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A time-honored, pre-Memorial Day tradition took place at Arlington National Cemetery this morning.

More than 1,000 soldiers with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard, as well as servicemembers from ceremonial units of the other armed forces branches, fanned out over the cemetery’s 640 acres to place 260,000 flags next to headstones and niche rows.

The annual “Flags-in” mission takes only four hours to honor every individual laid to rest at the ceremony, including our nation’s fallen military heroes.

ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott and other members of the media were able to get a glimpse of the marvel of solemnity and logistics today around dawn, as birds chirped on a cool, overcast morning.

This Memorial Day weekend also brings a new tradition: the public getting a rare opportunity to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“Due to the public’s overwhelming positive response to the Flower Laying Ceremony during the Tomb Centennial Commemoration in November, ANC is inviting the public to once again honor our service members by placing flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider,” the cemetery said earlier this week

The inaugural Flowers of Remembrance Day is taking place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

More about the event from a cemetery press release, below.

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Morning Notes

Deer in a local neighborhood (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Memorial Day Closures — County offices and facilities like libraries and community centers will be closed Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Metered parking will not be enforced. But trash collection will continue as normal. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Tree Group Opposes ‘Missing Middle’ — “A tree-advocacy group believes proposed changes to Arlington housing policy could have a cataclysmic impact on existing tree canopy in the community. ‘Tell the county ‘no’ – do not enact policies that further reduce our tree canopy,’ the Arlington Tree Action Group (ATAG) said May 20 in response to a county-government proposal on possible zoning changes.” [Sun Gazette]

Chamber Supports New Ballston Metro Entrance — “I am writing to express our strong support for full Authority funding of Arlington County’s $80 million application for the Ballston-MU Metrorail Station West Entrance. This project is a critical improvement to the regional transit network and supports the Authority’s programming goals of modal and geographic balance… As we move forward, its construction will be very important to the success of businesses in Arlington.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

W-L’s Royal Rowing History — “In the spring of 1958, under the guidance of head coach Charlie Butt, a group of teenage rowers from Washington-Lee High School (now Washington-Liberty) performed so well at stateside races that they earned a spot at the Henley Royal Regatta in England–becoming the first public high school in America invited to the iconic race, which dates to 1839. But first, they needed money.” [Arlington Magazine]

County Now Offering Boosters for Kids — “After federal approvals, Arlington County and other providers are offering the COVID-19 vaccine booster to children aged 5 to 11.” [Patch]

County Polling About Pickleball — “As Arlington’s population continues to grow and sports trends change, the Department of Parks and Recreation recognizes there has been a shift in the use and demand for outdoor athletic courts. Our Outdoor Athletic Court Project includes creating criteria to identify existing courts that are candidates for permanent pickleball lines as well as identify an existing amenity to convert into a permanent pickleball facility.” [Arlington County]

Storms Possible Tomorrow — From the National Weather Service: “We’ll stay mostly dry and cloudy for the remainder of today with highs in the 60s across the area. We are monitoring the potential for an unsettled start to the long holiday weekend this Friday with severe storm/flood threats.” [Twitter]

It’s Thursday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 71 and low of 60. Sunrise at 5:49 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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Traffic on I-395 looking south as the sun sets (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Memorial Day holiday weekend is almost here and with it comes the kickoff to the unofficial summer travel season.

AAA expects 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more this weekend, an increase of 8.3% over 2021. Most — nearly 35 million — will travel by car. Another 3 million will travel by air, a 25% increase from last year, the automobile association predicts.

Overall, that’s still down from the pre-pandemic 2019 figures of 42.8 million overall travelers, including 3.22 million air travelers.

When we asked ARLnow readers about their upcoming travel plans last month, 27% said they had no plans at the time to spend 2+ nights away from home this summer, while 60% said they were planning between one and three trips.

Of course, this Memorial Day weekend comes amid yet another Covid wave that, while less deadly than past waves, still means plenty of disruption to plans and apprehension about visiting vulnerable loved ones. Then there are those sky-high gas prices — a national average of $4.60 per gallon, per AAA.

With all that in mind, today we’re asking readers: are you planning to travel this weekend? And we’ll be comparing the results to a similar poll in 2013 when just shy of 35% said yes (at the time, the federal government sequester was blamed for dampening D.C. area residents’ enthusiasm for holiday travel).

