PassionFish (Photo by PassionFish)

A local employee was selected as employee of the year during this year’s RAMMYS.

The awards, which are organized by Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. Fully vaccinated guests attended the in-person ceremony over the weekend at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Ruben Avila of PassionFish in Reston Town Center was named employee of the year by a panel of judges. But more than half to the awards were based on public votes.

The awards honor the accomplishments of organizations and individuals integral to the local foodservice and restaurant community.

A complete list of the winner is available online. Silver Diner, which has a location in Reston, was recognized for being a technology trailblazer.

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Morning Notes

Washington Plaza shops reflected in Lake Anne (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Community Raises Money for Family of Hit-and-Run Victim — A GoFundMe started on Friday (Sept. 3) by the sister of Reston resident Andrew Willingham, who was killed in a hit-and-run incident on Fairfax County Parkway last week, has received more than $257,000 as of 7:30 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday). The money will go toward helping Willingham’s wife and two sons with expenses, including a future college fund. [Patch]

County Launches Data Hub for Reston Parks — “You can now access the latest information on urban parks and athletic fields associated with redevelopment in the Reston Transit Station Areas through the new Urban Parks Activity Hub. The new online hub is one of three components of the Reston Data Visualization project created by the Department of Planning and Development in coordination with the Park Authority.” [Fairfax County Government]

Herndon Police Chief With Rare State Award — “Chief [Maggie] DeBoard and Executive Director Dana Schrad were recognized by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police & Foundation with the 2021 Outstanding Contribution to Law Enforcement Award…This award recognizes an individual’s conspicuous act or achievement in the performance of their duty that results in an exceptional and responsible contribution to the law enforcement profession here in VA.” [Herndon Police/Twitter]

Reston Contractor CEO Recalls Company’s 9/11 Origins — Reston-based defense technology contractor EverWatch Corp. CEO John Hillen says his life “is very oddly wrapped up with 9/11.” His experience in downtown New York City on Sept. 11, 2001 propelled him from Wall Street to the State Department under the George W. Bush administration, and his company now provides tools for defense missions that directly stem from the attacks. [Washington Business Journal]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

As seen from Leesburg Pike, waters rose at Colvin Run after an early morning storm on Sept. 1, 2021 (photo by Ed Schudel/Twitter)

Virginia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Now in Effect — “A mandate that most of Virginia’s state workers will have to be vaccinated or agree to regular COVID-19 testing is taking effect. Gov. Ralph Northam’s order kicks in Wednesday and will apply to more than 120,000 executive branch employees.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

Reston Police Community Meeting Tonight — “Join the @FairfaxCountyPD Reston District Station for a Community Information Forum on Thursday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m. The virtual meeting will cover statistics, trends, cases from the previous month, and discuss upcoming events.” [Supervisor Walter Alcorn/Twitter]

Lake Anne Elementary Postpones Back-to-School Night — “Many families have asked for a virtual Back to School Night because people are hesitant to be around large crowds. In response to that request, we will be changing our Back to School Night to a virtual format on Tuesday, September 14, 2021…More details will follow in next week’s News You Choose.” [FCPS]

Park Authority to Honor Frying Pan Volunteers — The Fairfax County Park Authority Board will give Ronnie Billodeaux, Ed Robichaud, and Steve Williams the 2021 Harold L. Strickland Partnership and Collaboration Award, which recognizes teamwork in bringing state-of-the-art facilities to parks. The three volunteer wagon ride drivers worked over the winter to repair and expand picnic facilities at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon. [FCPA]

Photo by Ed Schudel/Twitter

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For one night this fall, Dr. Jeffrey Kretsch will get to bask in the spotlight as well as the starlight that more regularly illuminates his work at the Turner Farm Observatory Park in Great Falls.

Kretsch is one of three volunteers — and the only individual — who will be honored by the Fairfax County Park Authority with its 2021 Elly Doyle Park Service Awards, which recognize community members and organizations that contribute their time and expertise to support the county’s park system.

As a member of the Analemma Society, a nonprofit that promotes astronomy, Kretsch has logged more than 1,784 hours of volunteer service at Observatory Park since 2012, according to the park authority’s news release.

“I was surprised to hear of getting the award, and greatly appreciate the recognition,” Kretsch said in a statement to Reston Now. “I enjoy doing this, and get satisfaction helping bring our programs to the public. I work with a lot of volunteers and park staff who make this possible.”

