Fairfax County has joined three other Virginia localities to create SportsNOVA, a marketing partnership aimed at promoting Northern Virginia as a destination for sporting events.
As the county’s official tourism organization, Visit Fairfax announced on Aug. 10 that it has aligned with the marketing arms of Loudoun, Prince William, and Strafford counties to promote and pitch the region.
The agencies believe the location, availability of already-built venues, and accessibility of public transportation make Northern Virginia an ideal place for sports tournaments, events, and championships.
Eric Kulczycky, Visit Fairfax’s national sales manager, says sports can be a huge economic driver for a region, and he hopes that this partnership can help better capture those dollars.
“[Sporting events] can generate taxes and jobs,” he said. “Through visitor spending like hotel stays, eating at restaurants, buying tickets to [events]…Our mission is to generate additional spending and get new money coming into our communities.”
There is evidence that sports drive considerable economic activity. One 2019 study conducted by a sports tourism trade association found that 180 million trips were made in the U.S. for sporting events — from youth to professional leagues — with more than half of those trips being overnight.
Visitors who stayed overnight spent $359 per person on average.
Northern Virginia has hosted a number of large sports events in recent years, including the 2015 World Police & Fire Games, the 2017 Senior PGA Championship, and a Kayak Bass Fishing tournament this past May.
The hope, Kulczycky says, is to entice more events of this nature, like regional hockey tournaments and more senior-centric sporting events.
One of the main selling points is that the county and region have a number of available venues, several of which are relatively new.
There is also George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena, which is on the verge of a major renovation. Elsewhere, there is Segra Field, which opened in Loudoun County two years ago, and the Jeff Rouse Swim and Sport Center in Stafford, which was also only completed a few years ago.
Kulczycky says there have been preliminary conversations in Fairfax County about opening additional indoor and outdoor sporting complexes as well.
Not every Northern Virginia locality is part of this partnership. Notably, Arlington County isn’t in the consortium. Kulczycky says Arlington officials have not been currently actively pursuing the sports tourism market, but there’s an “open invitation” for them to join.
Kulczycky says the decision to combine forces with other localities was due to the realization that being together was better.
“There are multi-sport and large single-sport events that Fairfax County simply cannot host unless we secure facilities in other jurisdictions,” he said.
Plus, Kulczycky notes that a combined marketing campaign is more cost-effective.
SportsNOVA is simply an extension of what Fairfax County and Northern Virginia has been trying to do separately for years.
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years and there’s always been an interest in hosting sports tournaments in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia,” Kulczycky said. “So, we’re just continuing to look to expand opportunities in the sports market.”
(Updated at 9:35 a.m.) Hurunnessa Fariad knows what it’s like to be an Afghan refugee.
She fled Afghanistan with her family in the 1980s while the country was under Soviet occupation. While the circumstances were certainly different three decades ago, her emotions upon seeing another exodus in the wake of the Taliban’s recent takeover are comparable to her own experiences.
“The sentiment of leaving your home, leaving everything behind…and coming to a country where you don’t know anything, you don’t know the culture, you don’t know the people, you don’t know who’s going to help you — it’s terrifying,” she said.
Today, Fariad works as outreach coordinator at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society — also known as the ADAMS Center — in Sterling. It’s the second-largest Muslim community in the country and serves people across Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
She also serves as the center’s Afghan lead, working with Lutheran Social Services to help those who have evacuated Afghanistan to make a new home in the U.S., joining many non-profit and faith-based organizations across the region.
The ADAMS Center is currently collecting funds to help with both immediate needs, such as gift cards to Target or Walmart that can be used to purchase basic items, and long-term needs for housing, jobs, and education.
Fariad says the center was collecting individual items, like toiletries and hygiene items, but they got “inundated” and need time to sort through all of the donations.
“The funding is going to keep going on for a while because there’s so many people coming in that they’re going to need help,” she said.