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Morning Notes

‘Flags In’ at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery — “At 2:00pm EST, @USArmyOldGuard will enter @ArlingtonNatl and continue our tradition of placing an American flag at every gravesite throughout our Nation’s most hallowed grounds. Stay tuned for updates as we honor those that have served and sacrificed for our freedom.” [Twitter]

Former Sen. John Warner Dies — “John W. Warner, the five-term U.S. senator from Virginia who helped plan the nation’s 1976 bicentennial celebrations, played a central role in military affairs and gained respect on both sides of the political aisle for his diligence, consensus-building and independence, died May 24 at his home in Alexandria, Va. He was 94.” [Washington Post, Gov. Ralph Northam]

StarKist Moving Somewhere in N. Va. — “StarKist Co. plans to close its Pittsburgh headquarters office and relocate to Northern Virginia, the company said this week. Known for its cartoon mascot Charlie the Tuna, StarKist said in a statement that the headquarters in Pittsburgh will close at the end of March 2022… The company did not disclose where in Northern Virginia its new headquarters will be.” [Patch]

Memorial Day ClosuresUpdated at 8:55 a.m. — “Arlington County Government offices and services are operating on modified schedules for Memorial Day, May 31.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Special Election Voting Starts Today — “Arlington election officials have announced plans for two Saturday dates for in-person absentee voting in advance of the July 7 County Board special election. Saturday voting will be available on June 20 and July 4, augmenting the usual Monday-to-Friday early voting that will begin May 22.” [InsideNova]

Big Food Donation to Green Valley Church — “3,300 lasagna and vegetable meals donated by chef Jose Andres’ @WCKitchen were given to those in need at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington [on] May 21.” [@ZoeyMaraistACH/Twitter]

Flags In at Ceremony Despite Pandemic — “The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment has continued their tradition of placing American flags at every grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day.” [NBC 4]

Arlingtonian Aims to Run Every Street — “Before the pandemic hit, I hadn’t taken a big vacation in years. Since I’m at a dramatically reduced salary from not working full-time and, like so many Arlingtonians, dealing with underlying stress and anxiety while still feeling incredibly thankful, I’ve decided to use this time to discover my own city by walking or running every street.” [Arlington Magazine]

Local Wages Were Rising at the End of 2019 — “The average weekly wage for those working in Arlington (wherever they may live) stood at $1,963 in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data reported May 20 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s an increase of 4.7 percent from the same period a year before, well above the national growth rate of 3.5 percent (to $1,185).” [InsideNova]

Local Artist Creates Virus Sculptures — “The sculptures seem to be inspired by the latest breaking news headlines. A figure in a stark white face mask. A giant virus cell mutating into a tentacled sea creature that morphs back into a virus… The centerpiece was a spiky model of “a virus, with seven figures running away,” said [Hadrian] Mendoza, 46, a ceramic artist, sculptor and full-time art director at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington since 2017.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Rain and Storms Today — “Waves of showers or storms are a good bet as the slow-moving upper level low pressure system finally decides to wander by. Round one will end in the morning to midday, but skies remain mostly cloudy. If we do see enough sunshine and heating, it’s not impossible some severe storms will develop nearby.” [Capital Weather Gang]

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Those looking to commemorate the First World War on Memorial Day may have been surprised to find the WWI plaque removed from the Clarendon War Memorial.

Dan Donahue from American Legion Post 139 in Arlington said the plaque was taken down to fix an error with one of the names.

The plaque has been the subject of controversy for its separation of two “colored” soldiers killed in WWI — listed as Arthur Morgan and Ralph Lowe — from the other 11 soldiers.

Donahue said the name “Ralph Lowe” should have been listed as “Ralph Rowe.”

No other alterations to the plaque are planned as part along with the name change, according to Donahue, but he is unsure when the alteration will be completed and the plaque reinstalled.

The memorial overlooking the intersection of Washington, Wilson and Clarendon boulevards was built in 1931 and has been moved around Arlington several times, but all with the original plaque intact.

