Press Club
Firefly (photo by Bruce Marlin, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Arlington Firefly Festival is returning to Fort C.F. Smith Park next month.

On Sunday, June 19, the festival celebrating insects that light up summer nights is back for the first time since 2019. Last year, a smaller firefly “prowl” (essentially, a nature walk) was held due to the pandemic.

This year there will be firefly arts and crafts, bug bingo, storytelling, a nature walk, and flashlight games. All are encouraged to go on a firefly hunt, catching and releasing the twinkling bugs.

Naturalists will also be on hand to explain how to best attract fireflies and ways to maintain backyard habitats to encourage insect visitors.

“Fireflies are fascinating and inspire a sense of nostalgia for many adults,” saud the press release. “The festival is an opportunity to introduce the next generation of citizens to the wonders of the night sky and the value of natural spaces.”

The event is sponsored by the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation. Registration began last week.

In general, fireflies are not lighting up the night sky as they used to.

“There are fewer, like a lot of insects,” says Rita Peralta, Outreach Manager at the Long Branch Nature Center and in charge of putting on the festival. “It’s largely referred to as an insect apocalypse. Like a lot of animals, it’s due to, mostly, habitat loss.”

But on warm Arlington summer nights, fireflies can be found across the county. The best place to see their nightly light show is near undistributed mature trees, in areas that have little light pollution.

That’s why Fort C.F. Smith Park in the Woodmont neighborhood is a great spot for the festival, says Peralta, because of its tree canopy and open meadows.

There are about 2,000 different firefly species in the world, with anywhere from 24 to 36 species calling our region home. Their ability to light up is part of their mating process, but one local species uses the light as a way to attract a meal.

“One local firefly species — the Femme Fatale or Photuris genus — is predatory,” noted the release. “The female will send a false signal to a male of another species to attract him and will then eat him when he arrives to mate.”

The festival starts at 7:30 p.m. and runs for two hours. Admission is $7 and tickets can also be purchased at the event, in addition to online. Heavy rains will cancel the event and there’s no rain date.

As of today, more than 100 people have already registered online, according to the county’s website.

Photo by Bruce Marlin via Wikimedia Commons

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The cover of the summer ENJOY Arlington program guide (via Arlington County)

Perhaps virtual waiting rooms will solve the woes of the parks department’s registration meltdowns.

Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation has tried it all before — staggering registration times, limiting user search capabilities, increasing transaction throughput and closely monitoring its registration site’s performance. But none have yet met the demand of Arlingtonians’ determination to snag a spot for its programming.

When registration for the Arlington summer recreation programs opens May 17, online users will be put into a virtual waiting room, which the department hopes will help prevent the timeouts experienced in the past and provide a more equitable overall experience for registrants, a press release said. It is also staggering the registration schedule, separating signups by class type, over a few days.

“Additionally, [the department’s software vendor] Vermont Systems has conducted a series of tests and improvements for its registration software,” county spokesman Ryan Hudson told ARLnow.

On registration day, login to the site as usual — all users logged in will automatically enter a virtual waiting room where they will receive a spot in line. You will keep your place in the waiting room line even if your phone goes to sleep, you lose your internet connection or you close the virtual waiting room page, provided you log back in on the same device using the same browser.

Once it’s your turn to register, you will be redirected to the registration site where you can browse the site and complete your transactions at your own speed.

This past February, when summer camp registration opened, parents again experienced slow registration and site crashes, if they got through at all, despite the department’s efforts to beef up its systems after repeated issues over the years. The spring program registration was a repeat of timeouts and frustrated residents.

The department committed to a full review of the registration process amid calls from residents for a lottery system. Parks and Rec projected at the time that they’d be able to complete and implement changes by next year’s summer camp registration.

The timeline for DPR’s review of registration (via Arlington County)

Parks and Rec offers programs, which range from gymnastics to woodworking, over the summer. Registration will open on a rolling basis each day May 17 through May 19 starting at noon. Residents can also call 703-228-4747 (voice) or 711 (TTY) to register. The registration schedule is:

  • Tuesday, May 17 — Nature, History and General classes
  • Wednesday, May 18 — Aquatics
  • Thursday, May 19 — Gymnastics

Walk-in registration will begin on Friday, May 20, at noon, at Lubber Run Community Center (300 N. Park Drive). Registration for non-Arlington residents will open on Wednesday, May 25, at noon.

The department noted on its website that its programming is not immune to staffing shortages felt across the country, so offerings reflect reduced staffing levels.

“We share your disappointment and are committed to returning to full staffing — and class offerings — in the future,” the website says.

The department shared some tips for residents hoping to snag a slot in one of the summer classes and programs.

