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(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Ramón Santiago’s journey to the Little League World Series (LLWS) was a complicated one, filled with struggle as well as joy.

Thanks to the efforts of some supportive parents, the McLean Little League coach’s continued dedication to his team while undergoing treatment for cancer earned him an honorable mention for the 2022 Little League Baseball Coach of the Year Award.

Though they didn’t attend in person, Santiago and the other honorable mentions for the award got shoutouts during a plaque ceremony at the Little League World Series Complex in South Williamsport, Florida, on Saturday (Aug. 20).

“We do it for the kids, but to know that people hold you in that high regard, it really touched my heart, and knowing that they had to put an effort in order to do this, I was over the moon,” Santiago told FFXnow by phone. “I was touched. I even got a little teary-eyed, to be quite honest, which I didn’t expect.”

“He knows these kids very well”

It didn’t take long for Santiago to get involved in McLean Little League (MLL) after moving to the area in 2020.

A Springfield resident as a kid and an alumus of Robert E. Lee High School (now renamed John R. Lewis High School), he was introduced to the league by his neighbor from across the street, Dana Yoo, who has served on the MLL board of directors for the past four to five years.

Santiago initially volunteered as an assistant coach for his son’s T-ball team “just to stay involved with my son,” a decision he has never regretted. But his friendliness, positivity and emphasis on ensuring the kids have fun in addition to learning baseball and life skills quickly endeared him to the other players and their parents.

“He knows these kids very well, each of them, and he encourages them…He makes the children feel good, confident about themselves, and he’s not that kind of strict person,” said Awa Zhu, one of several parents whose kids have stuck with Santiago as he and his son have moved from T-ball up to their current Double-A team, the Storm.

The diagnosis

With Santiago and his wife, Sharon, becoming reliable presences at MLL games, including ones not involving their son, it came as a shock when he shared in an summer 2021 email to families that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that spring.

He had never missed a game or practice, despite beginning chemotherapy and other treatments — a trend that continued in the fall of 2021 and spring 2022 seasons. Read More

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Morning Notes

Looking up at Tysons Tower outside Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Route 7 Traffic Shift Starts Today — “During the daytime hours on Aug. 11 and the overnight hours on Aug. 15, lane closures and temporary detours will be in place along Route 7 while crews continue paving operations at Carpers Farm Way and Colvin Run Road (east) and shift westbound Route 7 traffic to the new Difficult Run bridge.” [VDOT]

Pro-Nazi Social Media Posts Excluded from Reston Murder Trial — “A Virginia judge has ruled that prosecutors cannot tell the jury in an upcoming double-murder trial about the defendant’s social media posts containing praise for Adolf Hitler and support for Nazi book burnings and the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division, according to newly unsealed court records.” [The Washington Post]

Foust on Upcoming Retirement — “Deciding to step down in 2023 was not easy, but Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) is ready to try some new challenges…He plans to stay involved on issues he cares about – such as affordable housing, economic development and climate change — and seek part-time consulting opportunities that ‘take advantage of the expertise that I’ve developed over the years.'” [Sun Gazette]

Salt Water Levels Rising in Region — “Once algae-pocked emblems of water pollution during the early 1970s, the Potomac River and the Occoquan Reservoir — the two sources of drinking water used by Fairfax Water to serve more than 2 million customers in Northern Virginia — are now trending in the wrong direction on salt, while the other contaminants have largely been cleaned up.” [The Washington Post]

Lorton Plant Gets Tech to Reduce Emissions — “Covanta, the company that runs the facilities, announced the installation of the pollution-fighting technology in a news release earlier this week, saying it has helped cut nitrogen oxide emissions by nearly 50%…The Fairfax County facility is located at its I-95 waste management complex in Lorton, and is one of the largest waste-to-energy facilities in the nation, according to the county.” [WTOP]

Report Grades Stream From Lake Barcroft — “Holmes Run, which flows through the Annandale area, is not in great condition, according to a report released Aug. 10 by the Audubon Naturalist Society…The report gives Holmes Run a grade of ‘moderately poor’ for climate, a rating of ‘good’ for access to nature, and ‘fair’ ratings for water quality and for biodiversity and habitat.” [Annandale Today]

California Firm Buys Local Defense Office Buildings — “The properties include six buildings at five locations in Fairfax County, Fairfax City and Loudoun County. They’re 96% leased to the likes of Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT), General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE: GD), The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) and Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC).” [Washington Business Journal]