The Arlington County Board accepted a $2,000 grant to fund new interpretive signs placed at the site last November. The staff report says the grant funding would be specifically dedicated to signage related to the creation of the memorial and its WWI component.

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This weekend, volunteers are expected to adorn the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery with thousands of flowers for Memorial Day.

The Memorial Day Flowers Foundation says it is donating 220,000 blooms for the annual event at the cemetery, and expects 1,200 volunteers will be on-site from around 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to help place the flowers.

“Our primary goal for 2019 is to decorate all 300,000 headstones and niches at Arlington,” the foundation wrote on its website.

The foundation began decorating back in 2012, after part-Ecuadorean founder Ramiro Peñaherrera rustled up donations from Ecuador’s major rose growers for his and other family members buried at the cemetery.

Today, the flowers are donated from growers across the U.S., as well as Ecuador and Colombia, and the event is sponsored by several companies, including FedEx, Cisco, and TD Bank.

A spokeswoman for the foundation told ARLnow that family members interested in a flower for a loved one’s grave at the cemetery can request one by contacting the foundation at [email protected] and a volunteer will send a photo of the flower once it’s placed at the gravestone.

Yesterday, the Arlington National Cemetery also hosted its annual “Flags-In” tradition of placing American flags at the gravestones — despite the storm that felled trees and pelted rain and hail down in the area.

The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as the The Old Guard, returned later that day to reset the flags after the storm passed.

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attended the ceremony yesterday where 250,000 flags were placed at gravestones.

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(Updated at 10:50 p.m.) The annual Rolling Thunder rally is coming to an end, but first a final big motorcycle gathering is planned this weekend.

Locals have a love-hate relationship with Rolling Thunder, which means increased traffic and noise along local roads and highways, plus road closures and other disruptions over Memorial Day weekend. In an ARLnow poll, however, most people said they either enjoy or do not mind the rally.

Rolling Thunder — which helps bring attention to American military Prisoners of War, Missing in Action and veterans issues — has for years used the Hyatt Regency hotel in Crystal City as its home base over the weekend. Bikers typically start to arrive on Friday before departing on Monday.

As in the past, this year’s schedule of events includes a candlelight vigil at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Friday and the main event — a rally in the Pentagon parking lot — on Sunday. During the day, the bikers hang out on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial.

A number of road closure are planned around the Pentagon for the Sunday rally. Per Arlington County Police:

The following closures will be implemented from 7:00 a.m. until approximately 4:00 p.m.:

  • Washington Blvd. (Route 27) will be closed from I-395 to the Memorial Bridge.
  • Route 110 southbound from Iwo Jima to I-395 will be opening and closing intermittently
  • I-395 North Exit 8B will be CLOSED

In addition, Arlington National Cemetery will only be accessible from southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway or northbound Route 110.

ACPD says drivers should also expect numerous rolling road closures Saturday for a separate veterans motorcycle ride and memorial service.

The Arlington County Police Department will implement multiple road closures on Saturday, May 25, 2019, resulting in traffic disruptions, to accommodate escorts of Vietnam veterans groups.

  • From approximately 7:50 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., I-66 Eastbound will be closed at N. Sycamore Street to allow police to escort 400 veterans of the Vietnam War to travel by motorcycle to Arlington National Cemetery. The escort will proceed east on I-66, south on Route 110, west on Washington Boulevard and exit onto Columbia Pike to Southgate Road. Significant travel delays can be expected along this route during this time period.
  • From 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., traffic in the Crystal City area may experience delays as another veterans group is escorted through the area.

Motorists should expect large numbers of motorcyclists in Northern Virginia and the entire Washington Metropolitan area throughout the weekend.

The Rolling Thunder organization says its mission will continue despite the annual event coming to an end.

“The organization will continue to bring awareness to the public, in years to come, with regional demonstrations,” Rolling Thunder said in a press release.

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It’s Memorial Day weekend, which means that it is also Rolling Thunder weekend here in the D.C. area.

Thousands of bikers are expected to stream into the area over the next couple of days. The event, intended to raise awareness of American service members who were prisoners of war or remain missing in action, is prompting a number of road closures in Arlington.

