Press Club weekend newsletter. Thank you to Press Club members for helping to fund our in-depth local features.

When Claremont resident Connie Freeman met her father last summer for the first time, it all started to make sense.

“This may sound kind of crazy and you may only know if it’s happened to you, but I felt like a puzzle piece fit,” she tells ARLnow. “I felt like I had the wrong piece in there my whole life.”

Connie Freeman is a 62-year-old county employee, working as a community outreach specialist for nearly three decades, and has lived in Arlington most of her life. And, up until last year, she had never known her father.

Her mom had gotten pregnant as a teenager in the late 1950s and her father had just never been part of their lives. But with her mom getting older, it became clear that now was the time for Connie, along with her own son Noe, to rediscover their family’s history.

Using AncestryDNA testing, together they discovered some surprising clues. For one, she was a quarter Lebanese. Considering that her mom was not Lebanese — “my grandmother has green eyes and blond hair,” says Noe — that was an interesting development. Their DNA results also turned up a name that was unfamiliar.

“At 11 o’clock at night, [my son] is emailing me, texting me, and calling me,” Connie says. ‘”Mom, I think I found your brother.'”

Using social media, Connie tracked down that person and a number of others the DNA results had cited as connected to them. Then, she made an unusual decision, at least, by today’s standards.

She reached out by handwritten letter, believing that the extra personal touch was more likely to get a response.

“The letter was very specific and it said I’m trying to find my father and, if he’s alive, I’d like to meet him,” she says.

Also included in the letter were some possible genetic and identifying details. Like, for example, her love of black olives and Noe being a fantastic soccer player. She additionally included where she was born, where she lived now, and that her mom always told her that her dad was in the military.

The letter worked. Within days, she got a call from an 84-year-old man named Richard Ziadie.

She admits getting that call was a bit surreal and hard to comprehend, but she made plans to meet Richard at his home in New Jersey on August 16, 2021 — on his 85th birthday.

Connie Freeman, her son Noe, and her dad Richard (courtesy of Connie Freeman)

When they met, it was immediately evident to Connie that this man was her father. He loved to spend time outside, in his garden, and had quite a green thumb.

“My son loved to garden as a kid and now owns his own landscaping company. Now, I know he got that from his grandfather,” she says.

He was also a people person and a fantastic host, just like his daughter.

“That’s something my mom does consistently, she always has people over,” Noe says. “They are both very charismatic.”

In photos of the three, the resemblance is also striking. Further DNA results confirmed that they were truly family, Richard was Connie’s dad.

“It all made sense,” Connie says.

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Arlington’s planning division is looking to change the definition of a “family” in the county’s zoning code.

Housing planners say this would stop potentially exclusionary housing practices that discriminate against larger groups of unrelated residents who live together in order to afford staying in Arlington, where home prices and property taxes are rising and there’s a shortage of affordable housing options.

Currently, Arlington’s Zoning Ordinance says up to four unrelated people living together — including “servants,” in a peculiar anachronism — can constitute a “family.” The Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development staff intend to review and possibly write an alternative definition that eliminates the four-person cap.

The code also defines “family” as: a single person living in a household; two or more people living together who are related by blood, marriage, adoption or foster care; or up to eight people who are elderly, sick or disabled living with staff or counselors in a state-licensed facility.

Planning Commission Chair David Weir says he welcomes CPHD’s intentions to do away with the “exclusionary, inaccurate terminology of ‘single-family’ and ‘multifamily’ homes.”

“It’s tempting, I think, to see this change as minimal or immaterial but it’s neither of those things,” he said during a joint CPHD-County Board work session last week. “The difference between zoning for families and zoning for households is as fundamental a matter as the right to choose the people with whom we share our lives, and zoning ordinances are lagging behind other fields of law — like, for example, family law — in recognizing this.”

Planning Commission Chair David Weir (via Arlington County)

Weir recalled when the late County Board member Erik Gutshall realized in a zoning meeting that his family of four probably lived in violation of county ordinances when they took in a foreign exchange student.

“A group of people who choose to share their lives in ways that don’t meet the Mayberry formalities must not for that reason alone be unwelcome in the definitions of the laws that shape how their homes are built,” he said.

County planners have recommended this change for a few years now, saying that people are choosing to live together to afford Arlington prices and access its schools and job opportunities.

“There’s been a rise in the number of non-traditional households living together for socio-economic reasons, such as pooling resources to find affordable housing near good schools or job centers,” county housing planner Joel Franklin said at a 2020 Tenant-Landlord Commission meeting. “For that reason, it was recommended to amend the zoning ordinance to be more inclusive of non-traditional families.”

That recommendation was in the 2019 draft Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing, according to CPHD spokeswoman Erika Moore. The analysis concludes that the cap disadvantages residents who have been priced out of single-family homes.

“As the norms of the American family are shifting, it is apparent that single-family housing is less viable, increasingly unaffordable, and not achieving fairness and inclusion,” it says. “Placing restrictions on the number of unrelated persons living together but who function as a single housekeeping unit restricts housing choice for households comprised of persons living together for economic or other reasons.”

Changing or eliminating the four-person cap dates back at least to 2015, when the County Board adopted the Affordable Housing Master Plan, Moore said. The plan says a more flexible definition is one way the county can try to meet its affordable housing needs through 2040.

While making the change is on the agenda for CPHD, a new definition won’t come overnight.

The planning division identified revising the definition as a second-tier priority for 2022, falling behind more pressing zoning study areas — such as allowing permanent outdoor dining options, permitting micro-fulfillment centers to operate in vacant office buildings and adding elder care housing options in the code.