Additionally, the ADAMS Center is putting together a list of local residents who speak Dari and Pashto and can act as translators. They are sharing that list with both Virgina Gov. Ralph Northam’s office and the federal government.
As of yesterday (Tuesday), more than 6,000 people and 44 dogs have arrived at Dulles International Airport in the last week, according to an email from state officials to local partners.
A Fairfax County spokesperson confirmed that the county is providing support for resettlement efforts, primarily assisting with health, human services, and public safety needs.
“Currently, the county is supporting a Department of State operation for people evacuated from Afghanistan and arriving at Dulles International Airport. Some of these individuals are being supported temporarily at Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly,” the county spokesperson wrote. “The center has the capacity to support more than a thousand individuals.”
The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management also helped set up cots at Northern Virginia Community College, according to The Washington Post. Community members are being asked not to go to any of these hosting sites.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay visited the Dulles Expo Center yesterday, saying in a newsletter that he was “touched to hear the human side of what we are seeing on the news.”
“While we can’t be sure how many people will ultimately relocate to Fairfax County, I want to be clear that we look forward to welcoming all who want to join our diverse community,” he wrote. Read More
Fairfax County is now the second most racially diverse county in Virginia, according to 2020 Census data released yesterday afternoon (Aug. 12).
The data confirms recent demographic reports conducted by Fairfax County that showed the share of white residents shrinking and communities of color, particularly Asians and Hispanics, growing since 2010, when the county was the fifth-most diverse county.
Now, only Prince William County is more diverse.
Compared to the rest of the United States, Fairfax County ranked 42nd out of 3,143 counties in the country on the Census’ racial and ethnic diversity index.
While white residents remain the largest racial or ethnic group in the county, they are no longer the majority, making up 47.1% of the overall population with 542,001 residents — a drop of nearly 50,000 people from 2010, when the county’s 590,622 white residents constituted 54.6% of its population.
In other words, Fairfax is now a majority-minority county, due in part to the growth of the county’s Asian and Hispanic/Latino populations, which are the second and third largest racial and ethnic groups, respectively.
According to the 2020 Census data, 20.3% of the county’s population is Asian, an increase of about 55,000 residents from 17.4% in 2010. Hispanic or Latino individuals now constitute 17.3% of the populace, up from 15.6% a decade ago.
The diffusion score — the percentage of the population that isn’t in the top three racial and ethnic groups — is also higher than it was in 2010. At 15.2%, that number is also higher than Virginia and the country as a whole.
The county’s increasing diversity reflects national trends revealed in the new data, which shows the first-ever decline in the country’s white, non-Hispanic population with Latino residents fueling 51% of the population growth.
In total, about 1.15 million people now live in Fairfax County. The population grew by about 68,500 people or 6.3% since 2010, a lower rate of growth than both Virginia as a whole (7.9%) and the U.S. (7.4%).
Fairfax County’s population increase is also significantly lower in terms of percentage than its neighboring localities in Northern Virginia: Arlington County’s population rose by nearly 15%, Alexandria City by nearly 14%, Prince William County by about 20%, and Loudoun County by a staggering 35%.
However, Fairfax remains the largest county in Virginia, as it was in 2010, with more than double the population of Prince William County, which is the second most populous county. Fairfax County residents make up about 13% of the Commonwealth’s total population.
In general, Northern Virginia continues to grow at a much higher rate than the rest of the state.
The new Census data will be used to redraw voting districts locally and nationwide, a process that carries major political implications. Electoral districts are redrawn every 10 years to ensure each one has about the same number of people. The data could also change how many electoral votes are allocated to each state.
This is the 24th official Census count in U.S. history.
That moment of celebration would prove to be too-short-lived, but it still provided an occasion for top Reston Hospital officials to reflect on how far they have come over the past 18 months — and how much more work may lie ahead.
The Virginia Department of Health confirmed the Commonwealth’s first COVID case on March 7, 2020, but Reston Hospital officials believe they had at least one case about a month earlier than that.