Tips for Successfully Registering
Single Household Login

Your Household account can only have one active session at a time. Multiple Household account “logins” (i.e. logging in via multiple devices) will slow the system and cause items to drop from your cart if attempting to register at the same time.

Additionally, some devices work better than others (i.e. desktop with wired internet is better than phone on Wi-Fi).

Login Early

If possible, login before the 12:00 p.m. registration time. If you arrive early, you will receive a random spot in the virtual waiting room line when the registration event begins. If you arrive at the site after registration begins, you will receive the next available spot in line.

Need a tutorial on how to register? Check out the How to Register Online guide.

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Looking south, the sun sets as traffic moves along I-395 (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

It could be a big summer for vacations, particularly if Covid stays at relatively low levels.

From a press release last month:

The overwhelming majority of U.S. adults (85%) are expecting to travel this summer, taking even more vacation time than they did in 2021: nearly half (48%) of Americans who plan to vacation this summer will take two weeks or more, up from (41%) last summer. Driving in personal vehicles is the leading choice for getting to summer vacation destinations.

These are key findings from “OOH Consumer Insights and Intent – Q1 2022,” a new research report from the Out of Home Advertising Association of America […]

Of course, high gas prices might be putting a damper on what would otherwise be an even busier travel season. From Skift:

The huge demand for backyard leisure is set to continue in the U.S., as more Americans embrace the endemic phase of Covid and hit the road for spring break and summer vacations. But it’s now becoming clear that rising gas prices driven by the Russia-Ukraine war will have an effect on road trippers — and if ongoing, they could potentially dampen the overall record pace of U.S. travel recovery.

Almost 60 percent of American travelers say that the current increased cost of gas will impact their decision to travel over the next six months. Of those, nearly one-third of respondents predict the impact for them will be great. That’s according to the latest Covid and American Travel Sentiment survey from Longwoods International.

Pandemic fatigue has led many to enthusiastically start planning their summer vacations early this year. We’re still more than a month and a half away from Memorial Day, but let’s find out the extent of already-planned summer trips among ARLnow readers.

Note that for the purposes of this poll, we’ll define “summer” as between the start of Memorial Day weekend and the end of Labor Day weekend.

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Rosslyn Cinema in Gateway Park 2019 (photo via Rosslyn BID)

Rosslyn movie nights are returning to Gateway Park this summer, with a selection of voted-on fan favorites.

The Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID) is once again hosting a series of movie nights in June at Gateway Park (1300 Langston Blvd).

This year’s line-up includes the following films, which all emerged victorious through a March Madness-style bracket:

  • National Treasure
  • Space Jam
  • Encanto
  • Mamma Mia

This year, residents were given the opportunity to not only vote on what movies were shown, but predict what the winners would be — much like the annual tradition of submitting a bracket predicting which team will win the college basketball championship. The three most accurate brackets win a gift card to a Rosslyn restaurant.

The bracket was broken up into four categories — family, sports, romantic comedies, and D.C. area-based — with National Treasure, Space Jam, Encanto, and Mamma Mia winning its respective group.

While voting on which movies will be shown in June concluded yesterday (Thursday), residents can still vote on which will be the ultimate winner.

Exact dates of when each movie will be shown have not been announced yet.

Rosslyn’s movie series at Gateway Park dates back at least a decade, to 2012. After taking a year off due to the pandemic, the series returned in 2021 with an abbreviated version.

Rosslyn BID is not the only community organization that will be hosting outdoor movies this summer.

The Columbia Pike Partnership’s movie nights are also set to return for their 12th year on Saturday nights starting in July, the organization has confirmed to ARLnow. The series will run July 9 through August 27 while alternating locations between Penrose Square and Arlington Mill Community Center. The calendar of movies will be announced later this spring.

In the past, the National Landing BID and Ballston BID have also both hosted summer movie nights. Ballston BID told ARLnow that they will not be hosting movies this summer, while the National Landing BID said they don’t have details to share as of yet.

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Another week, another stretch of temperatures in the 90s and heat indexes near 100.

It’s been a hot and humid summer in Arlington and the D.C. area. With a predicted high of 93, today will likely be the 41st day with the temperature over 90 (the yearly average is 40).

Yet, the outward signs of fall are there: Oktoberfest beers at the grocery store, football on the television, the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte today at Starbucks.

(For what it’s worth, the “PSL” arrived a day earlier than last year and a full week earlier than four years ago.)

https://twitter.com/Starbucks/status/1430152993278627844

ARLnow readers have told us they consider the fall equinox in the latter half of September to be the “real start of fall” in Arlington, as opposed to Labor Day, the first day of September, or the debut of the sweet pumpkin-y goodness at Starbucks. But with a premium put on outdoor activity during the pandemic, maybe this year locals are mentally prepared for an earlier start of fall.

