Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Va. Supreme Court Passes on Pot Prosecution Case — “The Virginia Supreme Court has rejected an effort by Arlington’s chief prosecutor to rein in judges who are skeptical of her refusal to prosecute marijuana possession. But the court did not resolve the conflict, saying it could not weigh in because it had not been asked to consider any specific case.” [Washington Post]

Big Response to Mailbox — “‘We’ve collected at least probably 500 letters in the two weeks that we’ve had the [Santa] mailbox out,’ Rachael Tolman, the Park Manager at Gulf Branch Park said. ‘It’s a lot of letters.’ The lists some children put in the mailbox looked different, with requests for masks and good health.” [WUSA 9]

Nonprofit Merger Complete — “Bridges to Independence, a Northern Virginia provider of housing and vital services for at-risk families and individuals, has finalized its merger with the Bonder and Amanda Johnson Community Development Corp., a community-based non-profit with a mission to address the health, education, financial empowerment and social service needs of people living in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood.” [InsideNova]

Pedestrian Struck in Ballston — “Police and medics on scene of a pedestrian struck by a driver in front of the Ballston Harris Teeter on N. Glebe Road. So far, the victim’s injuries sound minor.” [Twitter]

Holiday Pop-Ups in National Landing — “As part of National Landing’s mission to activate public spaces, the BID has unveiled ‘Turn Up the Love,’ a winterlong campaign featuring a series of engaging outdoor pop-ups. These festive installations include a larger-than-life boombox adorned with thousands of colorful ornaments, three shareable photo frames and even more surprises to be announced after the holidays.” [National Landing BID]

Nearby: BB Gun Shootings in FC — “Police investigated calls of vandalism and found a teen who confessed to at least 50 incidents of shooting vehicles and people. Some victims have been identified, but police believe there may be more.” [City of Falls Church]

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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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Morning Notes

Dorsey’s Bankruptcy Case Dismissed — “Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey, whose ethical and financial difficulties have tangled him in a web of false statements over the past year, fraudulently misrepresented his assets while filing for bankruptcy, a federal court ruled Friday… It was ‘an act of overt misrepresentation,’ [bankruptcy trustee] Thomas P. Gorman told the court at a hearing on Thursday, and ‘misconduct . . . so over the line’ that punishment was warranted.” [Washington Post]

Holiday Shopping Safety Tips — “ACPD wants you to have a happy and safe holiday season. While many are choosing to shop online this year, those shopping in-store are encouraged to be mindful of these safety tips.” [Twitter]

Event for Military Families Today — “An annual Winter Wonderland for Military Families hosted by a former NFL player and his wife will look very different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Derrick Dockery and his wife Emma will hold a drive-thru version of the event that provides toys and holiday cheer to military kids and families on Dec. 7 at a parking lot in Arlington, Virginia through their nonprofit, Yellow Ribbons United.” [Radio.com]

Santa Visit Still on This Weekend — “Santa Claus has paid a visit to the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department every year for over a century and he’s not going let the coronavirus pandemic force him to break that streak. In the interest of public safety, the jolly old elf will be meeting children outside this year in the parking lot of Cherrydale Baptist Church, which is located at 3910 Lorcom Lane.” [Patch]

More on CaBi Station at DCA — “Arlington County, Virginia, has installed a Capital Bikeshare station at Reagan National Airport, making it the first major metropolitan airport in the U.S. with a dock-based shared bike program. It is the 99th Capital Bikeshare dock installed in Arlington County.” [WTOP]

Gunston Coordinator Honored — “Shantha Smith, an education coordinator at Gunston Middle School, has been named a recipient of the 2020 Mary Peake Award for Excellence in Education by the state government. Awards were presented Dec. 3 in Richmond, and were named after a pioneering African-American educator.” [InsideNova]

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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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Even though the Christmas tree lighting, Santa Claus’ arrival, face painting and hot cocoa can’t be enjoyed in person this year, the Miracle on 23rd Street holiday tradition is still happening.

