The Arlington County Fair is set to kick off this Wednesday and run through Sunday, Aug. 21.
As usual (though it was not without some debate) the fair is being held at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center, at 3501 2nd Street S. It is free to attend and open to the whole family.
Apart from the usual food and craft vendors, competitive exhibits and amusement rides, we’ve compiled a list of some lesser-known fair features this year.
1. Axe throwing
Fairgoers can try their hands at axe throwing inside a mobile trailer operated by Odyssey Mobile Adventures. Coaches are set to be present. Those interested need to first buy tickets on site, which are priced at $10 for 10 throws.
2. Escape room
The same company that runs the axe throwing is also set to provide an escape room for those interested in testing their problem solving abilities. Tickets are priced at $20 per group of a maximum of five people. Both activities are scheduled to be open all week.
3. Sensory hour
A new feature this year, this hour is set to happen between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Saturday (Aug. 20). During the hour, the fair plans to eliminate loud noises and music so that patrons may enjoy the fair without feeling overwhelmed.
This is a collaboration effort with the county’s Therapeutic Recreation Office, which focuses on providing equal access in recreation programs, like the fair, to individuals of differing needs and abilities. Sensory break tent areas are also scheduled at different hours over the weekend, according to an Arlington County Fair Instagram post.
4. Beer (and rosé) garden
This year’s beer garden is a partnership with Arlington-based New District Brewing Company. Beers on tap include an IPA, pilsner, kettle sour and hard seltzer. For wine drinkers, a Virginia winery is providing its 2021 La Grange rosé as well this year.
The garden is set to open throughout the week, with a special trivia night on Thursday. Packs of beer and wine tickets may be purchased in advance.
Arlington residents can look forward to music shows, amusement rides and bouncy castles as the Arlington County Fair is set to return next month.
The annual county fair is scheduled to be held between Wednesday, Aug. 17, and Sunday, Aug. 21, at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center, at 3501 2nd Street S. It is free to attend and open to the whole family.
Here is the fair schedule for the outdoor area:
- Wednesday, Aug. 17: 5-10 p.m.
- Thursday, Aug. 18: 5-10 p.m.
- Friday, Aug. 19: 2-11 p.m.
- Saturday, Aug. 20: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
- Sunday, Aug. 21: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Although canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, the fair has been held for more than 40 years and attracted over 84,000 people from Northern Virginia and the D.C. Metropolitan area to attend in past years, according to the fair’s website.
The Night Market is a new event this year. It is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 18, between 5-10 p.m. It is only open to vendors selling personally made handicrafts and art pieces. Apart from crafts, other business and nonprofit organizations are expected to run indoor booths as well.
The fair is also planning to host local music groups and solo artists for weekend performances on the turf field. The performance schedule has not been released.
For children and families, the fair is set to hold a Kids Court with different games, including a pie eating contest. Additionally, there will be a variety of amusement rides will be provided by the Cole Shows Amusement Company. Each ride is expected to take three to six tickets, with each ticket selling for $1.25.
Other activities include competitive exhibits scheduled on Wednesday, Aug. 17, and Thursday, Aug. 18, where participants can showcase the products they made, in categories such as baked goods, needlework, handicrafts, and photography, according to the Competitive Exhibits Guide. The theme for this year’s exhibit is “What a Ride!” and an award ceremony for the winners is set on Saturday, Aug. 20.
This year’s fair is also expected to feature a beer garden organized with New District Brewery. That’s in addition to the usual fair fare, such as funnel cakes, deep fried Oreos, pizzas and other items.
The executive board for the fair previously discussed changing the venue to Long Bridge Park but ultimately decided against it after public feedback favored staying put the the TJ Community Center, which is centrally located in Arlington but a distance away from transit and the county’s denser population centers.
The upper field at the community center was closed for renovations for the first half of this year and reopened in June after being fitted with a synthetic turf, according to a county website.
The decision comes after the Arlington County Fair Board deliberated a change of scenery for the event for more than a year. Thomas Jefferson’s fields and community center space at 3501 2nd Street S. has been home to the fair for 45 years.
After hearing that a majority of folks did not support relocating the fair, and taking a closer look at the fair board’s preferred alternate location — Long Bridge Park — board members decided Thomas Jefferson is the best location.