“Because of our proximity to Dulles, we started seeing patients very, very early,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Taghon told Reston Now in an interview last week at the hospital.
He recalls one patient in particular who had flown internationally and was sent to their emergency room in early February 2020.
“[The patient] was probably the first COVID patient we had, though because of the [lack] of testing capabilities, we couldn’t prove it,” he said.
Early in the pandemic, individuals who tested positive at Dulles International Airport were often brought to Reston Hospital.
Now that vaccines are available and scientists have a clearer understanding of how the novel coronavirus functions, Taghon notes that it may be easy to forget how uncertain those early days of the pandemic were and how much was being discovered about COVID every day.
“What the public may not fully appreciate was that this was a really… a rapidly evolving situation and that was a real challenge for us,” Taghon said. “We would literally change pretty significant policies overnight because we learned something new. Things changed quickly.”
Those early experiences led the local hospital to be among the first, they say, to restrict visitation, require masks, and to realize that it didn’t matter if a patient had traveled to a hotspot.
“The disease was spreading very rapidly [that] pretty early we made the conclusion it doesn’t really matter if they were actually in China or not,” said Taghon.
Soon, much of the other things that were happening at the hospital — surgeries, screenings, and other care — slowed down to a trickle. Many of the staff working in other units came over to help with the ICU.
Monica Oakcrum, the director of critical care at Reston Hospital, says it was a real challenge explaining to families why visitation was restricted in those early days.
“Families were frantic understandably and it was a real struggle,” Oakcrum said. “But we [had to] protect our patients, the community, and our staff.”
The stress and burnout was intense for doctors, nurses, and staff, but frontline healthcare workers heard from the community how much they were appreciated.
In the earlier days, Restonians would come out and cheer during shift changes. Meals and handmade cards from children were delivered to the hospital.
“Those things really did make a huge difference,” Oakcrum said. Read More
Hundreds of electric scooters have started popping up around Fairfax County after the county announced last week that it had approved two vendors for its shared mobility device program.
Bird and Superpedestrian’s LINK can each have up to 300 scooters in the county, but depending on usage, that number could go up to a combined 1,200 scooters for the two companies. The devices are available for rent, costing $1 to unlock with rates depending on ride time.
Bird has discounts for low-income and older residents as well as veterans and other users, and the company already listed the devices on its app. As of mid-morning Tuesday (July 27), clusters of scooters were listed in Annandale as well as West Falls Church and near Lake Barcroft.
Superpedestrian says it plans to make its scooters available this fall.
“Like bicycles, e-scooters can be used on a highway, sidewalk, shared-use path, roadway, or crosswalk,” the county said in a news release.
The only restrictions that the companies have limited the scooters to maximum speeds of 10 miles per hour, and they can’t be used on sidewalks or crosswalks with signage banning shared mobility devices.
The county said Tuesday such signage hasn’t been placed so far.
The county says users should leave scooters parked in areas that don’t impede normal car or foot traffic. People who violate the county’s rules can face a misdemeanor and fine up to $50 for the first offense and up to $500 for each subsequent offense.
“When riding an e-scooter, use the sidewalk when possible,” county transportation spokesperson Anna Nissinen said in a statement. “Remember, if you’re riding on the sidewalk, you are required to yield the right of way to pedestrians! If there is no sidewalk or other off-street path to use, you may ride a scooter on the road if the speed limit is 25 mph or less.”
She also noted that e-scooter users should stay as far to the right as practicable and use the bike lane if there is one.
The Board of Supervisors approved the devices in November 2019, placing rules on operations as it noted concerns about scooters possibly being abandoned.
To help address issues, the board is requiring $5,000 bonds from companies operating in the county. The money can be used if county staff have to remove and dispose of abandoned scooters.
“If you notice an e-scooter parked in an inappropriate place or left on private property, you can contact the device operator listed on the e-scooter and the operator must remove it,” the county said, noting that people can email [email protected] to report any issues.
Near Arlington National Cemetery, pedestrians and cyclists can at times see rideshare scooters abandoned along trails, scattered horizontally on the grass.