The Analemma Society works with the park authority to host public, after-hours viewing sessions at Turner Farm’s roll-top observatory and classroom almost every Friday. The group also organizes special sessions for celestial events like the Perseid meteor shower that filled the sky earlier this month.

When the observatory shut down last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kretsch helped the park authority pivot to virtual programming, including by leading lectures and encouraging other volunteers to follow suit.

According to the park authority, he also “spent considerable time” helping the park authority fill out an application to get Observatory Park designated as an International Dark Sky Place, a program that started in 2001 to recognize parks, communities, and other sites that preserve the night sky for scientific, natural, educational, or recreational purposes.

Virginia currently has five Dark Sky Places — four state parks and Rappahannock County Park — but none in Fairfax County or even Northern Virginia, the International Dark-Sky Association’s map shows.

When Observatory Park reopened for the public viewing sessions on June 18, Kretsch could once again share his interest in stargazing and astronomy with other community members in person, rather than from behind a computer screen.

“Interacting with families and the kids is the best part,” he said. “I have been doing this awhile now, long enough that every once in a while an adult comes up to me and says they remember coming as a child and how it inspired them to go on. That is what is the most rewarding.”

The other recipients of this year’s Elly Doyle awards are:

  • The Friends of Accotink Creek, which helps protect the local watershed by removing trash, planting native trees, and supporting educational programs
  • Volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ D.C. South Mission, who spent the past year clearing invasive species from an area at Lake Accotink Park in Springfield and replaced them with native plants

Established on Dec. 20, 1988, the awards are named after former Park Authority Board of Directors Chairman Elly Doyle for her “years of outstanding service toward the preservation of parkland and establishment of natural and recreational areas for the benefit of Fairfax County residents,” according to the FCPA news release.

This year’s winners will be recognized with a virtual ceremony in November. Their names will also be added to a bronze plaque at the Fairfax County Government Center.

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2021 Arts Awards honoree Reston Town Center Association brings arts and cultural events to the town center, including summer concerts (via Reston Concerts on the Town/Facebook)

The Reston Town Center Association is among the five honorees selected by ArtsFairfax for its 2021 Arts Awards, an annual celebration of Fairfax County’s arts community.

ArtsFairfax, a nonprofit that has been designated as the county’s arts agency, announced the winners of this year’s awards on Tuesday (July 27).

“For ten years, our annual Arts Awards has recognized the creative visionaries who inspire us, engage us, and create transformational change in our communities,” ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda S. Sullivan said in a press release. “This year’s honorees exemplify the impact that artists, arts and cultural organizations, and those that support them are making to the future of Fairfax County.”

In addition to marking their 10th anniversary, this year’s Arts Awards herald a return for both the awards themselves after they were canceled last year and local arts groups, which are tentatively starting to reemerge from the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Reston Town Center Association (RTCA) will receive the Arts Philanthropy Award, which “recognizes an individual, corporation, or foundation that has provided leadership funding or long-term monetary support to the arts,” according to ArtsFairfax.

A private nonprofit incorporated in 1988, RTCA says its mission is to “maintain a vibrant and viable downtown for the benefit of residents, employees, and visitors,” including by providing public arts, social, and civic events at Reston Town Center.

Since its founding, the association has maintained an Art Fund with revenue from its annual commercial property assessments to support public art and cultural programs, such as the summer Concerts on the Town and the annual Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival, according to Arts Fairfax.

While the summer concerts were canceled for a second year in a row, RTCA is planning to bring back the Tephra Fine Arts Festival in September, and it is working with Herndon’s NextStop Theatre on a new Theater in the Park initiative expected to launch next spring.

“Supporting a strong cultural proposition is central to our mission,” RTCA Executive Director Robert Goudie said. “It is part of what we think differentiates Reston Town Center as a compelling destination. So we are very proud to receive this recognition, especially from an organization, ArtsFairfax, that is so important to the region’s arts scene.”

Goudie says RTCA shares the award with its partners, including Reston Community Center, Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art, Public Art Reston, Washington West Film Festival, and Reston Town Center owner Boston Properties.

This year’s other honorees are:

The 2021 ArtsFairfax Awards will hold a reception on Oct. 15 in The Atrium at Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road) in Tysons. Tickets are now available for purchase.