Reston Turns Out for Trucks — “Thank you to all the families that came out for this year’s Totally Trucks event! For the past 22 years, Totally Trucks has delighted kids and adults alike, and this year was no different with more than 1000 people in attendance.” [Reston Association/Twitter]

Local Breweries Win Awards — “Vienna and Merrifield’s Caboose Brewing Company and Sweetwater Tavern scored several awards in the 2022 Virginia Craft Beer Cup, announced by the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild Monday. The Virginia Craft Beer Cup is the largest state competition of its kind in the U.S.” [Patch]

It’s Thursday — Possible drizzle in the morning. High of 85 and low of 73. Sunrise at 6:20 am and sunset at 8:10 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Elaine Tang, co-owner of Annandale’s A&J Restaurant, admits she was surprised when her restaurant won a RAMMY for “Best Brunch of the Year” last weekend.

“We were kinda shocked when we won the award,” Tang told FFXnow. “We’ve been in this area for many years, so we have a lot of repeat customers. And I think they love this style of food.”

The Taiwanese-Northern Chinese dim sum restaurant, which has locations in Rockville, Maryland, and on Markham Street in Annandale, was the only eatery with ties to Fairfax County to win a RAMMY this year. All in all, five restaurants with county ties were nominated.

Since 1982, the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) has handed out awards (RAMMYs) to D.C. area restaurants for various categories at their annual awards gala.

This year’s rendition took place on Sunday (July 24), when A&J Restaurant took home the “Best Brunch” award.

The breakfast menu is only available on weekends and consists of traditional northern Chinese and Taiwanese morning fare like sticky rice rolls, morning biscuits, flaky scallion pastry, and salty soybean milk. The rest of the menu — items like pan-fried pork dumplings, homemade noodles, and crisp cabbage — is also available during the weekend brunch.

The family-owned restaurant began in Taiwan in the 1970s, when Tang’s uncle opened a restaurant in the capital city of Taipei. Then, the family took it to Los Angeles before expanding to the D.C. area in the 1990s.

Today, Tang heads up both the Rockville restaurant, which opened in 1996, and the Annandale location, which began serving in 2000.

This isn’t the first local accolade that A&J has received. The restaurant is often listed by Washingtonian Magazine and The Washington Post as one of the top dim sum restaurants in the area.

Tang says it took some time for the community to find A&J, but once they did, it has become a favorite.

“It was first mostly Asian people, but gradually more Western people discovered us,” she said. “They like our food and now keep coming back.”

She says it can be pretty hard to find restaurants serving this type of breakfast in the area and is happy to be not only one of the few, but also one of the best.

Tang’s niece Elaine, who helps run the Los Angeles restaurant, concurs that the team was “quite surprised” with the win.

“It is nice to see the Restaurant Association widen their scope and look to restaurants such as ours to be included in this year’s nominees,” Elaine wrote in an email to FFXnow. “We have been working hard for decades now to make a good and consistent product that people continue to come back for.”

As was the case for many local restaurants, A&J was hit hard by the pandemic, but they have survived so far and are now doing “okay,” Tang says.

There are no current plans to expand A&J in Fairfax County. The mission is, simply, to keep doing what they’ve been doing for the last 26 years in Annandale.

“We welcome everyone to our restaurant to try and see if they’ll like it,” Tang said. “I’m sure they will really like it.”

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The business won a TripAdvisor award in the category of fun and games. (via Escape Room Herndon)

After nearly shutting down during the pandemic, Escape Room Herndon’s team-based puzzle game experience has won a national award.

The business, run by longtime Herndon resident Omer Are, was recognized by TripAdvisor as this year’s Travelers’ Choice Award winner for fun and games.

Kanika Soni, Tripadvisor’s chief commercial officer, noted that the award recognizes the best in tourism and hospitality based on selections made by customers. Awards are based on a full year of reviews on Tripadvisor.

“Whether it’s using new technology, implementing safety measures, or hiring outstanding staff, I’m impressed by the steps you’ve taken to meet travelers’ new demands. You’ve adapted brilliantly in the face of diversity,” Soni said in a news release.

The pandemic was a show-stopping force for an entertainment business that depends on people closely collaborating with others in an indoor, contained setting. In March of 2020, Escape Room Herndon closed and refunded future bookings. It remained closed for five months and instead designed free online games for guests to play while they were stuck at home.