Bird spokesperson Courtney Black said in a statement that the company looks to educate riders with proper scooter etiquette, reminding them to not leave scooters in the public right-of-way, ensuring that sidewalks, driveways, and fire hydrants are accessible.
The company also allows members to use its Community Mode feature to report issues, which can involve things such as damaged or poorly parked scooters. Bird reviews the reports and sends someone to respond.
When asked about the county’s concerns with abandoned scooters, Superpedestrian says it has worked with cities across the U.S. with similar requirements where it operates.
“We’re proud that we’ve never been asked to leave a city or stop operation,” spokesperson Jamie Perkins said in a statement.
To address potential issues, the company has an in-house fleet team of local workers to manage operations in a timely way, using technology to make sure scooters are parked according to requirements and re-parked when needed to ensure availability and prevent them from stacking up in one place.
Superpedestrian is assessing how many scooters it will place in the area, working with Fairfax County as it scales up operations.
“We prioritize our service to areas with critical connections to public transit, areas with parking congestion and business demand, and also serve underserved areas,” Perkins wrote.
The Fourth of July is coming up this weekend, and with Monday (July 5) as a designated federal holiday, many public facilities and services will be shaking up their schedules.
The Fairfax County Health Department announced today (Friday) that all of its COVID-19 vaccination clinics will be closed on Independence Day, but walk-in services will be available at the Fairfax County Government Center and the former Safeway at Mount Vernon Square in Alexandria on Saturday.
A vaccine site at Springfield Town Center will also be open for walk-ins on Monday.
Here are some other closures that county residents should keep in mind this holiday weekend:
Fairfax County Government
- County government offices will be closed on July 5th
Fairfax County Courts
- The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on July 5.
County Libraries, Recreation Centers, Parks
- All Fairfax County library branches will be closed.
- All Fairfax County RECenters will operate at their regular hours.
- Colvin Run Mill, Sully Historic Site, Hidden Oaks, Hidden Pond, E.C. Lawrence and Huntley Meadows nature centers will be closed.
- The Riverbend Park visitor center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Green Spring Garden’s horticultural center and historic house will be closed.
- Fairfax Connector buses will operate on a Saturday service schedule on Monday. Check the link for details on specific routes.
- WMATA Metrorail service will operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday. Details on routes and closed stations can be found on the Metro website.
- WMATA Metrobus will operate on a Saturday service schedule on Monday.
County Trash and Recycling
- There will be no change in the county’s trash and recycling collection.
- The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be closed.
- The Reston Community Center Hunters Woods will open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m on Sunday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday.
- Reston Community Center Lake Anne will be closed all day Sunday and Monday.
- All Reston Association offices, including the central services facility and the Walker Nature Center’s Nature House, will be closed on July 5.
Fairfax County is continuing its efforts to transition to renewable energy with the installation of solar panels on county government and public school buildings, but it will now do so with a different vendor.
The county ended its contract with the company Sigora Solar yesterday (July 1), about 18 months ahead of schedule.
Sigora Solar is one of three vendors awarded contracts to install, manage, and maintain solar energy infrastructure for county government and school buildings in December 2019, when Fairfax County announced what it said was the largest solar power purchase agreement initiative by a Virginia locality to date.
The original contracts with Sigora, Sun Tribe Solar, and Ipsun Power were set to run through Dec. 31, 2022.
However, the county amended its contract with Sigora on June 10 to state that it would be “terminated for convenience” effective July 1. Sigora was designated as the primary contractor for roof-mounted solar panel projects.
Moving forward, the county will now work with Sun Tribe Solar, the secondary contractor for roof-mounted panels and the primary contractor for carport or canopy-mounted panels.
“Under the terms of the agreement, the county leases space on its buildings for the companies to install solar panels that those vendors will own, and the county buys the energy generated by the panels at a fixed price,” Brian Worthy, a public information officer with Fairfax County’s Office of Public Affairs, said.