The event has been hosted at 750 23rd Street S. in Crystal City for more than 50 years, in front of what is now Melwood, the employment and job training nonprofit for people of differing abilities.

This year, however, families are being asked to stay home to virtually watch the lighting of the Christmas tree at 6:45 p.m. tonight (Friday). They can enhance the experience with a $10 “Miracle on 23rd Street In A Box” kit for kids.

“The box includes supplies to decorate cookies, make a wreath and reindeer food,” the organization said. “It can be picked up in a contactless process (after registering with Melwood), and kids can follow along with activities with special guests on its Facebook page.”

Santa Claus is still making a drive-by appearance, too, and will be escorted by the Arlington auxiliary police and firefighters from Fire Station 5.

“If you live near 23rd St. and S. Grant Ave in Arlington, you can expect to see Santa in your neighborhood between 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.,” Melwood said.

Locals are being discouraged from trying to view the tree-lighting in person, however.

“While we won’t be able to come together in person for this time-honored tradition, Melwood will keep the Miracle tradition alive in a new way,” the organization said. “In compliance with Arlington County COVID-19 guidelines, Melwood is actively discouraging our neighbors from gathering near the campus for the tree lighting. We look forward to next year when we will be able to come together to continue this holiday tradition.”

Images via Melwood

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One might think that taking photos with Santa is the kind of thing that would get nixed in a pandemic, particularly one that has closed schools. Not so, at least in Arlington.

In an early Christmas miracle, Santa is set to arrive at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City later this month, mall owner Simon announced Monday evening.

“Simon is pleased to announce a safe and socially distanced Santa visit for families as part of the Simon Santa Photo Experience at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City,” said a press release. “Santa arrives on November 27, 2020 and will be available for socially distanced visits until Christmas Eve.”

The arrival date — Nov. 27 — is Black Friday, also known as the day after Thanksgiving.

“For everyone’s safety, visiting Santa will be a socially distanced experience,” Simon said — though it’s unclear what exactly that means in practice, given that sitting on the jolly one’s lap is de rigueur for any proper Santa photo.

The mall owner notes that reservations are required to visit with Santa this year, and that “Santa and his helpers will be wearing masks throughout the duration of each visit.”

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The Winter Festival of Lights is set to brighten up various spots along Lee Highway with 10,000 lights on Saturday (Dec. 1).

From 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., locals can check out the free festival’s four different venues, which will have holiday music, shopping, performances, art, food and photos with Santa.

The first stop at the Lee Arts Center (5722 Lee Highway) includes a kid-friendly crafting area in the artists’ studios where families can make buttons, watch local artists make ceramic bowls for the AFAC Empty Bowls fundraiser and learn how to make a holiday card with the printing press.

Kids can sing holiday favorites with “Sing Books with Emily” from noon to 2 p.m. Pizza from Joe’s Place Pizza & Pasta and a tasting by LaMoo Creamery will be available.

The second spot along the corridor, next to the Petco at 5400 Lee Highway, features magic and puppies. Attendees can meet Marymount University’s Pattern Makers and Fashion Club, chat with Arlington County library staff and learn from Arlington planners about the upcoming Lee Highway Planning Study while munching on food from Peter Chang and Harris Teeter.

The schedule includes:

  • Christmas trees and wreaths available at the All Seasons Farm Market
  • Performance by magician Steve Kish from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Performance by Jack Russell terriers Mario and Bella, who will show off a variety of tricks during the Jacks are Wild Dog Show
  • A donation box for pet food from the Arlington Animal Welfare League
  • How-to workshop for “cloved oranges” and Mt. Vernon-style natural wreaths with Melanie Welles Creamer from Mt. Vernon’s Greenhouse

Holiday enthusiasts can also head to the Langston-Brown Community Center (2121 N. Culpeper Street) to learn about local history and take photos with Santa and firefighters. Food from the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe and Joe’s Place Pizza & Pasta will be available.