Photo via Reston Concerts on the Town/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Riders Could Be Banned for Crimes on Metro Property — “Metro is seeking authority to temporarily ban bus and rail riders from the system if they are arrested for…either sex-related crimes or crimes related to guns or other dangerous weapons. Anyone arrested for such crimes would be banned from the bus and rail system for 14 days after a first arrest, 30 days after a second arrest, and one year after a third arrest.” [WJLA-ABC7]

Tall Oaks Parking Expansion Approved — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Reston assisted living facility’s proposal to add 29 spaces to its 44-space parking lot. Tall Oaks has also agreed to provide three secure bicycle racks near the front of the building and pre-wire 2% of the proposed spaces for electric vehicle charging stations. [Patch]

Fairfax County Teen to Get Congressional Medal — 17-year-old Centreville resident Ayonnah Tinsley is one of about 500 students who will get the Congressional Award Gold Medal in a virtual ceremony on July 30. The highest honor given by Congress to young people, the award recognizes youth for personal development, community service, and fitness. [WTOP]

Roer’s Zoofari Opens Butterfly Exhibit — “Imagine strolling through a tropical rain forrest surrounded by the flutter of colorful butterfly wings. That imagined experience can become a reality thanks to the new Wings of Wonder exhibit at Roer’s Zoofari in Reston.” [Patch]

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CACI ranked ninth on The Washington Post’s “Top Workplaces” list for the largest companies (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Reston newcomer CACI International is one of several companies in Reston and Herndon that were named among the best places to work in the D.C. area by The Washington Post’s eighth annual Top Workplaces survey.

Recognized in a virtual awards ceremony on June 17 and publicly announced on Friday (June 18), the list features the 200 highest-ranked companies in the region based on employee surveys conducted by the third-party engagement firm Energage LLC.

According to the Post, more than 3,500 area companies were invited to participate in the contest, and more than 65,500 employees filled out the questionnaire, which considered factors ranging from pay and benefits to retention and confidence in the organization’s leadership.

While the Post still identifies CACI as an Arlington-based company, the information technology contractor cut the ribbon on its new headquarters building near the future Reston Town Center Metro station at the end of May.

Ranked ninth in the “largest companies” category, which includes organizations with at least 1,000 workers in the D.C. area, CACI employs 7,743 people locally and recorded $5.7 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2020, putting it on the Fortune 500 list of the largest companies in the U.S. for the first time since its founding in 1962.

Here are the other Reston and Herndon companies that found a spot on the Top Workplaces list:

Large (500-1,000 employees)

  • Deltek (#12)
  • Noblis (#14): This is the Reston contractor’s eighth consecutive year on the Post’s list, according to a news release
  • GAP Solutions (#19)
  • Northwest Federal Credit Union (#27)

Mid-Size (150-500 employees)

  • Acclaim Technical Services (#5)
  • Procentrix (#6)
  • B3 Group (#12)
  • Ventera Corp. (#19)
  • Dev Technology Group (#24)
  • Amyx (#56)
  • ATCS (#61)
  • Brightspot (#73)

Small (50-150 employees)

  • ThunderCat Technology (#9)
  • Navitas Business Consulting (#19)
  • Expedition Technology (#21)
  • Northstrat (#23)
  • Northramp (#28)
  • Intact Technology (#40)
  • Actualize Consulting (#49)
  • Assured Consulting Solutions (#53)
  • Electrosoft Services (#58)
  • SeKON Enterprises (#68)
  • HawkEye 360 (#69)
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Morning Notes

Rain in Reston (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Government Center Opens for Vaccine Walk-ins — Starting today (Friday), the Fairfax County Government Center COVID-19 vaccination clinic will offer walk-in appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine. First-come, first-served walk-in appointments will be available from 12 to 4 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays and 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. [Fairfax County Health Department]

Metro Board Approves Fare and Service Changes — The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board of Directors approved a number of fare and service changes yesterday intended to attract riders back. The changes include a flat $2 fare for weekend train rides, a 50% discount on day and weeklong rail and bus passes, and a commitment to running trains every five to 10 minutes during peak hours. [DCist]