“However, these companies have the right to decide whether or not to install panels at any buildings identified by the county,” Worthy said. “During the past year and a half, the county selected 30 buildings for solar panels, and we are eager to move forward with these projects.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved leasing necessary roof space at two batches of county-owned properties so far. The first round of eight sites came on Oct. 20, 2020, and another 22 sites were added on March 9.
The sites approved for solar panel installations in Reston are:
- Reston Fire Station (1820 Wiehle Avenue, Reston)
- The North County Government Center (1801 Cameron Glen Dr., Reston)
- Reston Community Center Hunter Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston)
- Great Falls Volunteer Fire Station (9916 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls)
Under the solar power purchase agreements, the installed solar panels will be owned, operated and maintained by the contracted vendors, rather than the county. The county will simply purchase electricity produced by these panels over time.
When the contracts were announced in 2019, the county estimated that the initiative could potentially yield over $60 million in electricity cost avoidance over the terms of the contracts. Additionally, it was projected that approximately 1.73 million megawatt hours of renewable energy could be generated at the county’s facilities.
As Memorial Day approaches on Monday, May 31, a few community and government facilities will be closed or have altered schedules.
Fairfax County Government:
- County government offices will be closed on May 31.
Fairfax County Courts:
- The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on May 31.
County Libraries, Recreation Centers, Parks:
- All Fairfax County library branches will be closed.
- All Fairfax County RECenters will operate at their regular hours.
- Colvin Run Mill and Sully Historic Site grounds will be open from noon to 4 p.m. for strolling, but all the buildings will be closed.
- The E.C. Lawrence, Hidden Oaks, Hidden Pond, and Huntley Meadows nature centers will be open from noon until 5 p.m. on May 31.
- The Riverbend Park visitor center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Green Spring Garden’s horticultural center will be open from noon to 4:30 p.m., and its historic house will be closed.
- Fairfax Connector buses will operate on a Sunday service schedule. Check the link for details on specific routes.
- WMATA Metrorail service will operate from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday and from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.
- WMATA Metrobus will operate on a Sunday service schedule.
County Trash and Recycling:
- There will be no change in the county’s trash and recycling collection.
- The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be open.
- The Reston Community Center Hunters Woods will open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Reston Community Center Lake Anne will be closed all day Monday.
- The town offices and Herndon Community Center will be closed Monday.
- Recycling normally collected on Monday will be collected Tuesday, June 1.
- The farm at Frying Pan Farm Park will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the indoor arena will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The visitor center at the park will be closed Monday.
As a head’s up for anyone planning to renew their driver’s license soon, all DMV offices will be closed Monday.
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
Local restaurants are getting help from DoorDash and a statewide association for the hospitality industry.
The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association gave $3,500 awards to businesses after over 690 restaurants in Virginia applied for relief. Egg Karne, Pho2000, Spice Town, and Sully’s Pour House in Herndon as well as Sprout Café in Reston were among the nine recipients in Fairfax County.
According to a county news release, Qaiser Aziz of Spice Town said the restaurant lost nearly 30% of its revenue during the pandemic, noting a big chunk of its lunchtime business decreased due to physical distancing as well as business and office closures.
“These restaurateurs are building businesses and community, and they continue to give back in spite of the hardships they have faced over the past year,” the VRLTA said in a news release. “Many have adapted and pivoted to offer online ordering, takeout, delivery and outside dining, and they are looking forward to a better year in 2021.”
The association joined forces with the online food ordering platform DoorDash to give out money to small restaurants that had operations disrupted, saw reduced revenue, or experienced financial stress between March and December 2020.
The 2021 DoorDash Restaurant Operator Relief Grant program was part of DoorDash’s Main Street Strong Pledge and did not require businesses to be a DoorDash partner to be eligible, the VRLTA said.
To be eligible for the grants, businesses had to have no more than three locations with 50 or fewer employees and annual gross revenue of $3 million or less for the specific location that was applying.
