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Fourth of July fireworks, as seen from Long Bridge Park (photo via Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation)

Arlington County is closing some roads and services in observance of Independence Day.

Since the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday this year, county facilities and services will close or operate on holiday schedules on Monday. Libraries and indoor parks and recreation centers will be closed Sunday and Monday, and the county will not enforce parking meter limits either day.

Courts and state DMV offices will also be closed on Monday.

Arlington Transit will run buses along a few of its routes on Sunday schedules on both Sunday and Monday, but otherwise, bus service will not be available. Trash, recycling and yard waste collection, by contrast, will operate as usual on Monday.

The road closures, meanwhile, “are designed to facilitate the safe passage of large crowds for the Independence Day events and fireworks,” according to a county press release.

There will be a display at the National Mall this year, but, like last year Arlington will have no formal viewing events. Crowds will likely gather at the usual spots: the Iwo Jima memorial, the Air Force Memorial, Long Bridge Park, Rosslyn Gateway Park and Key Bridge, for example.

“Motorists should expect significant delays, particularly leading up to and after the fireworks display,” said the press release. “The Arlington County Police Department is reminding drivers that stopping or standing in a lane of traffic to observe the fireworks is illegal and violators may be issued a citation.”

Street parking near the Iwo Jima memorial, Long Bridge Park and the Air Force Memorial will be restricted, according to the release, which advises attendees to use Metro.

The following roadways will be closed to accommodate the festivities, per ACPD:

Route 50 – Near Rosslyn – 3:30 to 11:00 PM Closure

  • Exit Ramp from Westbound Route 50 to N. Lynn Street (Rosslyn exit)
  • Exit Ramp from Eastbound Route 50 to N. Meade Street (Rosslyn exit)

US Marine Corps War Memorial – 3:30 PM to 11:00 PM Closure

  • N. Meade Street at Marshall Drive
  • Exit Ramp from N. Meade Street to Route 50 Eastbound
  • Route 110 South onto Marshall Drive
  • N. Meade Street near the Route 50 Ramps

Radnor/Fort Myer Heights – Near the US Marine Corps War Memorial – 3:30 PM to 11:00 PM Closure

  • Ramp from Arlington Boulevard East to N. Rhodes/Rolfe/Queen Street (Emergency Vehicles Only)
  • N. Rhodes Street and Arlington Boulevard Access Road (Emergency Vehicles Only)
  • N. Rhodes Street and N. 14th Street (Local Traffic Only)
  • N. Nash Street and Arlington Boulevard Access Road
  • Arlington Boulevard Access and N. Meade Street
  • N. Nash Street and N. 14th Street
  • N. Meade Street and N. 14th Street

Foxcroft Heights – Near the Air Force Memorial – 4:30 PM to 11:00 PM Closure

  • Columbia Pike in both directions at S. Oak Street
  • The exit from Westbound Washington Boulevard to Eastbound Columbia Pike/S. Orme Street
  • Columbia Pike and S. Joyce Street
  • Southgate Road and S. Oak Street
  • Columbia Pike and Southgate Road
  • Columbia Pike and S. Ode Street

From 6 a.m. to midnight, Memorial Bridge and Memorial Circle to and including Lincoln Memorial Circle will be closed, according to the National Park Service.

The following roadways may be subject to closures, according to ACPD’s release:

Route 50 East – Near Courthouse

  • Route 50 East exit for 10th Street (All Eastbound traffic)
  • N. 10th Street and N. Wayne Street
  • N. Courthouse Road and the ramp for Route 50 East
  • N. Courthouse Road and N. Barton Street

Long Bridge Park

  • Long Bridge Drive at Boundary Channel Drive
  • Long Bridge and S. 12th Street
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(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Arlington County will observe Juneteenth — which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. — for the first time as an official county holiday this Friday and Saturday.

The holiday celebrates the day when the nation’s last enslaved people learned of their freedom following the Emancipation Proclamation. The Arlington County Board voted to make Juneteenth a county holiday in late April of this year.

Since the June 19 holiday falls on a Saturday this year, certain offices and services will be closed Friday as well. All Department of Motor Vehicles offices and the county courthouse will be closed Friday, while libraries and community centers will be closed both Friday and Saturday.

Parking meters will not be enforced on either Friday or Saturday.

Chief Race and Equity Officer for Arlington County Samia Byrd said she hopes residents take the time off to educate themselves about the day.

“I encourage people to take the time to participate in an event, activity or celebration that allows for reflection and learning more about Juneteenth and the history and events surrounding it,” she said.

In celebration, the Arlington Black Employees Council is hosting a Juneteenth Peace Rally today (Thursday) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Bozman Government Center stairs with speakers and performers. The event, following up on a similar event last year, will be live-streamed on the county’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Byrd also suggests taking the day to bolster organizations working toward racial equity and supporting Black-owned businesses.