The first of the planned closures is on 23rd Street S. between S. Eads and Fern streets. Starting today and running through Sunday, the Crystal City Sports Pub and Crystal City BID are hosting a free outdoor concert series dubbed “Crystal City Thunder,” from 4-8 p.m. each night.

More from the Arlington County Police Department:

Motorists using S. 23rd Street can detour around the closure by using S. 22nd Street (one block north of S. 23rd Street) via S. Eads Street or S. Fern Street, depending on their direction of travel.

Parking will also be restricted in the same location from 3:00 PM Friday afternoon until 9:00 PM Sunday night, except for motorcycles.  Motorcyclists are encouraged to back their cycle to the curb and line up in an orderly fashion to maximize the space.  Vehicles in violation will be subject to tow. If you are towed from a public street, call the Emergency Communication Center at 703-558-2222.

Barrels and other traffic management equipment will be deployed in the area.  Motorists are reminded to follow police direction and be aware of the extra motorcycle traffic associated with this event and the Rolling Thunder Rally.

The police department is also warning of “severe” traffic impacts from a temporary closure of eastbound I-66 Saturday morning, “to allow veterans of the Vietnam War to travel to the Arlington National Cemetery.”

The Arlington County Police Department is informing the public that traffic on I-66 Eastbound on Saturday, May 26, 2018 from 8:15 a.m. to approximately 9:30 a.m. will be severely impacted by temporary closures to allow veterans of the Vietnam War to travel to the Arlington National Cemetery. Route 110 southbound and Washington Boulevard (Route 27) near Columbia Pike will also incur temporary traffic disruptions.

In addition, between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., traffic in the Crystal City area may experience delays as another veterans’ group is escorted through the area.

On Sunday, Washington Blvd and the Memorial Bridge will be closed to traffic for the Rolling Thunder Rally. More from ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department and Virginia State Police will close part of Washington Boulevard near the Pentagon on Sunday, May 27, 2018, for the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally.  From 7:00 a.m. to approximately 4:00 p.m., Washington Blvd. (Route 27) will be closed from I-395 to the Memorial Bridge.

In addition, Arlington National Cemetery will only be accessible from southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway or northbound Route 110.

Motorists should expect large numbers of motorcyclists in Northern Virginia and the entire Washington Metropolitan area during the Memorial Day weekend.

For questions or concerns, please contact Lieutenant Steve Meincke at 703-228-4148.

AAA Mid-Atlantic, meanwhile, is reminding drivers to keep an eye out for motorcyclists during the event.

During the Memorial Day holiday weekend, waves of motorcyclists, as far as the eye can see, will participate in the annual Rolling Thunder procession to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.   As a result, “motorists could encounter possible delays if operating in the vicinity of this event and may wish to consider alternative routes,” warns the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). With an upturn in motorcyclists in the region this weekend, area motorists should know how to detect and respond to so many bikers sharing the road, advises AAA Mid-Atlantic. For safety’s sake, motorists should also listen for the sound of motorcycles approaching in blind spots during Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom XXX.

Tragically, “motorcyclists are overrepresented in crashes and fatalities,” highway safety advocates warn.  Advocates point the finger of blame at the rising age of motorcyclists, traffic congestion, and distracted driving as overarching factors in the number of roadway deaths of motorcyclists. Other factors include alcohol impairment and recreational marijuana and drug impairment.  “In 2016, one-quarter of motorcyclists who died had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, the highest percentage of any vehicle type,” according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). “Data suggest that trend continued in 2017.”

“Across the nation and around the Washington metro area, motorcyclists are disproportionately vulnerable to losing their lives and limbs in traffic crashes,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Although the average motorcyclist rides his or her bike between 3,000 to 6,000 miles per year, motorcycle riders and passengers are ‘about 27 times as likely as passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash, and six times as likely to be injured,’ research shows.”

Watch out for motorcyclists during Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom XXX. Motorcycle fatalities soared to the highest level in a decade in Virginia during 2017, according to Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) data. All told, 107 motorcyclists lost their lives in crashes on Virginia roads in 2017, as motorcycle fatalities increased nearly 50 percent over 2016, when 72 motorcyclists died in motorcycle-related crashes across Virginia, according to the 2017 Virginia Traffic Crash Facts report. Of the 1,794 motorcycle riders injured in crashes in 2017, almost half, 830 bikers or 46.2 percent, were age 41 or above. Motorcycle crashes comprised 1.7 percent of all traffic crashes in the state, but 12.7 percent all fatalities.