VRLTA and DoorDash allocated a total of $450,000 in grants to 128 restaurants in Virginia.
Fairfax County noted eight of the local recipients also received money from the Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers that the Board of Supervisors established last year to give financial assistance to local businesses and nonprofits.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing new mask guidance for fully vaccinated people, Virginia has eased its mask mandate, and major retailers such as Starbucks and Walmart have also lifted restrictions in stores for vaccinated customers, but businesses can still impose restrictions.
Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s current public health order, restaurants and other food service venues are limited to 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors, and different groups of patrons must be kept at least six feet apart. However, the state will end those and other capacity and distancing restrictions on May 28.
Photo via Griffin Wooldridge/Unsplash
When early voting began at the North County Government Center in Reston on Saturday (April 24), the crowd of electioneers assembled outside the building dwarfed the number of people casting their ballots inside the building.
The absence of lines contrasted sharply with the 2020 general election, when Fairfax County sometimes saw hour-long waits at early voting sites. This time, the biggest hold-up was the few extra seconds election volunteers needed to sort through 16 different ballots and match them with the right voters.
While not surprised by the relatively muted turnout for the first days of early voting for the June 8 Democratic primary, which started on April 23 at the Fairfax County Government Center before expanding to two satellite locations a day later, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn says it’s too soon to make any confident projections about what early voting will look like in the future.
“Going through a couple of election cycles, I think we need to do that before we can come to any long-term conclusions about how early voting is best done, how to staff it, what resources are necessary,” he said.
Even with a crowded gubernatorial contest on the ballot, the 2021 election cycle likely won’t match the high turnout for last year’s general election, which was buoyed by an especially heated presidential race, but there is already evidence that the Virginia’s new laws permanently expanding the accessibility of absentee voting are paying off.
According to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project, 63,508 voters have requested mail ballots, and 709 people have voted in person, as of April 24. In comparison, there were just 35,390 early voters in the 2017 primaries, the last time that Virginia had a governor’s race, and that includes 8,815 people who requested mail ballots but never returned them.
Fairfax County has gotten 11,222 mail ballot requests and 68 in-person voters. In 2017, 3,109 people voted early in person, and 1,919 people voted by mail.
Fairfax County Office of Elections spokesperson Brian Worthy attributes this uptick to recent legislative changes made by the Virginia General Assembly, particularly the introduction of no-excuse absentee voting that took effect last year.
“Since the last gubernatorial election, voting by mail has become easier in Virginia,” Worthy said. “Not only can any registered voter do so without needing a reason as was required in the past, but also the law now makes it easy to vote by mail permanently. As a result, the Office of Elections expects to see an increase in voting by mail over time as has happened in other states that have implemented similar laws.”
Legislators took further action to make early voting more accessible during a special session in March, including requiring localities to offer ballot drop-off boxes, permitting absentee voting on Sundays, and suspending witness signature requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, though those laws don’t take effect until July 1.
Early voting is also “way up” in Falls Church City compared to the last gubernatorial primary, according to Director of Elections and General Registrar David Bjerke.
Bjerke told Reston Now on Friday (April 23) that the city had sent out 315 ballots so far, including 176 mail ballots and 139 email ballots to overseas voters, and three people showed up to vote in person that day. The 2017 primary saw just 240 early voters total, even though the Democratic and Republican parties both held elections that summer.
“It’s a huge increase,” Bjerke said. Read More
If the prospect of trillions of cicadas emerging from the earth fills you with excitement, Fairfax County’s official tourism organization has just the game for you.
Visit Fairfax has introduced a Cicada Stroll Bingo card where participants can mark off squares when they take photos of a cicada at certain locations for a chance to win insect-inspired prizes.
“While some may view the arrival of the Brood X cicadas as a nuisance, we here at Visit Fairfax choose to look at it as an exceptional opportunity for visitors and residents to witness one of Earth’s most remarkable natural occurrences – and have fun at the same time!” Visit Fairfax President and CEO Barry Biggar wrote in the press release.
