Press Club
The Ballston Quarter location of Heart + Paw (courtesy photo)

Dog parents can get a few photos of their furry best friend with Santa while chowing down on free donuts in Ballston over the next couple of days.

This Friday afternoon (Dec. 17) from 1-3 p.m., four-legged locals can join Santa outside of Ballston Quarter’s Hearts + Paw for holiday pet photos. The combination veterinarian, dog daycare, and grooming business opened in May.

Then, on Saturday, free donuts and hot cocoa kits from District Doughnut will be available at the mall from 1-3 p.m. along with $25 gift cards to REWILD, the trendy plant shop that opened at Ballston Quarter earlier this fall. The snacks and gift cards are available while supplies last with only one giveaway given per person. Holiday tunes will also be spun by local D.J. Cyndi Tran.

Both events are taking place at and hosted by Ballston Quarter on Wilson Blvd.

Elsewhere in Ballston this weekend is a holiday wreath market at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Stuart Street. That event is being organized by the Ballston BID and will feature live music, a local TikTok star (the cello-playing one), a light art projection, holiday wreaths for sale, and Santa selfies.

There’s plenty of other holiday cheer in Arlington this weekend with Christmas now just over a week away. There’s the Rosslyn holiday market (with Santa and dog photos, too), holiday light displays in Crystal City, and a number of local Christmas tree sales (depending on availability among the current tree shortage).

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The 58th annual Miracle on 23rd Street (Photo courtesy of Melwood)

A miracle is shutting down a portion of 23rd Street S. near Crystal City tonight (Friday).

The 58th edition of the holiday event “Miracle on 23rd Street” is taking place on Friday night from 7-9 p.m. at 750 23rd Street S. in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood.

The event will feature a Christmas tree lighting, hot chocolate, a “holiday-themed virtual reality experience,” music from the Bluemont Brass Quintet, and, of course, an appearance from Santa Claus, who usually arrives via fire truck. It is being put on by the local non-profit Melwood, which advocates and employs people with differing abilities.

Online registrations are being requested, though walk-up attendees will be accepted.

“Miracle on 23rd Street” will also close a one block stretch of traffic in both directions for several hours.

From 6-9 p.m., 23rd Street S. in between S. Hayes Street and S. Grant Street will be closed off to vehicular traffic, Arlington County police said.

Last year’s event was mostly virtual, though Santa did drive around the neighborhood.

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Morning Notes

Mattress Store Goes Night Night — From local tweeter @CartChaos22202: “The ⁦⁦Mattress Firm⁩ location along S. 15th Street in Pentagon City has closed… but try not to lose sleep over it.” [Twitter]

Santa Visiting Fairlington Next Week — “It was touch and go for a while, but it appears Santa Claus will be able to take part in an annual Fairlington tradition after all. The Fairlington Citizens Association is working to bring Saint Nick to the community for his annual ride on an Arlington County fire truck. The event is slated to take place on Saturday, Dec. 11.” [Sun Gazette]

Lane Closure for Bridge Maintenance — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Routine deck maintenance work continues on Shirlington Road Bridge through Dec. 11. One travel lane closed at a time, 7am to 7pm including weekends. West sidewalk remains open.” [Twitter]

Opioid Test Strips Are in Demand — “Months after Arlington County’s Department of Human Services started the pilot program to dispense 100 fentanyl-testing strips, the county is renewing its opioid response grant as demand continues to grow. ‘We were out of those test strips within the first couple of weeks. Since then, since the middle of August, we’ve dispensed 604 test strips,’ said Emily Siqveland, who runs the county’s new Opioid Treatment Program.” [WTOP]

Elections Office Ready for Rerun — “Yes, Virginia, there may be a rerun of all 100 House of Delegates races in the new year. Maybe not, but possibly. If so, personnel in the Arlington elections office will be ready, they say. ‘We’ll just have to wait and see how this process plays out,’ said Gretchen Reinemeyer, the county’s director of elections, in a look-back-and-look-forward report to the county’s Electoral Board on Nov. 30.” [Sun Gazette]

Reminder: Arlies Voting — Don’t forget to cast a vote for your favorite bakery, ARLnow commenter, coffee shop or brunch spot. Voting in the Winter 2022 Arlies awards closes on Monday. [ARLnow]

It’s Friday — It’s going to be a bit windy today, with sunny skies, a low of around 40 and a high near 58. Northwest wind 8 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. Sunrise at 7:10 a.m. and sunset at 4:46 p.m. Saturday will be mostly sunny, with a high near 55 and wind gusts up to 20 mph. Sunday will be mostly sunny, with a high near 51. [Weather.gov]

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Santa Claus (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan Meath)

You better watch out, you better not cry, because a fully-vaccinated Santa Claus is coming to town.

Santa is going to return to the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City starting next Friday (Nov. 19) through Christmas Eve (Dec. 24). Reservations are “strongly encouraged,” notes the mall’s website.

Santa is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a Fashion Centre at Pentagon City spokesperson confirmed this to ARLnow.

The website of the photography company behind Santa’s appearance also notes that all employees, including Santa and his elves, were required to be vaccinated by October 14, except for those with valid medical and religious exemptions.

Guests will have the choice to sit with Santa or be socially distant for their photos this year.

Masks or face shields are being encouraged for those over two years old, but not mandated at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, a spokesperson confirmed.

“Santa’s helpers will be wearing masks throughout the duration of your visit,” notes the website.

Other safety measures in place include frequent cleaning of high touch-points and access to hands-free sanitizer.

Last year, despite increasing COVID cases and vaccines not yet being publicly available, Santa still came to Pentagon City for “safe and socially distanced” visits. At least he wasn’t in a bubble, like some other Santas across the region.

There’s no word yet on whether Santa will also be making an appearance at Ballston Quarter like in prior years.

Via Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan Meath

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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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