Reston Community Center Launches Strategic Plan Survey — “RCC is drafting its next five-year Strategic Plan. We want to hear from you in order to best serve the community. Please click above to take a short survey on RCC’s facilities, programs, collaboration efforts, communications and more. Your input will be used to make sure the 2016-2021 Strategic Plan considers as many different perspectives as possible.” [RCC]

Terraset Principal Awarded by FCPSTerraset Elementary School Principal Lindsay Trout was named Fairfax County Public Schools’ Outstanding Principal for 2021 in a ceremony held at Jiffy Lube Live on Wednesday (June 9) that recognized more than 700 of the school system’s employees. Trout was highlighted for creating “the concept of #TerrasetTogether to provide a safe place for children to be their authentic selves; for families to share their celebrations and their struggles and for staff to elevate their passion for teaching.” [FCPS]

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Morning Notes

Cicadas Light Up Local Weather Radar — Weather radars in the D.C. area, including one in Sterling, have been picked up a lot of activity in recent days that the National Weather Service believes stem from insects, including the Brood X cicadas that have been making noise around the region since early May. [Capital Weather Gang]

Connolly Cross Country Trail to Partially Close — “Starting on Monday, June 21 and continuing through July 9, 2021, the Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail will be closed between mile markers 3.2 and 3.8 in the Difficult Run Stream Valley Park north of Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) while crews perform maintenance on the Potomac Interceptor sanitary sewer. Signs and barricades will be in place to alert the public.” [Route 7 Corridor Improvements/VDOT]

Reston Chamber Hosts Valor Awards — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, which is serving as host for the first time after taking over from the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, announced the recipients of the 43rd annual Fairfax County Valor Awards yesterday (Tuesday). The awards recognize heroic acts by first responders from the county’s public safety agencies as well as the Town of Vienna Police Department and Virginia State Police. [Patch]

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On Nov. 19, The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce held its 2020 Awards for Chamber Excellence (ACE), recognizing the most engaged businesses, members and committees of the Chamber community over the last year.

In past years, awardees are honored in June at an annual membership meeting luncheon, according to a press release from the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce.

However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the luncheon could not take place. Instead, the Chamber held a virtual event to recognize and appreciate the honorees for their hard work and contributions. 

The 2020 ACE Award Winners are:

The full list of ACE sponsors and nominees can be viewed on the award website

The 2020-2021 Chamber Board of Directors was also announced after being confirmed by membership in June.

Image courtesy of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce

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Voting is officially open for Chik-fil-A’s True Inspiration Award.  Cornerstones of Reston was chosen alongside five other finalists competing for up to $150K to help support local families. 

The finalists for this award, chosen in October, must provide community support in education, fighting hunger and diminishing homelessness, according to a statement from Chick-fil-A North Point Village. 

Cornerstones has served the Northern Virginia community for more than 50 years, and they primarily reach communities of color.  The non-profit was nominated by the North Point Village Chick-fil-A for their service to the community and action on the three pillars listed, according to the statement. 

“There is no better organization than Cornerstones, that we as a community-based restaurant (Chik-fil-A) should partner with,” said Larry Everett, the Operator of Chick-fil-A North Point Village. “I am honored to know that Cornerstones will possibly receive up to $150,000 to continue impacting the Northern Virginia Area.”

Voting can be completed through the Chick-fil-A app until Nov. 21. The Grand Prize winner will receive $150K, while three other winners will receive from $50K to $100K for the Northeast Region. 

Chick-fil-A also committed to give more than $5 million dollars this year to local organizations whose primary focus is on communities of color through education, hunger and homelessness, according to the statement. 

Photo via Chik-fil-A/Facebook

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Reston Community Center’s YouTube Channel was a named recipient of an award at the 65th annual Virginia Parks and Recreation Society Conference this week.

Virginia Recreation and Park Society is a nonprofit and professional organization designed to unify all professionals, students, and interested laypersons engaged in the field of recreation, parks and other leisure services in Virginia. Its annual conference, hosted remotely this year, is a five-day event with different workshops, a keynote speaker, and awards ceremony.

RCC’s YouTube channel was awarded on the third day of the conference for “Most Innovative Marketing Strategy” for 2019 (population 50,001-100,000).

Created last October, RCC’s YouTube channel was designed “to bring more content to patrons and tell the story of RCC through video,” according to Fairfax County’s press release.