Suggested sites to spot cicadas range from pieces of public art like Patrick Doughtery’s “Bird in Hand” in Reston Town Square Park to the Sully Historic Site in Chantilly. Other boxes to check include county hiking trails, shopping centers, a brewery or winery, near water, and at a restaurant (hopefully, not on your food).
Anyone who fills out two squares in their bingo card, plus the traditional “free” square in the center, can upload the card and accompanying photos for a chance to get a Cicada Care package with items like a custom cicada facemask.
Winners will be announced in May, and some of the best photos will be featured on the county’s blog and social media.
The Cicada Bingo Card was conceived as a way to showcase “road trip travel” and encourage folks to visit outdoor county attractions safely in a “quirky kind of way,” Visit Fairfax spokesperson Ali Morris says.
She adds that this is also another way to encourage residents to visit and support their favorite local business as they recover from an extremely rough last year.
The D.C. region is expected to be the epicenter for the emergence of Brood X, a brood of cicadas that emerge only every 17 years. They spend their larva years underground, which is anywhere from two to 17 years, chowing down on tree roots.
There could be millions of them buzzing around in the area in the early summer. They’re extremely loud, thanks to the sound that the males produce by rubbing their legs together to attract potential mating partners.
While they are also big as far as insects go, they’re completely harmless. In fact, their long life cycles and the fact that they are so numerous are really their only defense mechanisms from predators.
The Brood X cicadas are expected to hit peak emergence in Northern Virginia in late May through early June. While they’ll be visible and audible everywhere, parks and other natural settings will be the best place to see and hear them.
They are also edible, to an extent.
“A few are not likely to hurt pets but too many could cause digestive issues,” Fairfax County Park Authority naturalist Tammy Schwab told Reston Now last month. “They are edible by people if you’re brave enough to try it.”
Photo courtesy Visit Fairfax
Fairfax County officials are meeting tomorrow (March 16) to discuss two programs aimed at helping small businesses recover from the pandemic.
The “Pivot Grant” will be smaller amounts of money given to a larger group of businesses with the aim of supporting them as they continue to operate. The intended effect is to “mitigate… business closures” due to not being able to afford operational costs.
Proposed funding needed for these grants is about $13.5 million.
The hoped-for timeline, according to pre-meeting materials, is to get the grant approved by the Board of Supervisors in April or May, open applications in May or June, and grant monies actually go out to businesses in June or July.
The “Thrive Program” will provide technical assistance and counseling to entrepreneurs and businesses trying to grow.
As opposed to individual businesses, providers would apply for this and they would assist businesses. $500,000 is being proposed as the amount given to each provider. That program could launch in the summer and run through the year.
According to research, three industries with highest job losses in the county through December – not surprisingly and similar to September – are hospitality and food service, health care, and retail. They make up more than 50% of the jobs lost in Fairfax County.
A recent survey also suggested that 93% of small businesses would use any additional money provided towards operating expenses and rent/mortgage support.
In November, research was also presented that showed the greatest economic impact of the pandemic has been in the Falls Church, Annandale, and Baileys Crossroads areas.
Those areas as well have the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases in the county and the highest share of communities of color.
A number of specific recommendations and proposals are also being discussed. They include:
- Launching a “Buy local” marketing campaign focused on goods made in the county and minority-owned businesses.
- Setting up an online permitting process aimed at alterations to keep businesses open.
- Advocating for state legislation that prioritizes local purchasing.
- Expanding access to affordable child-care, housing, and internet service for workers and their families.
- Strengthening job and training programs by piloting a neighborhood job center.
- Leveraging county to hire local workers for pandemic recovery efforts.
- Starting a “Local Business Marketplace Pilot”
These discussions are taking place at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Economic Initiative Committee public meeting. It starts at 9:30 a.m. and will be streamed online.