Tiered priorities of the Arlington planning division (via Arlington County)

Updating the definition would require the county to start a zoning study to examine alternative definitions and develop amendments to the Zoning Ordinance, Moore said.

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Guerra Steakhouse in Rosslyn is off to a slow start after opening this past Saturday, but that is partly by design, according to owner Jackelin Barrera.

The steakhouse at 1725 Wilson Blvd does not yet have a sign, or an advertising campaign, but Barrera said she was more concerned with opening before coronavirus cases could once more threaten businesses to limit capacity.

Guerra offers steaks, wines to pair with them, and other classic steakhouse dishes in the former space of Ben’s Chili Bowl, which closed last year.

The restaurant is family-owned and operated.

“All the people who work inside are family,” said Barrera. “I feel like you can tell the love we have for each other when you taste the food.”

The steakhouse’s story has its roots in family, as it is named for her grandfather, Ermides Guerra, a Guatemalan immigrant who loved steak.

So far, Barrera said the most popular dishes have been the jumbo tiger shrimp with a “fuego spicy paste” and the iceberg wedge topped with blue cheese, bacon, grape tomatoes and radish, in a blue cheese dressing. She said the New York strip steak has also received attention.

“Most of the people that have come by have said Arlington has been missing a good steakhouse,” said Barrera.

In addition to serving quality food, Barrera said Guerra is focused on making patrons feel like part of the family.

“We don’t just give you a steak — we give you an experience,” she said.

Currently, the steakhouse only serves wine and beer, but Barrera said her family plans to add cocktails next week. Down the road, she said the Guerra Steakhouse experience could include a clam bake and a tomahawk steak that will be flamed table-side.

“We’ll hopefully have table-side cocktails too,” she said.

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Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting a campfire series for families, staring this week.

The series starts this Saturday, September 7, at Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 Military Road) from 6-7 p.m. and offers attendees campfire stories, games, and s’mores.

The theme of this Saturday’s fire is “Nice Mice,” followed by an “Insect Chorus” event next Saturday 14 at the Long Branch Nature Center (625 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 7-8 p.m.

“The whole family is invited to join in our campfires, for lots of old fashioned fun,” wrote organizers on the event’s website. “You’ll hear campfire stories, may meet some animal guests, play games, sing songs and, of course, enjoy s’mores! Each campfire has a nature theme and promises to entertain.”

The series alternates on Saturdays between Gulf Branch and Long Branch until November 23, and each event costs $5 per person.

The county has hosted single-event campfires before, celebrating the Solstice in 2016, New Year’s Eve in 2011, and Memorial Day in 2010.

Image via Flickr/Kevin Smith

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An annual, family-friendly outdoor festival is scheduled to return next weekend with music, dancers, and games.

The 3rd annual “Arlington Palooza” will be held in Alcova Heights Park (901 S. George Mason Drive) from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.

This year, organizers at the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation say there will be laser tag, a bouncy house, face painting, and lessons in making flower crowns and pinwheels, among other activities listed on the event’s website.

Four food trucks will serve the festival, including Big Cheese, El Encanto Latino, Little Miss Whoopie and Salou’s Softy.

This year’s musical line-up includes:

  • 1-1:30 p.m. — The Sunshine Gang, a classic rock and roll band
  • 1:50-2:20 p.m. — Sarah Baumgarten, an H-B Woodlawn student and singer-songwriter who plays the ukulele
  • 3:15-3:50 p.m. — The Blue Flames, an five piece Arlington-based rock band

The Sultanas Troupe will perform a fusion of traditional Middle-Eastern and modern dances from 2:40-3 p.m.

The Arlington Art Truck will also join the festivities with a traveling show about electricity by Baltimore artist Neil Feather.

Police will close one block of 8th Street S. between S. Randolph Street and S. George Mason Drive during the event.

The county is warning that parking near the event will be “extremely limited” and is encouraging attendees to find alternative transportation. A spokeswoman for the event noted there will be bike valets, and that scooter company Bird is offering a $5 credit with the coupon code BEFREE.

The department said there will be a “designated drop-off area along S. George Mason Drive near 8th Street S.” for people with disabilities.

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Kevin Spacey Pulled Over at DCA — “After appearing in court Monday morning to address sexual assault allegations in Massachusetts, actor Kevin Spacey had yet another brush with law enforcement in the afternoon, this time around Reagan National Airport.” [TMZ, WTOP]

Family Trio All Serves on ACPD — “33 years ago, Corporal Diane Guenther swore she’d never date another police officer. Police Lieutenant Mark Guenther persuaded her otherwise, and they married a year after they started dating. Their daughter, Harley, just celebrated two years as an Arlington County police officer.” [WDVM]

Police Holding Outreach Meetings — The Arlington County Police Department’s latest quarterly outreach meetings will be held at the Fairlington Community Center on Thursday, Jan. 24 and at Arlington Central Library on Tuesday, Jan. 29. Both meetings start at 7 p.m. [Twitter]

Group to Hold Forum on Entrepreneurship — “The Arlington branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) will feature a program on starting a business, led by the founders of Amazing Women Entrepreneurs. The meeting is slated for Monday, Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 527 of Arlington Mill Community Center. The community is invited.” [InsideNova]

Federal Workers Driving for Uber to Make Ends Meet — “‘With the government shutdown, you have more people working for the government doing Uber, and for the full-time Uber drivers, that is really affecting us too, and our money,’ said rideshare driver Nate Murrell.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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