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

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Morning Notes

Memorial Day Closures — Arlington County offices, courts, schools, community centers and other facilities will be closed Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Metro, meanwhile, will operate on a Sunday schedule on Monday. [Arlington County, WMATA]

Spraygrounds Opening Today — Arlington’s spraygrounds will open for the summer today. The water play areas are located at Drew Park, Hayes Park, Lyon Village Park and Virginia Highlands Parks. [Arlington County]

Flags in at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery — Members of the Old Guard from Ft. Myer completed their annual “flags-in” pre-Memorial Day tradition of placing a flag at every grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. [Stars & Stripes]

Arlington Has Most Expensive Home Ever in D.C. Area — The priciest residential property ever to be listed in the D.C. area is partially located in Arlington. The Falls, the riverfront estate of late AOL co-founder Jim Kimsey, is on the market for $62.95 million. The 3.2 acre property on Chain Bridge Road straddles the Arlington-Fairfax line and includes an original Frank Lloyd Wright home as its guest house. [Preservation Arlington, UrbanTurf, Wall Street Journal]

County Hires New Assistant County Manager  — Updated at 11:15 a.m. — Arlington County hired attorney Gurjit Chima to be the county’s Assistant County Manager for Human Rights and EEO. “[Chima] will be instrumental in advancing human rights and related initiatives across County government and in the Arlington community, consistent with our mission of diversity and inclusion,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. [Arlington County, InsideNova]

Clarendon Company Named a Best Workplace in U.S. — Clarendon-based Enterprise Knowledge has made an Inc. magazine list of the Best Workplaces in 2018. The management consultancy has some of the “coolest company perks,” according to the magazine, including “tuition help, gym memberships, and company cellphones.” It also “reimburses employees up to $3,000 for the purchase of a hybrid car.” [Inc., Enterprise Knowledge]

County Touts Oak Grove Park Upgrades — “Through a Neighborhood Conservation project, Oak Grove Park recently underwent some major improvements to its playground equipment… The updates to the park include a ‘tot lot’ and a play area for older kids, an improved picnic shelter, site furnishings, a water fountain, many new trees, and biorentention for stormwater management.” [Arlington County, YouTube]

Marymount Farmers Market Starts This Weekend — The Marymount Farmers Market will kick off Saturday, serving the university and nearby North Arlington neighborhoods. The market will take place weekly through November. [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen

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Thousands of motorcyclists are gearing up for the 31st edition of the annual “Rolling Thunder” ride through Arlington and D.C. in a few weeks.

Bikers with the veterans group are scheduled to gather in Arlington once more this Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27. The Rolling Thunder headquarters is again set for the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, with events planned throughout the weekend.

On Friday, May 25, riders will roll into town and then gather for a “Blessing of the Bikes” at the National Cathedral and a candlelight vigil at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Sunday, May 27 will feature the main event, as bikers convene in the Pentagon parking lots early that morning before riding across the Memorial Bridge into D.C. for a rally, which will include speakers and musical performances around the Reflecting Pool. Country artist Rockie Lynne is set to headline the concert.

The group’s mission is to raise awareness about American prisoners of war and service members who remain missing in action, according to the Rolling Thunder website.

Anyone looking to celebrate Rolling Thunder’s arrival can also gather for free outdoor concerts hosted by the Crystal City Sports Pub for the entire weekend.

Come celebrate Memorial Day weekend and Rolling Thunder on 23rd Street! We’ll have live music, cold beer and good food all weekend from 4-8pm on Friday, Saturday AND Sunday.

The legendary Roadducks will be jamming all weekend, so come by for a bit, or party for three days straight. Either way, a good time will be had by all!

This outdoor event is FREE to attend and there will be a cash bar and food available for purchase.

Location: 536 23rd St. S (the parking lot across from the Crystal City Sports Pub)

Rolling Thunder typically causes road closures around Arlington the day of the main rally, not to mention the occasional noise complaint from neighbors. County police have yet to release exact details on the changes in traffic patterns.

Flickr pool photo by Michelle Dupray

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