On Tuesday night (June 8), the Reston Association Board of Directors talked about their program and services ‘wish lists,’ while deferring a detailed discussion about increasing member assessments in 2022.

The board was supposed to suggest an assessment range to CEO Hank Lynch during the work session, according to the meeting’s agenda.

But an agreement was struck to delay that decision after RA Fiscal Committee Chairman David Kerr recommended that the board start working through its budget plans by focusing on priorities, the cost of them, and operating expenses.

Once those are agreed upon, Kerr recommended figuring out what it will cost and, then, moving to how it could impact member assessments.

“Let’s think about what revenue could be and then see how much we can afford to spend,” Kerr said. “I think a better approach [is] what do we need to deliver and what that’s going to cost…and that way you are focused on what we have to spend as opposed to what we can’t spend.”

This led to more process discussion before giving RA board members a chance to pitch their “wish lists” of programs and services they’d like to see funded.

Among the items suggested were: planting of more trees, further investment in maintaining Reston’s lakes, expanded sidewalks, adding more ADA features to facilities, the hiring of a senior environment officer, and year-around indoor tennis courts.

One board member also requested assistance for members who can’t afford to pay member assessment dues.

“There are members who don’t necessarily qualify for [county] assistance, but are definitely struggling,” noted RA board member Sarah Selvaraj-D’​Souza. “We do have assistance programs available, but there’s a gap between those that are eligible and ones that can afford [assessment dues] comfortably.”

Lynch acknowledged that he’s received a number of hardship letters over the last year from members and recommended working with RA’s nonprofit arm Friends of Reston on that.

According to RA by-laws, the association has no authority to assist with membership assessments.

“We cannot remove someone’s obligation who is a member here to pay the membership assessment,” Lynch said. “Do I have authority to give or reduce or do anything to help individuals? The way the bylaws are written, we cannot.”

There was also a brief discussion of an “events barn” that could host arts, music, and food festivals. It would be a good way to increase non-assessment revenue, RA board member John Mooney said.

Member assessments were a hot topic of conversation at the RA Board of Directors meeting last week. A general conclusion was reached that an assessment increase is likely needed due to rising operational expenses as well as the plethora of capital improvement projects that need to be planned for over the next few years.

The assessment currently sits at $718, but additional expenses could mean a 6% increase — or nearly $40 — in 2022.

In a poll earlier this week, Reston Now asked readers if they support an RA assessment increase. 63% of respondents voted for keeping the assessment rate at its current level.

At the end of the meeting, the board deferred any further discussion about member assessments to the next budget work season, possibly in July.

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Voting in Fairfax County (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 9:05 a.m. on 6/11/21) Yesterday’s Democratic primary for the 86th House District proved to be, by percentage points, one of the closest races in the entire Commonwealth.

When all the votes were tallied, including absentee ballots, challenger Irene Shin had beaten the incumbent Ibraheem Samirah by only 230 votes, or 3.48 percentage points. Shin is now set to face Republican and high school history teacher Julie Perry  in November’s general election.

In Fairfax County, which shares the district with a small portion of Loudoun County, the result was even tighter with Shin winning by fewer than 200 votes and 3.22 percentage points, according to the county office of elections’ unofficial returns.

Samirah’s ascension to the General Assembly in 2019 was part of a blue wave that solidified Virginia’s political transformation from reliably conservative to left-leaning. He conceded the primary via social media at 11:15 p.m. yesterday, saying that it was an honor to represent the 86th District and how proud he was of his campaign.

Shin declared victory via social media shortly thereafter, stating that “we made history tonight,” while thanking supporters and everyone who had endorsed her campaign.

In a letter that also went out to supporters last night, Shin wrote that the victory left her “completely overwhelmed.”

“Entering this race was not an easy decision. I knew that challenging an incumbent in a Delegate race would be difficult,” she wrote. “Together, we knocked over 12,000 doors and made tens of thousands of phone calls. We built a grassroots movement with support from across the district. From Reston to Herndon to Chantilly, we ran the whole district.”

Neither Samirah nor Shin thanked the other candidate.

Samirah was one of five incumbent candidates to lose last night, a record dating back to 2001.

First elected in February 2019, Samirah gained some level of fame later that year for disrupting a Trump speech in Jamestown by yelling, “Mr. President, you can’t send us back, Virginia is our home!”

While he found some support for touting progressive policies, his occasionally confrontational approach ruffled some feathers, and a number of prominent Virginia Democrats supported Shin in this election, including state Sens. Jennifer Boysko and Janet Howell as well as Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem.

“I look forward to working at my dental practice in Reston, spending time with family, and finding ways to unify the progressive movement in Northern Virginia,” Samirah told Reston Now by email.