“Support organizations that continue to advocate for justice and liberation or volunteer for an organization,” said Byrd. “Patronize Black businesses. Enjoy fellowship and celebrate freedoms we have while considering what more can be done.”

This time last year, the county made headlines for sending Black employees to powerwash Black Lives Matter chalk art in a local neighborhood on Juneteenth, something for which the county soon apologized.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced last year that he would make June 19 a state holiday, giving all state employees a paid day off. Meanwhile, Congress voted yesterday (Wednesday) to make June 19 a federal holiday, and President Joe Biden’s signature today will make Friday a day off for many federal workers.

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Ballston Quarter’s Zofia’s Kitchen (4238 Wilson Blvd) is cooking up a limited edition batch of Star Wars-themed snacks, and missing out would be a Wookie mistake.

The restaurant is operating with limited staff but said in a press release that they decided to go all in on “May the Fourth” — a sort of quasi-holiday for Star Wars fans on May 4 rooted in a “May the Force be with you” pun.

“Zofia’s has decided to embrace its inner culinary nerd by going all-out for the International Geek Holiday that is May the Fourth by offering limited edition pierogi made a long time ago in a galaxy far far away,” the restaurant said. “Available 8 to an order, Steamed, sauteed, fried or frozen in carbonite by request.”

A half dozen special menu items are listed for the week.

  •  The Obi-Won Pierogi: Tatooine Tagine. Braised Chicken, Raisin, Almond, Tunisian Harissa and Couscous — $11.99
  • The Baby Yoda Pierogi: Peas, Mint, Midichlorians, Lemon and Ricotta — $11.99
  • The Vader Pierogi: Chorizo and Provolone. Note that the white cheese inside represents the good that must be in him still! The Vader pierogi comes with a mandatory force choking hazard warning of course.(please take your time groaning at this joke) — $12.99
  • The C-Threepierogi: Blanched multicolor vegetable pasta / standard Android wiring — $11.99
  • The Tauntaun Wonton: And you thought they smelled bad on the outside! Red-wine pear and stinky Gorgonzola — $12.99
  • Blue Milk Cocktail: In a pouch for Jedi on-the-go! — Price TBD

“This deal is available for a limited time,” the restaurant said. “We’ve altered the deal by offering it May 3-7. Pray that we don’t alter it further.”

The restaurant is open for dine-in, pick-up or delivery from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. If you’re trying to find it in Ballston Quarter: this is the way.

Photo via Zofia’s Kitchen/Facebook

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Pi Day was a very busy day for Acme Pie on Columbia Pike.

“At the moment, we are trying to restock,” Sol Schott, owner of the seven-year-old pie company, said over the phone Monday morning. “I was expecting it to be somewhat busy, but not expecting it to be almost-Thanksgiving busy.”

Pi Day is an annual celebration on March 14 of the mathematical mystery that is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. The day also, of course, presents a great excuse to eat pie.

Schott said he made 98 large pies, 70 small pies, and had a “whole heck of alot of slices” and nearly sold out of all of it.

Sales, he says, “were in the same ballpark” as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving — aka the Super Bowl of pie sales — and definitely better than Pi Day last year.

“I think everybody was so sick and tired of being cooped up,” Schott says.

The most popular pie was a special one he made for the weekend, an English Banoffee pie.

“We use a graham cracker crumb crust with like a… chewy soft caramel toffee on the bottom,” says Schott. “Then, slices of banana, fresh whipped cream with a little bit of espresso, and then chocolate shavings on top.”

All 76 Banoffee pies sold out. He plans on making more for St. Patrick’s Day.

While Acme Pie started as a wholesaler baking pies in a basement, he opened his retail store at 2803 Columbia Pike two years ago in the spring of 2019. The shop took over the space from Twisted Vines Bar and Bottleshop.

Even before that Acme had presence in the community, selling pies at farmers markets, hailed for making popular vegan versions and helping other struggling local businesses.

This past July, Schott baked pies and hosted a fundraiser for his next-door neighbor Papillon Cycles, Arlington’s oldest bike shop.

He says the past year has also been “tricky” and “rough” for Acme Pie due to losing a large slice of his wholesale business.

“Wholesale is off huge. That’s pretty much the issue,” says Schott. “I went from selling [pies] to 70 restaurants to 10 during the pandemic,” due to many local restaurants cutting back or outright closing.

Nonetheless, Schott says Acme Pie is not going anywhere.

“I’m a baker,” he says. “That’s what I do… I don’t have any choice.”

He’s optimistic sales will rise and normalcy will return in the coming months as the vaccine rollout continues. For the moment, he’s wishing that every weekend could be like the past one.

“It was amazing,” Schott says. “But you can’t have Pi Day everyday.”