Other activities there include:

  • Face-painting
  • Compete for prizes in the Amazing Passport Race
  • Book signing by local author Wilma Jones for “My Halls Hill Family, More Than a Neighborhood”
  • Exhibition from the winners of a biennial program that recognizes excellence in architecture, historic preservation, landscape architecture and public art
  • Toy charitable dropbox from the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH)
  • Music from the Celestial Voices, The Arlington Chorale and Clarinestique Clarinet Choir

Finally, the “Shop Like a Local Holiday Market” at the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire House (3900 Lee Highway) tops off the festivities.

Photo via Lee Highway Alliance

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As the busiest shopping season of the year draws near, the Pentagon City mall is adding five new stores.

The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City announced Thursday (Nov. 15) that it would be welcoming the new retailers, with some opening right away and others rolling out in the coming weeks.

Per a press release, those additions include:

  • JD Sports: The England-based sports-fashion retail company will open in a 4,700-square-foot space near the Macy’s on the third level in late November.
  • Last Stop: The chain offering clothes and accessories will open on the mall’s third level near Life in DC in a 4,500-square-foot space.
  • ME2: The store, offering “authentic African garments and accessories,” is now open in a 1,000-square-foot space on the first level, near NYX Professional Makeup.
  • On1E Fashion: The women’s athleticwear shop is now open in a 1,200-square-foot storefront located on the third level near The Athlete’s Foot.
  • Why Not Men’s Boutique: Offering men’s clothing and accessories, the shop is now open in a 500-square-foot space on the second level, next to Tumi

As part of the moves, the mall also announced that the salon and spa K & I Beauty will be relocating to a first level near Godiva Chocolatier. A new pop-up cake shop is on the way as well.

The mall is also readying for the arrival of Christmas, and is starting up its annual photos with Santa Claus. The full schedule, from the mall’s website, is as follows:

11/19/18 – 11/21/18: 11AM-8PM

11/22/18:  CLOSED

11/23/18-11/24/18: 10 AM-8PM

11/25/18: 11AM-6PM

11/26/18: 11AM-6PM

11/27/18-11/30/18: 11AM-8PM

12/1/18: 10AM-8:30PM

12/2/18: 11AM-6PM

12/3/18-12/7/18: 10AM-8PM

12/8/18: 10AM-8:30PM

12/9/18: 11AM-7PM

12/10/18-12/13/18: 10AM-8:30PM

12/14/18: 10AM-9PM

12/15/18: 9AM-9PM

12/16/18: 10AM-7PM

12/17/18-12/23/18: 9AM-9PM

12/24/18: 8AM-6PM  (The last guest to enter the Santa line will be at 4:30 p.m to allow Santa and his crew to leave at 6PM to deliver toys!)

Photo via Fashion Centre at Pentagon City

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Miracle on 23rd Street flyerSanta is coming to town — specifically, to the Aurora Highlands neighborhood, near Crystal City, on Friday.

Linden Business Resources (750 23rd Street S.) is again hosting its family-friendly Miracle on 23rd Street holiday event. It’s scheduled to start at 6 p.m. on Dec. 2.

The tree lighting ceremony is scheduled for 6:25, Santa is expected to arrive via fire truck at 6:30 and a 50/50 raffle will take place at 8 p.m. Unlike past years, this year’s event will be held completely outside.

There will also be food trucks and holiday music and entertainment. The event is free and open to the public.

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Jolly Old Saint Nick has set up shop at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City for boys and girls who want to get their Christmas wishes heard early.

Santa Claus has been keeping office hours at the mall since Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11). He’ll continue to be available for photos right up until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, according to a Facebook post.

This week, Santa is working from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. He is taking Thanksgiving off, but will be back for the traditional Black Friday shopping mall madness, working a 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. shift.

Whereas Saint Nick used to have a simple setup in the food court area, he now has his own veritable Christmas forest one floor up, near Nordstrom.

This year Santa has at least two special photo sessions scheduled. This coming Sunday, from 7-9 p.m., Pentagon City mall will be hosting a pet photos with Santa event. Next Sunday, Dec. 4, from 9-11 a.m., Santa will have a free, private event for children and young adults with special needs.

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