Next door, in the 36th House District that encompasses Reston, Del. Ken Plum — the incumbent and the longest-serving member of the Virginia House of Delegates — won a decisive victory in the primary over challenger Mary Barthelson with more than 77% of the vote. Read More

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(Updated at 11:25 a.m. on 6/9/2021) Reston Baby,” a new bilingual board book about life in the community, is being gifted to all Reston newborns.

Starting next week, every baby born at Reston Hospital Center will receive the picture book prior to leaving the hospital. For babies not born at that hospital, they (or their parents) can pick up a free copy at the Reston Historic Trust & Museum at Lake Anne Plaza.

Developed by a retired Sunrise Valley Elementary School principal, the book tells the story of Reston through illustrations, words, and bright colors.

“Our biggest goal…was for parents to really understand the value and importance of reading to their children from birth,” said former principal and project founder Dr. Beth English, who is also a literacy educator. “The second purpose was to give Reston families a sense of the uniqueness of the community in which they live.”

The book is primarily comprised of illustrations drawn by Molly Bergin that highlight Reston’s well-known history and landmarks. This includes information about founder Robert E. Simon, nature trails, the Reston Community Center, and the farmers markets.

English says the book was written in both English and Spanish to reflect the community’s values of diversity as well as appreciating art.

The book additionally features Reston’s mascot, Walker Woodpecker.

Reston Museum & Historic Trust is helping shepherd the project and distribute the book.

Alex Campbell, the museum’s executive director, says “Reston Baby” fits well into the museum’s mission.

“It’s a really wonderful community project…Our mission is to inform the present, but also influence the future,” Campbell said. “This is one way we can do that.”

The museum also now hosts an outdoor program called “Storytime for Little Historians” every Tuesday, and “Reston Baby” will be part of that series too.

Over the past year, the Reston Museum has continued to experiment with different ways to fulfill its mission within the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re continually looking for ways to engage the community of all ages in a variety of different ways,” Campbell said.

English says she got the idea for the book last year toward the beginning of the pandemic.

While attending a virtual, statewide literacy conference, she learned about Roanoke’s baby board book. She consulted with the head of the library services there, who gave her a blueprint for her own project, including publisher recommendations, the cost, and thoughts on funding it.

English took the idea back to friends and fellow educators, who all agreed it was a great idea.

She started working on it April 10, 2020, and now, 14 months later, Reston Baby is written, illustrated, published, and ready for distribution.

A number of notable Reston organizations helped fund the $15,000 needed for the book’s first printing, including Reston Association, Reston Community Center, Reston Town Center Association, Friends of the Reston Regional Library, and Friends of Reston.

With that money, English was able to publish 4,200 books.

About 200 babies are born at Reston Hospital Center a month, a spokesperson for the hospital confirmed to Reston Now. Even adding in Reston babies born at other hospitals or in other areas, English expects this printing will be enough to provide every newborn a free book for at least the next year.

The book will also be available for sale online and at the Reston Museum.

Once all the books are distributed, English anticipates raising more money for a second printing.

English says she’s already given away a few copies of the book, including to a Reston Hospital nurse who just had her own baby and to her soon-to-be-born granddaughter.

“I’m going to be a grandmother at the end of this month. It’s my first,” English said. “And I sent [a book] to my son and daughter-in-law in Boston because I want my baby granddaughter to know where her grandmother lives.”

Photo courtesy Reston Museum & Historic Trust

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The Reston Association Board of Directors appeared to come to a general agreement during a recent meeting that member assessments need to be raised in 2022.

The question, of course, is exactly how much.

According to a table presented by RA CEO Hank Lynch, additional operating expenses are set to be added to the 2022 budget to the tune of about $850,000. These expenses include staff pay increases, insurance costs, and additional positions.

By Lynch and RA treasurer Bob Petrine’s estimates, this could mean assessments will need to increase by approximately 6%, or about $40 per member. The assessment currently sits at $718.

However, the exact increase may vary depending on RA’s non-assessment revenue (like facility rentals, camps, and garden plots) and budget cuts.

There’s also a host of capital improvement projects that are ongoing or upcoming. While nothing new is currently expected to be added to the budget, Petrine cautioned the board to consider what could come in the future.

There’s also a potential option of deferring some of these projects, something RA has done before.

Over the course of several budget meetings planned for the coming weeks, the board will discuss exact finances, potential cuts (including the potential “repurposing” of some pools), and what an increase could look like.

The first of these meetings is set for tonight (June 8). The plan for this evening is for the RA Board to provide Lynch with a percentage range for an increase that the RA board would be comfortable with.