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(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) The celebration of George Washington’s birthday may be a state and federal holiday, but it will not be observed on a county level in Arlington this year.

The holiday colloquially known as Presidents Day — technically a federal holiday called Washington’s Birthday and a Virginia state holiday called George Washington Day — will be a day just like any other for most Arlington County offices and personnel.

Because Election Day was deemed a county holiday and an off day for many rank-and-file county employees this year, this coming Monday, Feb. 15 was removed from Arlington’s closure calendar.

“Presidents Day/George Washington Day is not holiday this year,” county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith confirmed to ARLnow. “Instead, this year, Election Day was a holiday. Presidents Day expected to be back as a holiday in the next fiscal year.”

As it’s not a county holiday, county offices and facilities will remain open, with some exceptions — like the county permitting office, which will be closed. Contrary to what ARLnow was initially told by the county, parking meters will not be enforced.

“To maintain consistency with metered parking enforcement practices on Columbus Day (which is also a federal holiday, but not a county holiday), metered parking will not be enforced on Monday,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Kirby Clark said in an email Wednesday afternoon.

Courts and public schools, meanwhile, will be closed due to the state holiday, and Arlington Transit buses will operate on a reduced schedule.

Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

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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.

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As coronavirus cases rise in Arlington County, the number of residents in need of fresh, free food for their families is also increasing.

Executive Director and CEO Charles Meng said the Arlington Food Assistance Center is seeing record-high numbers of visitors each week and month.   

“Between October and November, we saw a 9.4% increase, serving 3,440 families at some point during the month,” Meng said in an email. “(We) responded to 11,255 visits for food during the month, with many families having to visit multiple weeks during the month.”

This morning (Monday), families lined up at AFAC to receive a Christmas special — a whole frozen chicken — as well as fresh veggies, desserts, milk and eggs. Volunteers split time de-stalking Brussels sprouts and briskly moving families through the line. 

AFAC has seen people coming more frequently for food during the pandemic, likely because personal budgets that could pay for part of a family’s food needs are now slimmer or non-existent, according to Meng. He added that there has also been an uptick in people coming to AFAC for the first time.

“Many of our families are service workers at hotels, restaurants and airports — the hardest hit during the pandemic,” Meng said. “We are seeing the families who would normally access our services come more often and the new families are more regularly coming for needed food.”

The number of clients served by AFAC last peaked in August, with the organization serving 3,364 over the course of the month. When the pandemic started, the number of families being referred to AFAC jumped by 45%, Meng told MSNBC earlier this month. 

The demand for food at AFAC has attracted both national and international media attention, with a BBC reporter visiting the organization’s distribution center near Shirlington last week.

The rise in demand locally tracks with trends seen nationwide.

An Associated Press analysis of Feeding America data from 181 food banks in its network found the organization has distributed nearly 57 percent more food in the third quarter of the year, compared with the same period in 2019. 

Food and financial donations are enough to keep up with demand, but as numbers continue to increase, Meng told ARLnow more help will be needed. 

“We have sufficient supplies to address our needs for the foreseeable future,” he said. “Financial donations have also been good, but with increasing numbers we need all (the money) that people can spare.”

The annual Boy Scout food drive, which usually brings in 50,000 pounds, was cancelled, but several scout groups still came through with smaller-scale drives, bringing in 36,000 pounds, he said. 

Donations from grocery stores are about level with last year, and individual donations have been “very strong,” he said. 

Nationwide, food banks are seeing fewer volunteers during the pandemic, NPR reports. In some cases, the usual group of volunteers includes older people, who are staying home due to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

AFAC also runs on the work of volunteers, who Meng commended for making sure the food bank handles the increase in visits despite the danger posed by the pandemic.

“Distributing food is one of the things we do well,” he told ARLnow. “We have a dedicated cadre of volunteers who have stepped up to help — they are the real heroes of AFAC.” 

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This column is sponsored by Arlington Arts/Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

For holiday shoppers in the know, the annual Lee Arts Center Holiday Show and Sale has been a cherished Arlington tradition that allows you to #shoplocal for the holidays — finding unique ceramics, prints and other handmade crafts. This year, Arlington Arts invites you to visit Lee Arts Center Artists on the Web, where in addition to shopping from the socially distanced comfort of your home, you can also explore the artists’ talents more deeply.

Located in a charming former 1920s schoolhouse, the Lee Arts Center is a fully equipped professional studio for artists working in ceramics and printmaking. The Center houses a mini-gallery with rotating exhibitions of visiting and resident artists. Master workshops are offered throughout the year. Of course, that’s what goes on usually… For the safety of the public and the artists alike, the center has been closed during the pandemic. Clearly, crowding into the confines of the space for a sale would not be feasible.