“The 2022 Arlington County Fair will be held at Thomas Jefferson Community Center and Park (TJ),” said Laura Barragan, a Department of Parks and Recreation special events manager and spokeswoman. “Contributing factors for the site selection include that the community has enjoyed the fair at TJ for 45 years [and] 60% of the nearly 1,600 respondents of the site location public engagement preferred keeping the Fair at TJ.”
She added that “further review of the Long Bridge Park location indicated that it would not be able to accommodate the number and variety of rides the County Fair Board desires.”
Barragan directed further questions to the fair board, which was not immediately available to comment on the decision and whether it will remain at TJ beyond 2022.
In addition to Long Bridge, Arlington County considered multiple sites — including Virginia Highlands Park near Crystal City and Quincy Park near Ballston — but the board only expressed interest in Long Bridge.
One reason we’re told the fair board mulled the move was that fixing damage to the grass fields, which become muddy and rutted in the rain, is a problem for the county. The community center’s suburban location, meanwhile, is fairly central, but lacks Metro accessibility and has limited parking.
After County Board approval in September, a project is currently underway to replace the upper field at the TJ site with artificial turf. The field is expected to remain closed until mid-2022, but should reopen in time for the fair’s return.
But many residents who’ve weighed in say they’d rather see it stay at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds.
This potential relocation has been under consideration since at last year, when the fair board first notified the county of its interest in the park, home to the recently finished aquatics center. Last fall, the county convened a committee to study whether Long Bridge Park or six other locations could meet the fair’s needs.
In all, committee members considered Thomas Jefferson, Long Bridge Park, Quincy Park, Virginia Highlands Park, the county’s large surface parking lot in Courthouse, Drew Elementary School and Gunston and Kenmore middle schools. The fair board, meanwhile, has only expressed interest in Long Bridge Park.
“The work of the site review committee was just exploratory,” Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said. “While the Fair asked to move to Long Bridge, we wanted to see what all the options were on public land.”
Arlington County Fair leaders did not respond to requests for comment about the decision to move, the location it has chosen and whether it considered other locations.
Earlier this year, Kalish said the fair’s current location or Long Bridge Park — but not inside the aquatics facility — were the most feasible options in terms of location size, parking and community impact.
Here’s how a few options stack up to the preferred alternatives, per an internal planning document shared with ARLnow.
At 20 acres, Virginia Highlands Park could accommodate all the rides, games, vendors and competitive exhibits outdoors, and it would have auxiliary parking at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and space for storage and performers at the Aurora Hills Community Center. In addition to Long Bridge Park and Thomas Jefferson, this park was the only additional location that came recommended by DPR.
Centrally located in Virginia Square, Quincy Park has four acres of park space, is well-served by transit and backs up to — and could make use of — Washington-Liberty High School and Central Library facilities for competitive exhibits, performer changing areas and storage. Like Virginia Highlands Park, Quincy Park is easily Metro-accessible and adjacent to a major commercial corricor.
At the end of the day, there are no good takes because neither is a particularly good location. I would love more detail on why Quincy Park didn't fit the bill and whether having it spill from QP onto the W-L campus was considered. https://t.co/CPYOADvK4rhttps://t.co/nE5g1V2pMf
— Chris Slatt (@alongthepike) October 6, 2021
Committee members also noted that Kenmore — near the county’s western border, along Route 50 — would be a “good alternative to TJ” because of its similar size and layout.
But after walking through each site’s amenities, the committee noted the following reasons the other locations may not work.
Quincy Park “will get pushback from W-L [High School] — it will be hard to access the facilities the last couple weeks of August,” before school starts, the planning document notes.
Additionally, the fair would have to “work with Libraries to use their indoor space and parking” for the weekend, it says.
Meanwhile, members said Virginia Highlands is “difficult for emergency resource[s] to get access,” despite being adjacent to a fire station, and noted that the park itself only has 60 parking spaces, though the expansive mall parking garage is across the street.
Located near the Fairfax County border, Kenmore is less accessible, the committee noted. It would cause traffic issues on S. Carlin Springs Road and comes with security concerns, as there’s woods nearby, members said.
Having narrowed down the options to Thomas Jefferson and Long Bridge as the preferred options, Arlington County and the fair board are still reviewing feedback from the community engagement earlier this year, Kalish said.
An online feedback form generated more than 1,500 responses “that yielded a lot of interest in the [current] Thomas Jefferson Park and Community Center location,” she added.
“This information will help inform the location decision, with the final decision also considering the needs of the Arlington County Fair Board, public safety and the Fair’s impact to the community at large,” she said.