Assessment increases are nothing new for RA members. Last year, it went up by $10, or close to 1.4%. In 2019, it went up by 2.2%. Overall, between 2010 and 2018, the assessment went up by a combined 34%.

However, this potential 6% raise would be the highest in a number of years.

Taking the rising costs of personnel and facility maintenance and improvement projects, how would you feel about Reston Association raising assessments again?

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Monday, June 7

  • Cicadas Around Us (3 p.m.) — Take a trip to Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale to learn about what’s been making those whirring noise in the backyard. After spending 17 long years underground, the cicadas are here to reveal their secrets. This event is intended for kids 4 and older.

Tuesday, June 8

  • Democratic Primary Day (6 a.m.-7 p.m.) — The Virginia Democratic Party is holding its primary, giving residents a chance to vote in several statewide and local elections.

Wednesday, June 9

  • LGBTQ+ Exhibit in McLean (all day) — Honor Pride Month by checking out a new exhibit at the McLean Community Center. The exhibit features the Progress Pride flag designed by Daniel Quasar and a rainbow-colored display that invites everyone in the community to reflect on what the month means to them.
  • COVID-19 Remembrance Ceremony (6 p.m.) — The Northern Virginia Regional Commission is holding a ceremony at the Fairfax County Government Center to honor and remember the people in the region who have died from COVID-19. There will be a “last alarm” bell service, and several local officials will speak.

Thursday, June 10 

  • Oyster Wars (7 p.m.) — The Chesapeake Bay was the site of the “Oyster Wars,” a century-long conflict between battling fishermen ending in the 1950s. Virtually learn about this obscure, local history in a program from the Smithsonian Associates.

Friday, June 11

  • ALX Pride at the Torpedo Factory (7-9 p.m.) — Celebrate Pride Month in Alexandria with both virtual and outdoor, in-person programs. Explore a new exhibit “UHAULED” featuring five U-Haul trucks each containing holding works or local queen and lesbian artists.
  • Movie in the Park (8 p.m.) — The next entry in Reston Association’s summer-long series of movies in the park. This edition is being held at the Brown’s Chapel Recreation Area and the film of choice is “Croods: A New Age.”

Saturday, June 12

  • The Colors of Our Year (10 a.m.) — Head downtown to the Kennedy Center’s The REACH for a day-long celebration of the past year from the Kennedy Center Youth Council. Through spoken word, dance, art, and film, young artists will share the breath of their experiences.
  • Young Chefs (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.) — Learn from Ms. Janell about how to prepare no-bake deliciousness. The class is intended for children and will be held outdoors while following the latest COVID protocols. The class is being put on by the Reston Association

Sunday, June 13

  • Music in the Garden (3-4 p.m.) — Enjoy classical gems by Bartok and Kivrak on the lawn in Meadowlark Gardens in Vienna. The concert is set to take place in front of the Korean Bell Pavilion. Chairs and snacks are allowed, but no picnicking.
  • Loudoun Pride (1-4 p.m.) — The first ever Equality Loudoun picnic and festival takes place at Foxridge Park. Family-friendly and intended for the entire community, there’ll be food trucks, music, speakers, and plenty of games.

Photo by Debra Haffner

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The $3.5 million renovation of Reston Association’s Lake Thoreau pool has hit more roadblocks, this time due to lack of contractor availability and soaring material costs.

Already three months behind initial estimates, an October groundbreaking remains the official goal, but there’s a likelihood that the date will be pushed back again.

“Due to the volatility of the construction market, narrowing down the final estimate for this project is challenging,” RA spokesperson Mike Leone told Reston Now in an email. “Assuming the timeline holds, construction would start around October but there is a possibility it could be pushed into November.”

RA recently sent out requests to 10 contractors for pre-qualifying bids on the project, but the association received only two responses.

“This is a little bit disappointing, but indicative of the market that many, many contractors are very, very busy,” Chief Operating Officer Larry Butler said at RA’s Board of Directors meeting last Thursday (May 27).

Butler said the hope is to bring on a contractor when the project design and development are 80% complete, so the contractor can provide their own insight and expertise before sending it to Fairfax County for approval.

Leone says it’s expected that a contract with a general contractor will be ready for review and approval by the RA board in August or September.

Another element currently complicating the project is fast-rising material costs. Butler notes that the $3.5 million project budget was established prior to the recent spike in material costs.

“Here’s a really crazy example…There’s a lot of piping in pools. PVC costs are up 270% from March 2020 to March 2021,” Butler explained.

The hope is that prices will stabilize and drop, but “it’s an ever-moving target,” he says.

The overall cost of the renovations and the means of paying for them have been an ongoing source of conflict since the project first started in late 2019. The project is now rather lean, though at least one RA board member was asking about the potential for further cuts.