To help the Center’s member artists reach you, we designed a page on the Arlington Arts website where you can find many of your favorite Lee Arts Center artists and discover more of their work on their personal webpages. Please check out their websites — a few have web stores, too. You might even want to commission a work as a gift! You will also find links to other regional events and shows that our members are participating in as well as their social media accounts, so you can give them a follow.

Although none of this can replace Lee Arts Center’s much-loved venue and event, we encourage you to utilize this virtual space to reconnect with your favorite local artist and offer unique holiday gifts to your friends and loved ones. Check them out!

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There’s no question the holidays are going to look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good meal.

But maybe you don’t feel like cooking for a smaller gathering. Or maybe you’re just tired because, well, 2020… Don’t worry. RSVP Catering will deliver a full-blown feast straight to your door.

Multi-course meals include the Hanukkah Prix Fixe, which features a traditional brisket, lemon agave salmon, potato and scallion latkes, and a number of other sides. There’s also the Christmas Prix Fixe — you get a prime rib roast and ham with this one — and the Tenderloin Display, which includes crab cakes.

These meals serve between four and six people, and you can add on desserts like gingerbread cookies and peppermint brownie lollipops. You can even order seasonal spirits, which include cocktail pouches (cranberry margarita, anyone?) and gallon cocktails, like mulled spiced wine and winter sangria.

Bonus: If you’re looking for a last-minute gift to send to friends or family in the area, why not send them some food? Check out RSVP Catering’s “gifts for giving.” Some gift ideas include a cookie decorating kit, hot chocolate kit and a honey-glazed holiday ham.

Be sure to flip through all of the seasonal offerings before you make your choices!

RSVP Catering is making deliveries throughout the DMV area this holiday season — just make sure you place your order online by noon two business days in advance.

Aging Right @ Home is a monthly blog series, answering your questions on providing care for individuals with disabilities, loved ones with dementia and older adults aging in place. If you have a question, please submit it to [email protected].  

The holiday season is upon us, and I have no doubt the way we celebrate and interact with loved ones this year will be unlike any other year.

On top of issues related to the pandemic, many families are dealing with new health concerns of a loved one.

Regardless of your religious beliefs or family traditions, if you find yourself in this situation, you are probably looking forward to the holidays and wondering, “What am I going to do this year?” Depending on the care and need of your loved one, here are some things to consider in preparation for the holiday season.

If Your Loved One is Living With Alzheimer’s or Other Dementias

Holiday plans should be modified to accommodate their specific needs, moods and behaviors. Consider who is hosting, where the event will be and if additional help is required leading up to or during the family gathering. Individuals with dementia can become nervous in new environments or paranoid around new people or those they may not recognize.

Host the event at a home they are familiar with and limit guests outside of the direct family. This is a smart idea given the current pandemic as well. Holiday decorations can be festive and fun, but for those with cognitive impairment, they could experience them differently so keep decorative items to a minimum.

If Your Loved One is Living With Hearing Impairments

Individuals with hearing impairments can suffer from isolation in a group setting. Cross table chatter, holiday music playing or holiday movies can cause those with hearing impairments to miss out on the conversation.

Try to limit this background noise as much as possible and identify opportunities to focus and consolidate the conversation. Rather than speaking to the group in general, speak directly to each person and make sure they are aware you are speaking to them by making direct eye contact.

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Kids who want to talk to Santa Claus can drop off letters at the Gulf Branch Nature Center through Dec. 14.

For the first time, the park is collecting letters to send to St. Nick, rather than facilitating a weekend of in-person visits with the jolly one himself. In non-pandemic years, Santa visits typically drew up to 300 kids and families, park manager Rachael Tolman said.

So far this year, about a dozen kids come each day to drop off letters, she said.

Collections will end on Dec. 14, a Monday, to allow the snail mail ample time to reach the North Pole before Santa gets too busy, she said. Kids are encouraged to include their return address so he can respond with a postcard, and to bring canned goods that will go to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

“Due to the pandemic, Santa won’t be visiting, so he very kindly let us set up a mailbox,” she said. “We tried to come up with other ways to have Santa in person, but we figured that this would be the best option because everything is so up in the air from week to week.”

A mailbox is not the same as an in-person visit, but it feels vintage — “a little old school,” Tolman said.

The park manager said she “absolutely” remembers writing to Santa as a kid.

“I can’t remember what I asked for, but I remember asking about Mrs. Claus and the reindeer, and I would leave carrots out for reindeer — along with the milk and cookies — because they were doing all the work,” she said.

Tolman said she has received many emails thanking her for the mailbox from people who had always brought their kids to see Santa, and this year, were not sure what to tell them.

“They were so relieved that we put the mailbox out, so that their kids could keep the tradition of coming,” she said.

Visitors can also check out the cabin, decorated for the holidays.

“We’re glad to keep the magic of the season as best we can,” she said.

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