“It was a tough time and we had to make some adjustments to the new normal we are in today,” Aru said. “We added a mask policy, sanitizing in between games, and changed to an all-private model.  Slowly we’ve climbed back to a place where I think we will be able to continue hosting guests in Herndon for years to come.”

Aru launched the business in June 2016 after his brother-in-law told him about a similar concept on a beach trip — Escape Room in Richmond — that he had started several years ago. Aru, a Herndon resident who previously hoped to get into selling 3D filaments online, was intrigued by the idea.

That year, he drove down for his first escape room experience with a group of strangers.

“After an hour of laughing, jump scares and mysteries, we escaped cheering and high-fiving each other. I was instantly hooked,” Aru told FFXnow.

The next month, he started filing paperwork to open a business in the county.

He set his sights on Herndon because he says it’s a family-oriented community with great schools and other small businesses.

“The Mayor’s Office was also very supportive from the beginning helping us get established,” Aru said. “Our shopping center also helped us in the beginning months of Covid to take some of the burdens off while sales were nonexistent. At the end of the day, we love it in Herndon and are proud to call it home, so much so that we put it in our name.”

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Morning Notes

The “Ascent” sculpture at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Rabies Confirmed in Biting Coyote — The Fairfax County Health Department confirmed yesterday (Monday) that a coyote that bit four people and two dogs over the weekend in the Lake Accotink area was infected with rabies. Anyone who touched or was bitten or scratched by the animal should call the county health department’s rabies program at 703-246-2433, TTY 711. [FCHD]

Confederate Soldier’s Tombstone Defaced — The letters ‘CS,’ ‘NVA,’ and a Star of David were spraypainted on the tombstone of Armistead T. Thompson in the Thompson Family Cemetery by the Pan Am Shopping Center in Merrifield. Fairfax County police received a report last Tuesday (May 31) and said the property management is working to remove it, though as of Sunday (June 5), the graffiti was still there. [Patch]

Homicide Investigation in Reston Continues — “Detectives and officers are canvassing in the area of Springs Apartments & Hunters Woods Plaza in Reston after Rene Alberto Pineda Sanchez was found deceased on May 31. Call detectives at 703-246-7800, option 2 w/any info.” [FCPD/Twitter]

Inova Opens Northern Virginia’s First LGBTQ-Focused Clinic — “Inova’s Pride Clinic will be open to anyone who needs services. It will begin small as a primary care practice for patients of all ages and then grow to include specialties…The Inova Pride Clinic ribbon-cutting will be Wednesday, June 8 at 10 a.m. in Falls Church at 500 North Washington St., Suite 200.” [WTOP]

Tysons Emergency Is Now Open — “HCA Virginia held a grand opening ceremony on Friday, June 3, 2022 for its new freestanding emergency room in Northern Virginia…The state-of-the-art ER will be staffed with board-certified emergency medicine physicians and nurses, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, just like an emergency room that is housed within the walls of a hospital.” [HCA Virginia]

County Puts Food Inspection Reports Online — “The public can now access retail food establishment inspection reports more quickly and easily, as part of an update to the county’s new online PLUS platform…Environmental health staff inspect restaurants and other retail food service establishments to make sure employees follow safe food handling practices, covering sanitation, food storage and preparation, and have adequate kitchen facilities.” [FCHD]

Wolf Trap Nonprofit Awarded by Governor — A provider of short-term, overnight care for children with intellectual disabilities, Jill’s House was honored on May 26 with the second ‘Spirit of Virginia Award’ given by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and First Lady Suzanne Youngkin since they took office in January. The organization has served more than 1,000 families since it opened in 2010. [Sun Gazette]

Annandale Park Gets Clean-up — “A big thank you to community volunteers who came out to Backlick Park this past weekend and held a spring clean-up. This successful venture was a wonderful way to mark World Environment Day and the National Great Outdoors Month.” [FCPA/Twitter]

Chantilly Neighborhood Watch on the Lookout for Thievery — “Rob, 53, was already a neighborhood watcher in his Brookfield community…before the ransacking incident two years ago but he said it made him increasingly aware neighborhood watch is a needed position to mitigate this from happening to one of his neighbors.” [Fairfax County Times]

It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 74 and low of 62. Sunrise at 5:45 am and sunset at 8:34 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A visitor walks into Capital One Hall in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

For a second year in a row, ArtsFairfax will hold its annual celebration of the local arts community on Oct. 28 at Capital One Hall, which also happens to be one of this year’s award recipients.