The issues with the Lake Thoreau renovations come as RA contemplates raising member assessments and, possibly, repurposing other pools  due to ongoing budgetary challenges.

Key design elements being added or modified at Lake Thoreau pool include ADA access to the main pool, re-working of the roof geometry, a zero-depth area, a repositioning of the spa away from the bathhouses, and a redesign of the overlook deck. A pollinator garden will also be added near the parking lot.

The renovations are expected to be completed about a year after construction begins, so that could be in October or November 2022. A grand reopening of Lake Thoreau pool is anticipated in May 2023.

However, Leone cautions that the timing could change.

“If the start of construction is delayed for whatever reason, then there is a chance the grand re-opening could be delayed,” he told Reston Now.

Photo via Reston Association

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The Reston Association Board of Directors is set to discuss increasing member assessments, potentially by as much as $40, at upcoming work sessions in preparation to draft the 2022 budget.

At a board meeting last Thursday (May 27), CEO Hank Lynch laid out factors, questions, and known expenses that will affect the upcoming budget, which will be discussed and drafted later this summer.

His report led to the conclusion that an assessment increase will likely be needed, along with possible cuts and ways to increase non-assessment revenue. The assessment is currently at $718.

Further discussion about what this increase could look like, including a proposed percentage range that the RA board would be comfortable with, will happen at upcoming work sessions. The first one is set for June 8.

Lynch said that the potential increase isn’t needed to add new items to the budget, but rather, to catch up on projects from the previous year.

“We are not planning, right now, any new programs or services,” said Lynch. “Mainly, we are trying to get things we had in the pipeline last year that we couldn’t do because of COVID up and running this year. We are not looking to do new things for 2022.”

A huge impact on the budget is an increase in operating expenses, particularly staff pay increases, hiring, staff turnover, and RA’s insurance policy.

Lynch authorized a compensation study by the human resources firm Archer Company in 2019. The study concluded that staff pay increases were needed for better retention and recruitment.

Adopting the study’s recommendations would cost an additional $400,000, according to a table that Lynch presented at last week’s meeting. There are also four new positions that have been requested to be filled, which would cost $430,000.

Overall, adding in the statewide minimum wage increase as well as rising costs for staff benefits, Lynch projects that RA can anticipate approximately $705,000 in new staffing expenses for 2022, even with some savings from higher-than-normal staff turnover.

There’s also a potential for an increase in the cost of RA’s insurance policy, bringing the total dollars expected to be added to the operating budget to nearly $850,000.

Without finding cuts or generating more non-assessment revenue, the additional operating expenses would mean a 6% increase, or nearly $40, in annual assessment fees for members, according to Lynch.

That’s four times the increase that was approved last year. Read More

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CACI International, one of the country’s largest government defense, intelligence, and cyber security contractors, cut the ribbon on its new Reston headquarters last week.

The corporate headquarters of the nearly $6 billion company is now located in a newly renovated 135,000-square-foot, six-story building at 12021 Sunset Hills Road across the street from the impending Reston Town Center Metro station.

“We’re very excited about our updated modern facilities and confident that this new building will be key to continuing this vital work for our customers’ important national security missions and groundbreaking technology,” CACI President and CEO John Mengucci said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The building will house approximately 450 employees as well as a Center for Research, Application, Development, Learning and Engagement (CRADLE). The workshop will allow employees and clients to interactively work together on concept design and prototypes.

CACI headquarters was located in Ballston for nearly fifty years, but the company signed a lease with Boston Properties, which owns nearby Reston Town Center, late last year to move into two-decade-old building.

Bearing the slogan “Ever Vigilant,” CACI has become one of the nation’s leading defense contractors since its founding in 1962. In fact, President Joe Biden’s recent nominee for the assistant secretary of defense for readiness job is a former employee.

In attendance at the ribbon-cutting were a number of local officials, including Rep. Gerry Connolly, who represents Virginia’s 11th Congressional district which includes large swaths of Reston and Herndon.

Connolly complimented the company’s foresight and spoke about the region’s continued growth.

“[CACI has] chosen a location that is only going to grow in economic investment and technological importance in the coming years: the Dulles corridor,” he said. “This is maybe one of the most dynamic economic corridors in the United States. It is certainly going to eclipse even downtown Washington as the single most important investment and economic corridor in the capital region.”

He also noted that the building’s proximity to a soon-to-be-opened Metro station showcases why extending the Silver Line was critical to economic growth in Reston and Herndon, a sentiment echoed by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

“It’s an affirmation that the long-term development strategy of transit-oriented development makes sense,” Alcorn told Reston Now. “It’s important to have employers like CACI in Reston, where there are multiple transportation options available to workers, visitors, and others using the facilities.”