Given the sweltering temperatures, cicadas, itch mites and heavy rains, are you suffering summer fatigue? Would you trade the remaining four weeks of summer for a changeover to cooler and crisper weather? Let’s find out.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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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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Traffic on I-66 near Washington-Liberty HS (photo courtesy Eric)

August is the month of vacations.

Congress goes on recess, schools are still on summer break, and legions of D.C. area residents head out of town, to the beach or elsewhere. That leads to less local traffic and more out-of-office email replies.

Obviously not everybody leaves town in August. We’re wondering what percentage of ARLnow readers sticks around and takes their vacations during other months of the year.

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Live music, theatrical performances and fair food are all on tap as Arlington County Fair returns two weeks from today.

After being canceled due to the pandemic, the event will return to the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds, at 3501 2nd Street S. The fair kicks off Wednesday, Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. and concludes at 10 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 22.

“We weren’t sure we were going to be able to have the Fair this year but we made the decision a few short months ago and have been working tirelessly ever since to plan some exciting things for our community to enjoy,” said Arlington County Fair Board Chair Barbi Broadus.

For five days, people can experience county fair classics such as face painting and bounce houses, or try newer, trendier activities, such as axe throwing and goat yoga.

Fair attractions include:

  • Goat yoga — Saturday and Sunday starting at 9 and 10:30 a.m.
  • New District Brewing Company beer garden — opens Wednesday and Thursday at 5 p.m, Friday at 3 p.m., and noon on Saturday and Sunday
  • Robotics demonstrations — Friday, Saturday and Sunday
  • The Miraculous Magical Balloon performance from Synetic Theatre — Thursday at 5 p.m. and Saturday 4 p.m.
  • Pie eating championship — Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m.

All things kids can be found at the “kids court,” where there will be face painting, bounce houses and magic performances from Drew Blue Shoes.

Meanwhile, attendees can browse exhibitions of talented bakers and artists, who will receive awards on Saturday at 7 p.m.

While admission is free, rides and activities may require tickets that can be purchased on-site or online, where a detailed schedule of events can also be found.

After living through shutdowns, attendees can expect sizable crowds.

“For the past 45 years, the fair has been one of the largest free events on the East Coast with over 84,000 attendees from Northern Virginia and the Washington metro area,” said a fair representative in a press release.

The fair is working with Arlington County to ensure the event is as safe as possible, according to a press release. Federal and state Covid-19 guidelines will be followed.

In Arlington, case rates are starting to rise and Northern Virginia health officials are recommending people wear masks regardless of vaccination status. There is no renewed statewide mask mandate, however.

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).

For those looking to help out, the fair is looking for board members, volunteers, donations, sponsorships and local vendors.

The hours for the fair are:

  • Wednesday, Aug. 18: 5-10 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 19: 5-10 p.m.
  • Friday, Aug. 20: 2-11 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 21: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 22: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Outdoor entertainment consists of a daily lineup of musicians, from jazz and funk to rock and pop. The music schedule is below.

Read More

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Mysterious bug bites (courtesy photo)

Arlington residents say they are being plagued by mysterious bug bites featuring unusual red splotches that are itchier than those left by typical summer suckers.

A Facebook group, “Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19,” has helped community members with similar bites find each other, share information and try to get to the bottom of the mystery. There’s been similar chatter on local email listservs.

“I was so grateful to see that I wasn’t the only one experiencing this issue — and apparently many, many others feel the same way,” resident Becca Collins tells ARLnow.

The Facebook thread started on Sunday, when the original poster asked the group, “Anyone else finding that they’re getting bit by something while outdoors that is leaving a lingering mark?” She added that “this has happened to us multiple times in the last 10 days. The bite seems a lot different from your typical mosquito bite, leaving a red patch around the bite that’s been lasting for over a week (as well as the intense itchiness despite Benadryl, etc).”

The post has since received at least 160 responses and been shared eight times. A respondent said she went to an urgent care  clinic “after a sleepless night due to the itching/burning bug bite on my neck, that swelled up into a small patch… It also had red itchy streaks reaching up to my lymph node that became swollen and painful.”

Another reported a similar story.

“Had my daughter at urgent care yesterday,” the poster wrote. “Her two bites look EXACTLY like everyone’s photos here. The doctor at urgent care said they’re seeing a lot of these bug bites.”

Receptionists at three local urgent care centers confirmed they’ve seen an influx in patients with bug bites.

“It is up this summer, more than usual,” said one receptionist for All Care Family Medicine & Urgent Care.

Another for Urgent Care Center of Arlington said “we don’t really know what type of bites they are. Patients come in for a bug bite, but they’re not sure if it’s a tick, mosquito or spider bite.”