DPR should have more information after mid-November, she said.
“Once the Fair gets back to us we can dig deeper into the options for more data to support a thoughtful determination,” she said.
Three Arlington County parks — Thomas Jefferson Park, Towers Park and Marcey Road Park — could see substantial upgrades over the next year.
Contracts to improve the amenities at these three facilities are teed up for County Board approval this Saturday. The projects were all approved in the summer of 2018 as part of the 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan.
As part of the $1.1 million project, the field will get spectator seating, signage, site furnishings and new landscaping, as well as athletic equipment and a long jump area. There will be accessibility and stormwater management improvements. The field’s existing lighting will remain.
“The conversion should not impact the County Fair if it remains at TJ,” Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said. “The County is looking into investing in a turf cover to protect the field at TJ and possibly at other synthetic turf fields.”
During community outreach about the turf project, conducted in the winter of 2019-20, residents indicated “a strong desire to keep the County Fair at Thomas Jefferson Park,” according to a staff report. The county is once more accepting feedback on the potential move.
In the report, the parks department responded to safety concerns about synthetic turf and pointed to Arlington County Public Health’s Synthetic Turf FAQ.
“At this time, all independent studies report that ‘the preponderance of evidence shows no negative health effects associated with crumb rubber in synthetic turf,'” the report said.
Construction would take about six months.
Over at Towers Park, at 801 S. Scott Street near Columbia Pike, the existing playground for 2 to 5-year-olds, last replaced in 2000, would be razed. A new playground for 2 to 5-year-olds and another for 5 to 12-year-olds will be installed elsewhere, as the current structure falls in a resource protection area that will be reforested.
If approved, that project could start in the fourth quarter of 2021 and finish in the second quarter of 2022. There will be stormwater management work and new walkways, fencing, signage, site furnishings and landscaping.
The project was delayed by the pandemic and over-budget bids, per a board report. After a first round of bids came back too high, the report said DPR “value-engineered the play equipment selection” and rebid the project this June. All the bids were still over-budget, but the county negotiated the lowest bid to $825,000.
Finally, at Marcey Road Park, located 2722 N. Marcey Road near Military Road, the basketball court, the three tennis courts, the parking lot and picnic shelter will be replaced. The park will get new LED court lighting and furnishings, as well as drainage, stormwater management and landscaping work.
“The outdoor amenities for this park are past their life expectancy and are in need of replacement,” a county report said. “Community feedback indicated the desire for more seating opportunities and trash receptacles, a larger basketball court, a larger picnic area with shade, improved tennis court practice wall, improved accessibility and preservation of as many trees as possible.”
Every bid was over-budget, and the lowest was a non-negotiable $1.3 million, the report said. That project is expected to start in the fourth quarter of 2021 and finish in the third quarter of 2022.
That’s because after holding the event at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds at 3501 2nd Street S. for 45 years, the fair’s leaders are pondering a change of scenery.
The Arlington County Fair Board, an independent non-profit which manages the fair, has informed the county that it would like to move the fair to Long Bridge Park (475 Long Bridge Drive), Becky Schmitt, the acting deputy director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, tells ARLnow.
“As such an iconic event, a Site Review Committee comprised of subject matter experts from the Special Events Committee reviewed eight possible sites for the County Fair, including the fair’s current location and Long Bridge,” she said. “The most feasible options based on 21 event needs, such as location size, parking, and community impact, were to either remain at Thomas Jefferson Community Center and Park or move to Long Bridge Park (not inside the aquatics facility).”
The long-time location at the community center gives the fair a large grassy area next to an indoor community center space that’s used for exhibitions. This year, the grounds became muddy and rutted due to persistent rain.
Fixing damage to the field after the fair has been a frequent problem for the county, we’re told. The field is also used by nearby Alice West Fleet Elementary School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
The community center’s suburban location, meanwhile, is fairly central — near the middle of the county — but lacks Metro accessibility and has limited parking.
Long Bridge Park is not as centrally-located, but would offer more transit options, ample parking nearby, and sweeping views of D.C., the river and the airport — particularly from the ferris wheel, assuming it would be allowed within the DCA flightpath. The location might also draw more visitors from outside of Arlington, helping to bolster the fair’s finances.
The fair’s board and the Special Events Committee are soliciting community feedback, Schmitt said. Representatives from the fair could not be reached for comment.