The Tysons performing arts venue will receive the Jinx Hazel Arts Award, the top honor from ArtsFairfax, the nonprofit Fairfax County arts agency announced last Tuesday (May 17).

The 2022 Arts Awards will also honor philanthropists Gary and Tina Mather, actor and former Reston Community Center assistant technical director Mark Brutsché, and George Mason University’s Fall for the Book festival, which will get a new Innovation Award.

“We are delighted to honor the remarkable contributions of this year’s Arts Awards honorees, who have all demonstrated a deep commitment to our community and to making Fairfax arts and culture more accessible,” ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda Sullivan said in the news release.

According to ArtsFairfax, the awards ceremony draws approximately 300 patrons every year. The 2021 awards were among the first events hosted by Capital One Hall, which opened on Oct. 1 at 7750 Capital One Tower Road.

Proceeds from the awards support the nonprofit’s activities, which include artist residencies, grants, promotion of local arts and cultural organizations, and advocacy for the arts.

ArtsFairfax announced on Thursday (May 19) that it had received a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to expand its artist residency program, which currently places professional artists in middle schools across the county to help educate students.

With the grant, the nonprofit says it will bring artists to a public elementary school, a public library, a county park, a community center, and an affordable housing development.

“By placing professional artists in communities with less access to arts, artists in residence can share their art form and spark creativity for participants of all ages,” ArtsFairfax said.

Here’s more from ArtsFairfax on this year’s Arts Awards recipients: Read More

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Morning Notes

It’s gosling season at Lake Audubon in Reston (photo by Marjorie Copson)

Family of Slain Alexandria Man Urge FCPD to Resume Search — Family members and friends of Ahmed Hasheem Ebrahim called on Fairfax County police yesterday (Thursday) to resume searching for his body at a landfill in King George County. Police believe Ebrahim was killed in an attempted robbery in Lincolnia and have arrested and charged two people in connection with his disappearance in mid-January. [The Washington Post]

FCPD Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Allowed to Advance — “A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a lawsuit against two former police officers accused of protecting a sex trafficking ring in northern Virginia in exchange for sex can move forward…The lawsuit is filed on behalf of a Costa Rican woman identified in court papers only as Jane Doe.” [WTOP]

Local Groups Call for Lockheed Blvd Improvements — “Together, the leaders expressed appreciation for the county’s proposal to add standard bike lanes along the roadway near Huntley Meadows Park but insisted that protected bike lanes or a cycle track were necessary to ensure cyclist safety.” [On the MoVe]

New I-66 Express Lanes on Track to Open This Year — “Although VDOT has not given an exact date yet, spokesperson Michelle Holland tells 7 News that as long as the weather does not cause major construction delays, the new express lanes should open some time in December at the latest. Construction on the lanes has now been going on more than four years.” [ABC7]

Nearby: Landmark Mall Demolition Begins — “After two decades of Landmark Mall redevelopment being just out of reach, city officials and developers alike let out wild roars of satisfaction as the wrecking ball crashed into the side of the building…There’s still a long way to go before the first buildings of the new hospital and mixed-use development start coming online — currently slated for 2026.” [ALXnow]

Man Pushing Stroller Hit by Vehicle in Vienna — A pedestrian told police that he was knocked to the ground by a vehicle while pushing his child in a stroller past the Chick-fil-A parking lot at 538 Maple Avenue W on April 27. According to the Vienna Police Department’s weekly recap, the driver attempted to talk to the pedestrian, who left the scene but later reported the incident. [Vienna Police]

Local Foster Parent Awarded — “Congratulations to Sue Christenson! She’s been recognized as the 2022 Fairfax County Foster Parent of the Year by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). Sue has been a foster parent for nearly 15 years, and she is happily spending her golden years giving precious children a new beginning.” [Fairfax County Government/YouTube]

Lunar Eclipse May Be Visible Sunday — “The first of two total lunar eclipses visible to Virginia and DC residents in 2022 occurs Sunday night into Monday and will turn May’s full flower moon blood red. Oh, and it’s also a supermoon — depending on whom you ask.” [Patch]

It’s Friday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 69 and low of 58. Sunrise at 5:59 am and sunset at 8:14 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The pretzel bakery Nordic-Knot placed second in a national small business competition (via Studio-M Photos & Jennifer Heffner Photography)

Nordic-Knot has won $40,000 in a national contest for small businesses.