Collins said hers was different from a tick bite, which is ringed by a clearly defined red circle. Hers and “many of these welts have ‘trailing red tails’ coming from them,” she said.

The Facebook group members have hatched a theory that these bites are tied to oak itch mites, or pyemotes, which are thought to feed on cicadas eggs. Similar outbreaks of itchy bug bites have coincided with periodic cicada cycles in Chicago and Northern Ohio.

“They are the gift that keeps on giving,” one resident tells ARLnow of the Brood X cicadas that swarmed the D.C. area. The cicadas may also be linked to a wave of dead birds this spring and summer.

These mites feed on insect larvae that inhabit oak trees, according to previous news reports and academic papers. And this year, with thousands upon thousands of eggs laid by cicadas, there was a veritable feast for the mites.

“Until I saw the post, I thought I was getting eaten by spiders in my sleep and was going to take some serious mitigation steps, but if the mite theory is correct, that saves me A LOT of work and worry,” one tipster told ARLnow.

Kurt Larrick, the assistant director of the county’s Department of Human Services, confirmed that residents are reporting these strange bites to the county. But county staff cannot say anything definitive yet about the phenomenon.

“We are tracking reports and consulting with internal and external subject matter experts,” he said. “However, there is no clear cut answer at this point.”

Read More

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Clip from The Royal Tenenbaums (via YouTube)

“Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Rushmore” and other beloved Wes Anderson films will be showing at Westpost Plaza, formerly Pentagon Row, every other week for the rest of the summer.

“Pull up a chair or blanket and join us on the plaza on Wednesday evenings for movie nights,” says an event listing. “Grab a drink (to-go drinks from our restaurants are allowed) and food from one of our restaurants, and enjoy the weird wonderful world of Wes Anderson.”

This is the first outdoor movie series at the plaza, located at 1201 S. Joyce Street. Movies will be shown on Wednesdays starting tomorrow, July 28, and running through Sept. 22.

The schedule is as follows:

  • July 28, 8 p.m.: Moonrise Kingdom
  • Aug. 11, 8 p.m.: The Life Aquatic
  • Aug. 25, 8 p.m.: Rushmore
  • Sept. 8, 7 p.m.: The Royal Tenenbaums
  • Sept. 22, 7 p.m.: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Tickets are free, but attendance will be limited to 125 people per film. Ticket reservations can be made online.

Westpost asks moviegoers to bring a chair or blanket, as seating will not be provided.

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Morning Notes

Peak Heat, Statistically Speaking — “Based on history, we are now at the hottest point of the summer. While it can still be brutally hot in the weeks ahead (and probably will be at times), we are about to begin our gradual descent into winter, using average temps.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

Arlington Home Prices Keep Rising — “A total of 369 properties went to closing last month, up 62 percent from 228 in June 2020… The average price of single-family homes in the county was $1,217,376 last month, up 9.8 percent from $1,109,179.” [Sun Gazette]

Protected Bikes Lanes for HQ2? — “Amazon.com Inc.’s newest PenPlace design would add protected bike lanes along a key roadway adjacent to the 11.6-acre campus and a new bike share station near the planned ‘Helix’ tower. During Arlington’s Long Range Planning Committee’s virtual meeting Tuesday, Amazon’s HQ2 landscape architect Scape presented its revised vision for the site’s 2.1 acres of open space and transportation networks.” [Washington Business Journal]

Woman Finds Bullet Hole in Window — “3900 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 6:09 a.m. on July 13, police were dispatched to the report of suspicious circumstances. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was awoken at approximately 10:00 p.m. on July 12 to a loud pop sound. The following morning, she discovered a bullet hole in her window.” [ACPD]

Affordable Apartments Set for Renovation — “Arlington County is backing away from plans to buy part of the Park Shirlington apartment complex in South Arlington as the developers are instead pitching a full renovation of the affordable community. The county is set to deliver a $22.7 million loan to power the rehabilitation of all 293 units on the 15.7-acre parcel.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Is a ‘Top Digital County’ — “Arlington County is once again ranked among the top digital counties in the nation. The Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties has named Arlington to the No. 2 spot for their 2021 awards in the 150,000-249,999 population category.” [Arlington County]

New Record for W-L IB Program — “W-L students surpassed their worldwide peers in diploma pass rate, average score pass rate, and the average points earned by diploma candidates. In addition, the overall pass rate for all W-L students participating in [International Baccalaureate] classes, including Diploma Candidates and Course Candidates, is the highest in the 25-year history of IB at W-L at 92.6%.” [Arlington Public Schools]

‘Arlington Tech’ Students Earn Degree — “Seven Arlington Tech Class of 2021 graduates are the first APS students to earn Associates Degrees by taking courses offered through both Arlington Tech and the Career Center.” [Arlington Public Schools]

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