Monday, March 15
- Fly Bessie Fly (2 p.m.) — In 1921, Bessie Coleman became the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license in the United States. This virtual one-woman show presented by the Fairfax County Public Library and American Historical Theatre tells her story by bringing the famed pilot to life. All scouts who attend earn a FREE women make history patch.
Tuesday March 16
- RBG’s Unpublished Legacy (6-7 p.m.) — Join Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s former law clerk Amanda L. Tyler as she gets into an online conversation about the book she wrote with the former Supreme Court Justice. Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue, Volume 2 is a compilation of RBG’s unpublished speeches, briefs, and oral arguments.
Wednesday, March 17
- St. Paddy’s Day at Home (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) — On St. Patrick’s Day, Reston Association is offering a fun-filled, low-contact egg hunt to members. Their good friend Lucky the Leprechaun will personally deliver and hide two dozen eggs in your yard for all to find. For those who are not members, there is an option for Lucky to simply drop off eggs to be hidden by those at home.
- Two By Sea Outdoors (6 p.m.) — Join local folk and country rock band Two by the Sea for an outdoor St. Patrick’s Day concert at the State Theater in Falls Church. This is an all-age show entirely outdoors to lower the risk of COVID-19 spread. It will have very limited capacity. Admission is free, but the venue is asking for a donation or a food purchase.
Thursday, March 18
- Viola, Harp, and Flute (2:15 p.m.-3:30 p.m.) — Meet the artists of Beau Soir, a trio of musicians who play viola, harp, and flute. Known for their “unique audience interaction,” the ensemble will perform live, both to a limited audience at the Hunter Woods Community Center and virtually on Facebook.
Friday, March 19
- Women’s Storytelling Festival (4:00 p.m.) — Friday is the first evening of the 2021 Women’s Storytelling Festival, which will feature more than 30 performers. Presented by Better Said Than Done, a community of storytellers based in Fairfax, this year’s edition is all virtual. “Is it kid-friendly?,” the website asks. “Probably not,” it answers.
Saturday, March 20
- Spring Equinox Celebration (11 a.m.) — After a pandemic winter, spring is finally here. Join Fairfax County Parks for a spring equinox celebration at Turner Farm Park in Great Falls. Look through a sun telescope and take a (socially distant) walk to learn more about what an equinox is.
- A Drive-In (6:45 p.m.-9:45 p.m.) — The Reston Association is holding their first-ever drive-in movie. The film will screen at the Isaac Newton Square parking lot starting at 7:30 p.m., though the lot entrance will open at 6:45 p.m. Admission also includes one free bag of popcorn per person. The featured film is still to be determined, but it will be family-friendly.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Cygnus921
Silver Line Phase 2 to Open January 2022 At the Earliest — “During a Thursday briefing, before the Metro Board’s Safety and Operations Committee, Laura Mason, vice president of capital delivery for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said at least 10 Silver Line construction items remain unresolved before Metro will be satisfied with the work by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and its contractor.” [WTOP]
New Fairfax County General Registrar Appointed — “The Fairfax County Electoral Board appointed Scott O. Konopasek as the county’s new general registrar and director of elections at its March 11, 2021, meeting. He will lead the Fairfax County Office of Elections following the retirement of the current registrar Gary Scott who has worked in the office for the past 24 years. Konopasek’s tentative starting date is April 19.” [Fairfax County Government]
Reston Contractor Working with Space Force — The Reston-based contractor SAIC is working with the U.S. Space Force to develop a virtual reality training platform that lets workers “interact with full-scale digital replicas of national security satellites. The platform lets the armed forces practice responding to missile warning scenarios and collaborate in cyberspace.” [The Washington Post]
Comscore Closes Investment Transactions — Reston-based media measurement and analytics company Comscore Inc. announced Thursday that it has secured $204 million in cash investments from the companies Charter Communications Inc., Qurate Retail Inc., and an affiliate of New York-based Cerberus Capital Management LP. The investments came in exchange for shares of convertible preferred stock, and proceeds were used to retire Comscore’s debts. [Virginia Business]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr