Press Club

There are few people who know more about how Columbia Pike has changed in recent years than Lloyd Wolf, director of the Columbia Pike Documentary Project.

Since 2007, Wolf and a team of photographers, interviewers and community activists have spoken with hundreds of residents and taken thousands of pictures of South Arlington’s main thoroughfare.

As part of the project, they’ve kept a running blog, published books, and conceived numerous exhibits all aimed at discovering what makes Columbia Pike so special.

Wolf and his team of now-five include Dewey Tron, Xang Mimi Ho, Lara Ajami and Sushmita Mazumdar. They have documented a Bangladeshi-American car parade, a Thanksgiving dinner for new Ethiopian immigrants, a local Piedmont blues style guitarist along with dozens more celebratory moments and personal stories.

“The Pike is this nexus of immigration and diversity. And people are basically getting along and we thought ‘This is something we really should examine in-depth,'” Wolf tells ARLnow about how the project got started more than a decade ago.

Columbia Pike has a well-earned reputation for being among one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country. It’s estimated that there are people from more than 130 countries speaking at least a hundred languages living on or in the Columbia Pike corridor. Famously, the Pike and its corresponding 22204 ZIP code has gotten the nickname for being the “world in a ZIP code.”

Wolf says one of the most gratifying aspects of the project for him is the ability to listen and learn about cultures and communities from around the world; the traditions, the rituals, the successes, and the challenges. Plus, his team is made up of people whose backgrounds include being Syrian, Vietnamese, Laotian and Japanese.

To Wolf, this perfectly encapsulates what makes Columbia Pike so special.

“If we weren’t doing this project, maybe we wouldn’t have a chance to meet. I have this line ‘This is what peace looks like,'” he says. “To the Pike, people come. It’s not perfect, but by and large, the groups interact well.”

This is a testament to the Arlington community as a whole. In a county where diversity is valued, appreciated, and celebrated, Wolf notes, differences don’t divide but unite.

“I’ve heard immigrants say that ‘I don’t feel different here because everyone is different,'” he says.

However, like much of Arlington, it’s no secret that Columbia Pike is physically changing, with a number of major development projects set to be completed in the near future.

And, recently, Wolf has set out to explore how these changes might impact the communities he’s spent years documenting.

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For the first time in nearly three years, Arlington experienced a significant snowfall.

Starting very early yesterday morning and finally tapering off in afternoon, preliminary estimates suggest that the county got close to seven inches of snow.

The storm brought power outages, closures, the suspension of bus service, cancellation of trash pick-up, and numerous skidding cars.

It was a very bad day to be on the roads, with the Arlington and VDOT crews unable to pre-treat the streets because the storm started off as rain.

As of Tuesday morning, Arlington County snow crews — their ranks thinned by Covid absences — were tackling neighborhood streets after spending most of Monday treating and clearing main roads.

Despite the challenges, with everything that the region has been dealing with lately, the snow also brought a considerable amount of joy to some.

“I love it,” Javed Malik told ARLnow, peering up at the falling flakes at Penrose Square. “It’s a beautiful, gorgeous day.”

In Ballston, kids and adults alike were spotted pulling sleds to the nearest hill. Pedestrians were reclaiming the covered streets as their own, snapping selfies and looking up at the snowy sky.

Persi George, from California, had never seen anything like it in person before.

“I’ve seen it before in the movies,” she said with a laugh standing in front of her apartment building along Columbia Pike. It’s a little softer than she expected, but that doesn’t dampen her enthusiasm as she prepares to make her first snow angel. “I’m in love with it.”

Yesterday was also set to be the first day back to school after the long holiday break with Arlington Public Schools continuing to commit to in-person instruction. That didn’t happen because the storm cancelled classes across Arlington and the region. School is cancelled today, too, with an expected refreezing overnight.

At least one teacher is breathing a sigh of relief. With Covid cases on the rise, likely due to holiday gatherings, the two extra days off provides more time for students to get tested.