Building around public transportation, Alcorn notes, allows more people to benefit from economic and development activity.

Del. Ken Plum, who represents Virginia’s 36th House District, says that, as Reston and Fairfax County grow as a economic and technology center of the region, there needs to be efforts to service a diverse workforce.

“We also need to recognize the service workers and others that support [this headquarters],” Plum said to Reston Now. “We’ve also got to accommodate them with appropriate housing and transportation alternatives. It’s all good to cut a ribbon, but we have to recognize the bigger picture…and provide the support structure necessary.”

Even as some workers return to offices with vaccine rates rising, there may be a permanent shift toward more teleworking as opposed to employees coming into an office every day, a possibility anticipated by the renovations and more open work spaces in CACI’s new headquarters, Mengucci said.

Both Alcorn and Plum say a more flexible approach to work spaces could have positive ramifications on everything from public transportation to child care.

“The new normal is recognizing working at home doesn’t reduce productivity,” Plum said. “I think we are seeing an increasing emphasis on that as an option.”

However, bringing more companies like CACI to Reston remains a priority for tax revenue reasons as well as continuing to grow Fairfax County’s economy.

“They’re still very much a role for office space in centralized commercial locations,” Alcorn said. “But people will have more options now, not only about where they live, but also how often they come into work.”

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) A Herndon car wash that discharged green liquid that ended up in Sugarland Run Stream received a formal notice of violation on Friday (May 28) from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, a regional official says.

Flagship Carwash Center of Herndon at 632 Grant Street does have a permit to discharge, according to both a car wash representative and DEQ.

However, the green liquid was being discharged into a storm sewer that goes into Sugarland Run due to a malfunctioning of the car wash’s water reclamation system malfunctioning, says DEQ official Mark Miller, who manages regional enforcement and pollution response for Virginia’s northern region.

Miller says the presence of the discharge in Sugarland Run has been observed multiple times by both DEQ officials and town staff members.

As a result, the business will be notified that it is in violation of its general DEQ permit. The discharge is believed to be a mix of water and car wash detergent, but it is not thought to be harmful to the stream.

“Staff from the town, Fairfax County DPWES, Fairfax County Fire Department, and the Virginia DEQ all performed independent tests on the discharge and did not find any contaminants in the stream that are known to be harmful to the environment,” Town of Herndon spokesperson Anne Curtis told Reston Now by email.

Curtis says DEQ is now in charge of the investigation and is “in contact with the property owner to resolve the illicit discharge.”

This issue was first brought to the public’s attention during a Herndon Town Council work session on May 18. In the work session, Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish noted that town staff were aware of the situation and had recently observed the discharge themselves.

Flagship Carwash Center of Herndon managing member Guy Paolozzi told Reston Now that the business is currently conducting its own investigation to determine why the discharge is green.

Until both the car wash and DEQ complete their investigations, Paolozzi says, the car wash will stop discharging.

Flagship Carwash Center currently has five Virginia locations and 10 locations across the region.

Miller says the notice of violation was drafted and sent out last week. The intent of the notice is to get the problem fixed under a timeline. These types of violations are not uncommon, and they can end with the business fixing the issue without any further consequence.

However, a civil charge (a fine) could be imposed depending on the findings of DEQ’s investigation.

A section of Sugarland Run south from where the discharge has been observed is about to undergo a restoration. The long-running project was first approved in August 2018.

Work includes replanting vegetation, placing in-stream structures, and installing brush mattresses.

Construction and restoration is expected to be completed in early 2022.

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Tuesday, June 1

  • Scrawl Books Reopening (10 a.m.) — After being closed for more than a year, Reston Town Center’s bookstore is reopening for browsing and shopping. Scrawl Books took time over the pandemic to completely renovate, so there’s now even more space and reading nooks. Masks will continue to be required in the store.
  • Duck Harbor (8 p.m.) — Every Tuesday for the next 12 weeks, 1st Stage in Tysons will present “Duck Harbor,” a live, serialized romantic comedy web series starring actors on both the east and west coasts. Not only that, the actors will only be given their own script so they can react genuinely to what the other character says. If you miss it live, binge-watch it to catch up!

Wednesday, June 2 

  • We Are What We Eat (8 p.m.) — Author Alice Waters advocates for “slow food culture,” a preservation of local food origins and traditions. Join Waters in conversation with Kim Severson, a national food correspondent for the New York Times, as they discuss why slow food culture is vital to our societal needs. This virtual event is being put on by Politics and Prose.

Thursday, June 3

  • A Transgender Virginian’s Story (7 p.m.) — Join a member of Equality Virginia’s Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau for an evening to learn their story. There’ll be time for questions and dialogue. This virtual event is hosted by the Reston Regional Library.

Friday, June 4 

  • Fair Oaks Mall Carnival (5 p.m.) — If you didn’t get your cotton candy and ferris wheel fill last year, plenty of local carnivals are back this year, including one at Fair Oaks Mall. So, grab a funnel cake, and jump aboard the whirly-twirly.

Saturday, June 5

  • Gardens of Note (10 a.m.) — Enjoy a self-guided tour of five of Reston’s beautiful residential gardens rarely open to the public. Along the way, there will be pop-up musical performances from members of the Reston Chorale.
  • Owl Prowl (6:30-8 p.m.) — Reston Association invites people of all ages to the Walker Nature Center for this all-ages program celebrating the natural world. Children must be accompanied by a registered adult, and all adults and children over two years of age must wear masks. Registration has filled up, but there is a wait list available. The cost is $7 for members and $9 for non-members.
  • BD Wong at Reston Community Center (8 p.m.) — You may have seen Wong act in the television show “Mr. Robot” or on the big screen in “Jurassic Park,” but he’s also a motivational speaker. He’ll be speaking on racial self-image, the model-minority myth, and LGTBQ rights.

Sunday, June 6

  • Heritage India Festival (12-7 p.m.) — The D.C.-area’s premier South Asian cultural, arts, and commerce festival is back this year at the Dulles Expo Center. There will be shopping, performances, and food. The festival is mostly indoors and will following all state and local COVID guidelines.
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After a year off, the two-decade-old Ride of the Patriots in Fairfax is back and ready to rumble.

With the 2020 iteration canceled due to the pandemic, the Memorial Day weekend event and ride is returning to the D.C. area, but it will be scaled down a bit compared to previous years.

It will take place Friday (May 28) through Sunday (May 30) starting at Patriot Harley-Davidson on Fairfax Boulevard in Fairfax.

There will be vendors, food trucks, an appearance from the “Saluting Marine,” and a gathering of bikers.

There will also be two rides, each limited to 225 riders. On Saturday, the ride will begin at 11 a.m., and on Sunday, it will depart from Patriot Harley-Davidson at 11 a.m. to join up with AMVet’s Rolling to Remember in D.C. Registration to ride cost $25.

First held in 1999, the ride’s purpose is to remember and commemorate military veterans, particularly those who fought in the Vietnam War and those who remain missing in action. In recent years, there’s been a focus on veteran suicide.

An average of 17 veterans die by suicide per day, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

In previous years, upwards of 12,000 bikers would join in on the festivities from across Northern Virginia and even the country. But this year, there will be significantly fewer participants.

Kevin Hardy, the event’s organizer since 2017 and marketing director at Patriot Harley-Davidson, thinks there will be about 300 to 400 bikes this year.

Hardy says the constantly changing COVID-19 health regulations over the last few months made it tough to plan for more than that. He’s excited, though, that the end of most capacity limits starting May 28 will allow Ride of the Patriots to happen again this year.

“You don’t want to not have it for two years. I’m a big believer in things being front of mind,” Hardy said. “If you don’t [hold the event], it kinda fades away with time.”

Rolling Thunder, the similar, long-running Memorial Day weekend event, officially ended in 2019, leaving smaller events like Ride of the Patriots to fill the void.

Hardy believes bringing awareness to veteran issues remains of the utmost importance. He also has a personal connection to the topic, with his father being a retired military colonel who served in the U.S. Army for 27 years.

“I think there’s a lot of change going in America today and a lot of what [these veterans] did enabled people to speak their mind and protest certain things,” Hardy said. “A lot of what America is and those rights were fought for by veterans.”

After starting in Fairfax, the Ride of the Patriot will proceed down Route 50 towards the District.

The Fairfax County Police Department confirmed to Reston Now that they will temporarily close Route 50 between Patriot Drive and I-495 “to allow safe passage” for the riders starting around 11 a.m. on Saturday and at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

The hope is that next year’s event will be back to 2019 attendance levels with thousands of bikers making their way down Route 50 to pay their respects to those who have served.

“We’ll be ready to go in 2022 for thousands and thousands of bikes heading from here to D.C. in honor of veterans,” Hardy said.

Photo courtesy Kevin Hardy

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Reston Association is relaxing COVID-related pool restrictions starting Memorial Day weekend.

Beginning Friday (May 28), RA pools will go back to full, pre-COVID capacity, RA spokesperson Mike Leone told Reston Now in an email.

This comes as the state and the county will also completely lift capacity restrictions for outdoor pools starting May 28.

However, RA plans to honor reservations made for Memorial Day weekend, since it had instituted a reservation system for that time period prior to the county and state announcements.

“Our priority will be to honor all Members with reservations through May 31st,” Leone clarified in an email. “If there is available capacity at a pool after Members with reservations arrive, those without reservations will be permitted to use the pool until it reaches capacity limits.”

Beginning June 1, the majority of RA pool facilities will open with no reservations required.

Due to popular demand, though, RA will continue to have lap swim and water fitness reservations at some locations throughout the summer. If space is available, walk-ins will be permitted.

Physical and social distancing will also no longer be enforced starting June 1, but RA is asking residents “to be mindful of personal space.”

RA will also still require masks inside its facilities, regardless of whether a resident is fully vaccinated or not. Masks are not required, though, when patrons are in the water, eating, drinking, and exercising, or for people who have a medical exception.

Virginia and Fairfax County both are no longer requiring masks in most settings for those who are fully vaccinated.

Five more RA pools will be opening on Saturday (May 29), joining the North Shore and Ridge Height heated pools, which both opened on May 15. Then, the rest of the RA pools will open for the season on June 12.

Pool season is getting underway as debate heightens about the possible “repurposing” or, even, closure of a number of pools.

Last week, RA staff recommended that Golf Course Island, Newbridge, Tall Oaks, and Shadowood pools be “seriously considered for repurposing” due to their low usage. RA CEO Hank Lynch is scheduled to further discuss his budget recommendations at the board of directors meeting on Thursday (May 27).

A recent year-long evaluation by RA’s recreation facilities work group found that a number of decades-old facilities, including some pools, are in need of a considerable amount of work and repairs.

RA recently renovated several of these pools, including an ongoing $3.5 million facelift for Lake Thoreau and a resurfacing of Glade pool’s slide.

Tall Oaks and Shadowood are both currently closed due to ongoing renovations.

Photo courtesy of Reston Association

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(Updated at 2:10 p.m. on 5/27/2021) Beanstalk, an indoor vertical farming start-up, is putting down roots in Herndon with plans to invest more than $2 million to open a facility and farm this fall.

The Virginia-based company is expanding and opening a “scaled-up version” of their existing farm in the Lorton/Springfield area right off of Herndon Parkway and near the impending Herndon Metro station, Beanstalk co-founder Michael Ross writes Reston Now in an email.

The Herndon location will have research, growing, and package operations.

“This new facility will produce the equivalent of over 50 acres of traditional farmland and allow us to expand into more local grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and restaurants,” said Ross, who founded Beanstalk with his brother Jack.

The company grows pesticide-free leafy greens and herbs year-round using robotics and hydroponic — or soil-less — growing technology. It says it saves space by growing in layers and vertically as opposed to horizontally.

Beanstalk sells its salad mixes and herbs at grocery stores, local farmers markets, and online.

Jack Ross was selected by Virginia for a STEAM catalyst award back in 2018 for his development of an automated indoor growing production system. The technology allows Beanstalk to “produce food four times as efficiently as traditional hydroponic farming,” according to a press release from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

The brothers opened their 3,000 square-foot Springfield/Lorton facility in 2018, and the company expects to have annual sales of over $5 million in the next three years.

“We have created a new technology that produces better tasting and more nutritious vegetables, herbs, and fruits than what are available today,” Ross said. “Our farms are also sustainable as they consume 95% less water, have zero chemical run-off, and are over 100 times more productive use of land.”

The company’s co-founders are in their 20s and both were raised in Alexandria, went to high school in D.C., and played youth sports across the region.

“I particularly spent a lot of time in Herndon and Reston in high school, which is how I originally got to know the area through events like the Herndon Festival,” said Ross, who studied aerospace engineering in college.

He tells Reston Now that they evaluated “dozens of cities” in the D.C. area for their expansion but decided on Herndon because of the town’s “incredible community” and prioritzation of sustainability.

“Herndon is a very unique place within Northern Virginia in that it feels like a small, close-knit town with all the benefits of a larger city,” he said.

Beanstalk is expected to create 29 jobs in Herndon, some of which are already open for hiring.

Positions currently open in Herndon include a director of research and a senior electrical engineer. Ross notes that other jobs will be available soon in engineering, research, and operations, and the company will be looking for farmers later this year.

“We look for people from all backgrounds who want to bring locally grown food to their community and are curious, ambitious, and skilled,” Ross said.

Beanstalk is receiving financial support from both the state and Fairfax County in the form of grants that total $200,000.

As expected, local leaders say they are thrilled that Beanstalk decided Herndon is the place for them to grow.

“We are always looking for innovative investments to move our economy forward in Fairfax County,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay said in the governor’s press release. “Beanstalk’s new facility will not only bring new jobs to the community, but it also is a creative solution to using advancements in technology to increase access to fresh food options.”

Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem also welcomed the Ross brothers and Beanstalk to town.

“Theirs is exactly the kind of innovative, jobs-producing business we are looking to attract to our town’s commercial sector, and we applaud their application of technology toward provision of healthy, locally-grown produce,” she said.

Beanstalk’s mission is not only to grow fresh produce using new, more-efficient, sustainable technology, but to provide food at its freshest, Ross says.

“By growing in a farm within the community, we deliver food at peak freshness, which ensures all the taste and nutrition of the food is there when you take your first bite,” he said.

Photo courtesy Michael Ross

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A new Korean fried chicken restaurant will open in North Point Village Center this summer.

Bbq Chicken at 1432 North Point Village Center in Reston is targeting a July 4 opening, a restaurant representative tells Reston Now. Build out is currently about 75% finished.

The location was previously a Jerry’s Subs that closed in September 2019.

The restaurant is part of a national franchise with close to 2,000 locations across the country, but this is the first one in the Reston/Herndon area. There is a location in Falls Church.

Several more locations of bbq Chicken are being planned for the area, including in Herndon and Ashburn, by the end of the year, the restaurant representative says.

The franchise specializes in Korean fried chicken with menu options for spicy, honey garlic, and more traditional Korean flavors like galbi (sweet with sesame seeds) and gang-jeong (cinnamon and spicy).

The bbq Chicken spokesperson says the company is expanding the number of locations in Northern Virginia, because Korean fried chicken has traveled well and can be easily prepared for pick-up and delivery.

They chose North Point Village as the restaurant’s introduction to Reston because the shopping center provides substantial parking with good access for delivery drivers.

The shopping center also will have a sushi restaurant opening in it in November of this year. Earlier this year, Christie-Adam Salon and Spa opened, replacing another hair salon.

North Point Village Center is owned by Lerner Retail, whose portfolio includes the to-be-redeveloped Spectrum at Reston Town Center.

North Point Village Center opened in 1993 and was the last of Reston’s five village centers to be built.

Photo via bb.q Chicken US/Instagram

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Bow Tie Cinemas at Reston Town Center is reopening on Friday (May 28), just in time for the holiday weekend.

Making good on a March promise, the movie theater will open its doors for Memorial Day weekend, marking the return of audiences more than a year after it closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company told Reston Now two months ago that they hoped to open by this coming weekend, but it depended on the major movie studios releasing films into theaters, as opposed to streaming and on-demand services.

With vaccinations up across the country and region, that appears to be happening. According to Bow Tie Cinemas, the major new Hollywood releases waiting to greet Reston moviegoers include “A Quiet Place Part II”, Disney’s “Cruella,” and “Spiral: Saw.”

“I am thrilled that we are finally able to reopen our Reston location,” Bow Tie Cinemas Chief Operating Officer Joseph Masher said in the press release. “By exercising our health and safety protocols, we have been able to successfully provide a clean atmosphere for our guests to return to the cinema.”

Masher says the chain has not recorded any cases of COVID-19 transmission among patrons or staff since it first reopened some locations last summer.

“Guests have been returning, and leave feeling a sense of normalcy that has been sorely missed during the pandemic,” he said.

The Reston Town Center theater will reopen with a series of safety and health protocols in place in accordance with the National Association of Theater Owners’ CinemaSafe initiative, which commits participants to following guidelines that, in some cases, are stricter than what Virginia and Fairfax County now require.

The state will lift capacity limits on movie theaters and other entertainment venues starting on Friday.

Bow Tie’s protocols include 100% reserved seating, the installation of plexiglass barriers at box office and concession stands, contact-free ticket and concession purchasing, and enhanced cleaning.

Additionally, all staff must wear a mask, even if they are fully vaccinated.

“Bow Tie Cinemas staff must wear masks at all times, whereas fully vaccinated customers are welcome to remove their mask,” a Bow Tie Cinema spokesperson confirmed to Reston Now in an email. “If a customer has yet to be vaccinated, we ask that they continue to wear their mask unless they are actively eating and drinking in their seat.”

There are also several promotional offers for those who come to the Reston Town Center theater on the first weekend.

From May 28 to 30, a purchase of a non-alcoholic beverage comes with a free small popcorn and entry into a raffle for free movie tickets. Reston customers can also continue to rent out an entire theater for up to 30 guests for a private screening.

Bow Tie Cinemas is one of the last movie theaters to reopen in the area, with theaters in Herndon, Tysons, and Dulles already showing movies again.

Bow Tie Cinemas acquired the theater at Reston Town Center from Rave Cinema in 2011.

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