Here’s more from RCC on the award:

The five-minute films look at RCC’s founding by involved community members. The way the local community theatre organization enjoys RCC’s professional theatre; how RCC supports low-income and recent immigrant communities; how RCC impacted the assimilation of one family who emigrated from Peru 20 years ago; RCC’s role in producing free, offsite community events such as concerts, art installations and children’s activities; and all that happens – from free Community Coffee to professional performing arts productions – on a busy Saturday at RCC.

RCC was one of 97 applicants for 14 different award categories. The awards given honor those who exemplify excellence in programming, personnel, marking, and more, the press release said.

Other categories included Outstanding New Professional, Distinguished Volunteer Service, Best Health and Wealth Initiative and more.

Photo via Charlotte Geary

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Escape Room Herndon was named one of TripAdvisor’s 2020 Travelers’ Choice Award winners for Fun & Games. 

The winners are decided based on a full year of reviews and are known for constantly receiving great player feedback that places them in the top 10 percent of hospitality businesses around the world, according to a press release. 

Escape Room Herndon is located at 406 Elden St., and was also rated the #1 Escape Room in Virginia by TripAdvisor, according to their website. The business closed its doors on March 16th with the onset of COVID-19 but was able to reopen to the public on July 3rd after restrictions eased. 

The facility has put new protocols in place to ensure safety when playing, including restricting the number of groups at a time, glove and mask requirements and more time between games to clean.

“We put in a one hour gap between games so we can extensively clean as much as possible, as well as allowing the room to ‘breathe,'” said Omar Aru, the owner of Escape Room Herndon. 

Since reopening, business has been slower than in past summers, according to Aru, with numbers at about 30 percent of that of last year. Fewer players and fewer games each day contribute to the downturn. However, Aru said guests report feeling safe the whole time. 

In addition to in-person fun, Escape Room Herndon also offers an online game called Back To The Present with 5-10 minute puzzles to play from home. 

“I think it’s more important than ever to find fun and safe activities to break away from screens and the current monotony for everyday life to create positive memories we can hold onto,” said Aru. “Escape Rooms present an immersive engaging game that gives you a chance to forget about the outside world just for a little bit and have a fun shared adventure.”

Photo courtesy of Omar Aru

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The Fairfax County Park Foundation (FCPF) will honor The Friends of Riverbend Park (FORB) with the 2020 Eakin Philanthropy Award at a virtual ceremony in November for its support of Riverbend Park programs and projects.

 FORB has donated more than $85,600 through the Park Foundation, according to a statement from the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA).

The donations have funded forest restoration and environmental field trips to Riverbend Park for the education of Title I school students. FORB has also paid for multiple summer intern awards and unfunded needs of Riverbend Park staff, as well as equipment for the park, according to the statement. 

FORB was formalized in 2018 by ratifying a Fairfax County Park Authority Friends Group Memorandum of Understanding with the Park Authority Board.

The FCPF created the Eakin Philanthropy Award in 2009 to honor the Eakin family who donated the first parcels of the parkland to the Park Authority more than 50 years ago, according to the statement.

The award is given annually to recognize individuals and organizations whose financial or in-kind contributions have supported Fairfax County parks through the foundation.

Photo via the Fairfax County Park Authority

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Leslie Painter, a volunteer at Frying Pan Farm Park, is one of three recipients of an award honoring volunteers at Fairfax County parks.

The county announced the winners of the Elly Doyle Service Awards last week. “The purpose of the award is to publicly recognize a volunteer or group of volunteers for outstanding contributions to Fairfax County parks,” the announcement noted.

From the announcement:

Leslie Painter has been a volunteer at Frying Pan Farm Park for more than a decade. As secretary of the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park Board, she has provided a wealth of technology support for the Board and park staff.

The avid horsewoman also teaches equestrian sessions, helps manage shows at the park, and is quick to volunteer when any work needs to be done — from serving meals to cleaning the barn to running major events. She has made a major impact on the Friends’ fundraising efforts by increasing participation and managing the paperwork and responses to the group’s many donors.

The other winners included volunteers with Colvin Run Mill and the Olander and Margaret Banks Neighborhood Park.

The award is named after a former Fairfax County Park Authority board chairman, who helped preserve parkland and create natural and recreational areas in the county.

The county plans to honor the three winners during a virtual ceremony in November.

Photo via Fairfax County

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