“This couldn’t have been more well-timed. Coming back from the break, we are all worried about the rising case numbers,” Arlington high school teacher Josh Folb told ARLnow. “Hopefully, this gives people more time to get tested and… isolate, if needed. I haven’t talked to a teacher yet, and I’ve talked to a lot today, that isn’t grateful [about the snow days].”

There remains a chance it will snow again this week, Thursday night to Friday morning, though it’s not expected to dump as much snow as Monday’s storm.

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ARLnow is ringing in the New Year with a look back at 2021 through our photo archives.

We compiled a slideshow to encapsulate this year and recall some of the stories and moments that made 2021 memorable.

This year, Arlingtonians celebrated local heroes, pushed for and saw cultural changes and said goodbye to venerable institutions — all against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic.

Olympic swimmer Torri Huske received a hero’s welcome home from Japan, while “superwoman” Mariflor Ventura received accolades for her local mutual aid efforts.

Arlington removed vestiges of Robert E. Lee’s legacy, renaming Route 29 Langston Blvd and replacing the county logo depicting his house with one that ARLnow readers helped bring about. Teens protested how public school administrators handle complaints of sexual assault while bus drivers demonstrated for better pay and treatment. Locals picked up free cannabis seeds after private use was legalized.

But 2021 was the end of an era for some beloved Arlington institutions: Inner Ear Studios, the recording studio for Minor Threat and Fugazi; Clarendon watering hole Whitlow’s on Wilson; the Highlander Motel; and a few (arguably) historic estates.

Amid all that, the pandemic continued to run its course. After a chaotic start, the county helped to administer the vaccine to tens of thousands of residents. Locals started eating out again, kids returned for in-person school, and there was optimism about a return to normalcy over the summer — until that faded with the Delta variant and, now, Omicron.

And we almost got a gondola — or, at least, that’s what some want to believe.

With that we’ll step aside for the long weekend and see you back here on Monday, in 2022. Happy New Year, Arlington!

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Things that go bump in the night have resumed their haunting of Arlington, including the famed N. Jackson Street in Ashton Heights, ready to scare trick-or-treaters.

And some decor ARLnow found is frighteningly topical. On N. Vermont Street a skeleton can be seen holding a sign that reads, “I did my own resurch.”

The pandemic caused residents of N. Jackson Street to rein in their usually elaborate displays in 2020, but this year neighbors along Arlington’s favorite street for trick-or-treating have filled their porches and yards with ghouls and goblins ahead of Halloween with gusto.

“Dismembered” body parts hang from trees, while skeletons frolic on swing sets and drive cars, and busts of Kiss frontman Gene Simmons — in full “demon” makeup — give one porch a retro demonic edge.

Another home in the 100-year-old neighborhood blew the competition out of the water with a pirate scene dredged up from Davy Jones’ Locker, complete with cannons.

Know of any other elaborate Halloween displays around town? Post some photos in the comments.

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For those who were up early enough to see it, Mother Nature gave autumn a grand entrance with this morning.

The purple-and-pink sunrise, coming on the heels of Monday night’s Harvest Moon, dazzled across the area.

The photos above were taken by reader John Antonelli near the Hatfield Gate gate to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, on the bridge over Washington Blvd. Below is from Rosslyn-based WJLA’s weather camera at Army Navy Country Club.

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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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Thought it was partially obscured by smoke near the end, Sunday’s Fourth of July fireworks on the National Mall dazzled.

In case you missed it, local photographers captured the scene from a number of angles, including from vistas in Arlington like the Iwo Jima memorial, Long Bridge Park, the Clarendon/Courthouse area, and the Crystal City/Pentagon City area.

For fireworks aficionados, the countdown to next year’s Independence Day show now begins. July 4 will fall on a Monday in 2022.

Flickr pool photos by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Photographer Taking Silly Cicada Snaps —  “Oxana Ware is a talented photographer based out of North Arlington, but along with her business side, she likes to have fun and be a little silly at times. That’s why it just seemed right to her when she decided to have a full photoshoot with cicadas, complete with handmade props.” [WJLA]

County Marking Sit-In Anniversary With Art — “It was delayed a year due to the pandemic, but a commemoration marking the 1960 civil-rights sit-ins in Arlington is now beginning. The Arlington County government had planned to mark the 60th anniversary of sit-ins at Arlington lunch counters with special programming on the Arlington Art Truck, using prints by artist Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. to immerse the public in the experience, in 2020. But the effort was a victim of the pandemic – until now.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington-Based Axios Making Moves — Digital news outlet Axios, based in Clarendon, is launching local news publications in a number of cities this year, including Washington. It is also reportedly in discussions to be acquired by a German news conglomerate. [Washington Post, Marketwatch]

Masks Coming Off For APS Athletes — “It looks like Arlington school officials have abandoned their masks-on policy for most athletes while engaged in competition.” [Sun Gazette]

ACFD Assists with Potomac Search — “Person seen going into Potomac River & not resurfacing… [After a search involving D.C., Arlington and other water rescue teams, medics] transported an adult female in critical life threatening condition. Law enforcement will investigate the circumstances.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Secretary Pete at DCA This Afternoon — “U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Mary Kay Henry, International President of the two million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will host an immigration roundtable discussion with 32BJ SEIU’s airport workers at National Airport (DCA).” [Press Release]

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We get it, 2020 was not a great year in many respects. But it was without a doubt a momentous year in both local and national history.

It took a little while to compile, but ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott has created a video (above) highlighting some of the photos that defined 2020 in Arlington. The music is of Jay’s creation as well.

“2020 was, at least for me, a year of challenges. Relentless challenges,” Westcott said, of his experience photographing the area throughout the year. “The pandemic has reshaped our world, we’ve been forced to rethink ways of going about daily life. It’s been a year of pain and loss, a year of grief and anxiety. But watching Arlington as it adapted to the lockdown and pandemic, and watching people together for each other was inspiring and amazing to witness. I am proud to call Arlington home.”

For a look back at the most-read articles of the year, see our Top 30 Arlington Stories of 2020 countdown.

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Photos: Snow in Arlington

Arlington had its first measurable snowfall of the season today, offering some natural beauty before the sleet and rain washed much of it away.

Snow started falling from the overcast sky around 10:30 a.m. today, and small crystals turned into big flakes by noon.  The roads, some treated and some not, became slick as the afternoon went on.

ARLnow staffers, including photographer Jay Westcott, saw a few fender benders while we were out and about, along with a few cars failing to make it up hills in neighborhoods. Perhaps heeding warnings from local officials, not many people were out and about today, which is a good thing.

The amount of snow that fell varies depending where in Arlington you were. At National Airport, the official National Weather Service measurement was a “trace.” Elsewhere in the county, there were separate reports of a half-inch, 1 inch and 1.5 inch, with the larger amounts further north.

Though it’s raining now, the snow may not be done. Forecasters say another round tonight may drop another inch or so of snow before the storm passes and the precipitation stops.

Staff photographer Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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It’s a sight that still stands out for its oddness: a huge parking garage normally packed with cars, almost totally empty.

Six months ago, at the springtime height of the pandemic in Arlington, ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott embarked on a photo essay project to document some of the eerily abandoned office and retail parking garages in Arlington.

At the time, there was just too much news to report and we never ended up publishing the photos. Until today.

Above is a look back at the empty parking garages of Arlington, amid the coronavirus lockdown. Below are Jay’s recollection of the assignment.

When I look through these pictures of empty parking garages, taken back in April and early May, I remember how it felt to be in them: cold, lonely, nervous. Despite being public garages, they were closed because of the stay at home order. Nobody was going in the buildings around them, and without cars the weirdness that is an underground parking garage or a multi-level above-ground garage is reduced to its basic elements: concrete and columns.

These parking garages might be getting more use now, six months later. And maybe one day they will have bike races in them again. One can only hope.

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