At the fair, people were able to submit their feedback on a slip of paper in a dropbox. Post-fair, people can fill out an online survey asking whether and why they would prefer the fair to remain at Thomas Jefferson Community Center and Park or move to Long Bridge Park, or to another alternative location.
The survey also asks participants to check their top three considerations for choosing a site: such as adequate space, access to public transportation, location, impact on the neighborhood, parking availability, room to grow and access to indoor options.
So far, Schmitt said feedback has not yet been reviewed, but that it will figure into the final decision.
“Community feedback will help inform where the County Fair is held; however, the final decision will also consider the needs of the Arlington County Fair Board, public safety and the Fair’s impact to the community at large,” she said.
Dana Munro contributed to this report
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).
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.
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).
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.
Curious Arlingtonians want to know: what happened to the bears at Thomas Jefferson Park?
In 2017 a set of bear figures were carved into a tree stump during that summer’s Arlington County Fair, a local told ARLnow on Twitter. But the following summer, they were gone, with only saw dust and the bottom of the stump left behind.
At the time, residents near the park were told by Arlington’s Dept. Parks and Recreation that the bears needed to be taken in for restoration work. But some have not forgotten their ursine decorations, which have not returned to the park since.
— SRtwofourfour (@SRtwofourfour) July 31, 2018
How is the Bear restoration project going?
— SRtwofourfour (@SRtwofourfour) June 21, 2021
At the time, the county said the carving had a crack that could result in the wood rotting if exposed to rain or snow. The bears were brought inside for treatment. Now, the county says the bears have found a new permanent home.
“Mama bear and her cubs are happily residing in the Park Operations lobby at the Trades Center,” said Susan Kalish, spokeswoman for the parks department, referencing the county facility near Shirlington.
According to Kalish, the parks department determined it was more prudent for the bears to be indoors, repurposed as domesticated statues.
“As their wood was not treated to protect them from the elements, they are safer inside,” Kalish said.
It’s unclear whether that explanation will make the loss more bearable for local residents.
The county fair, a longstanding event and summer staple, is returning to Arlington this August.
Now set for Aug. 18-22, the annual event will feature goat yoga and a beer garden — both of which debuted at the 2019 fair — as well as carnival rides, vendors, exhibits, music, and fair food. It will return to the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds, at 3501 2nd Street S.
“2021 is the 45th anniversary of the Arlington County Fair!” said Barbi Broadus, chair of the Arlington County Fair board of directors. “We are planning a full fair experience for our fairgoers.”
And fairgoers are ready to experience fairs in all their glory, according to Broadus.
“Our ride vendor, RC Cole of Cole Shows, has been providing rides for fairs on the East Coast and said he was surprised by the enormous turnout he is seeing,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now say that fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear a mask even at crowded events. Virginia ended distancing requirements Friday, but businesses can still impose restrictions. Some exceptions still apply for wearing masks, such as health care facilities, public transit and indoors in Virginia schools.
The fair’s schedule is “coming soon,” according to its website.
Arlington County has opened a temporary tax payment location.
As the Oct. 5 deadline approaches for vehicle personal property taxes and the second installment of real estate taxes, the Arlington County Treasurer’s Office on Monday opened a temporary payment location at Thomas Jefferson Community Center (3501 2nd Street S.) to accept payments in person.
The satellite location is in addition to the Treasurer’s Office payment windows on the second floor of county government headquarters (2100 Clarendon Blvd), which is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“In addition to having limited staff at our main office, we will be at Thomas Jefferson Community Center to safety take your payments in person, Sept. 21-25, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.,” the Treasurer’s Office said via email. “Please remember to wear a mask.”
Payments can also be made online via the Customer Assessment and Payment Portal (CAPP), mailed to Arlington County Treasurer at PO Box 1754, Merrifield, VA 22116-1754, or a check can be dropped off at one of two 24-hour drop boxes.
Any person financially impacted by COVID-19 may call the Treasurer’s Office at 703-228-4000 for assistance.
For anyone who moved or sold their vehicle, taxes may still be owed for the months the vehicle was still located in Arlington. Vehicle tax bills — which were mailed in August — should be reviewed for accuracy in this matter, the Treasurer’s Office said.
“If you are waiting for your account to be adjusted, please be sure to avoid a late payment penalty by paying your bill in full by October 5,” the office said. “Any overpayment will be refunded to you once your account has been adjusted.”