The Reston-based bakery — which specializes in its twisted pretzels — placed second out of 10 finalists in the annual Small Business Big Wins contest, which is run by Barclays Bank.

Ashland Birth Center placed first in the nationwide contest, which recognizes businesses that were heavily impacted by the pandemic. The Wisconsin-based maternity health care center received a grand prize of $60,000.

More than 4,750 small businesses from across the country shared stories of how the pandemic impacted their daily operations. After the 10 finalists were selected, public voting determined the final winners.

Nordic-Knot co-owner Melissa Romano said they plan to use the funds to increase marketing, outreach and boost its production line to “better serve our community.” Results were announced yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon.

“We’ve grown this business very carefully and we were put through the runner during the pandemic,” Romano told FFXnow. She expects to announce some big, new clients in the coming weeks.

For Nordic-Knot, the pandemic meant a dramatic business shift came quickly into play. With many of its distributors closed during the peak of the pandemic, the business shifted to providing their products to customers directly.

Now, even as wholesale distribution picks up, the business plans to maintain direct services for consumers directly.

A vending cart that offers customer direct access to goodies will return to Lake Anne Plaza this summer.

Romano says they plan to continue big partnerships while providing direct access to their items.

“Lane Anne has and will always be our special place of business,” Romano said. “We are really excited for this opportunity for our business.”

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Actor, writer, and comedian Carol Burnett will be honored at the Sondheim Awards Gala at Capital One Hall on May 16 (courtesy Mabel Cat, Inc./Signature Theatre)

Something good is coming to Tysons, especially if you’re comedy legend and six-time Emmy winner Carol Burnett.

The multi-hyphenate star will receive the Sondheim Award from Signature Theatre at a glitzy gala that the Arlington theatrical company will hold at Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road) on May 16.

Burnett was announced as this year’s recipient of the award in January, but Signature Theatre didn’t reveal the venue for the gala until this past Wednesday (April 27).

Burnett will be the 11th person to win the Sondheim Award, which is named after musical theater great Stephen Sondheim, who died in December. Introduced in 2009, the award has previously gone to Dame Angela Lansbury, actor and singer Patti LuPone, and regular Sondheim collaborator James Lapine, among others.

2011 Sondheim Award recipient Bernadette Peters and Broadway actor Santino Fontana will headline the gala with live performances. The ceremony will also feature D.C.-area artists Tracy Lynn Olivera, Nova Y. Payton and Bobby Smith, accompanied by jazz pianist Mark G. Meadows and Signature Theatre Resident Music Director Jon Kalbfleisch.

According to the news release, in addition to honoring Burnett, Signature Theatre will present its J. Watkins Distinguished Service Award to Merrill and Mark Shugoll, a couple who run marketing research firms that support theater companies across the U.S. and founded the local nonprofit ArtsSpeak!

“The award was created in 2018 to honor those leaders who’ve made an extraordinary impact in the greater DC community through their advocacy and passion for the arts and arts education,” Signature said of the service award. “…Merrill and Mark Shugoll have made a huge impact on Signature as well as the arts industry in DC and across the country.”

Single tickets are being offered for the first time in the Sondheim Award’s history, per the press release. They will cost $58 and go on sale at noon on Monday (May 2).

As of press time, the gala hasn’t appeared on Capital One Hall’s website, but the Tysons venue uses Ticketmaster for all of its events.

Proceeds from the awards gala will support Signature’s “artistic, education, and community programs,” the press release says.

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Morning Notes

Office buildings on Arlington Boulevard near Seven Corners (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 9 a.m.) County Board Chair Tests Positive for Covid — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay announced last night (Monday) that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He reported experiencing “minor symptoms which are uncomfortable but manageable” and is currently working from home and quarantining. [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

Johnny Depp Fans Wait at Courthouse — “Fans who stood outside the main entrance of the Fairfax County Courthouse with the hopes of glimpsing actor Johnny Depp as he appeared for the first day of his defamation trial were disappointed. The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ star skipped the crowds and entered the courthouse through another door.” [Patch]

Sen. Mark Warner Visits for Affordable Housing Talk — “Every community needs access to affordable housing. Glad to deliver funding to Fairfax County today to create up to 250 affordable housing units and talk to local leaders about how we can further support their initiatives at a federal level.” [Mark Warner/Twitter]

Trees Cut Down for Mount Vernon Bicycle Trail Project — “Construction to improve and link the Mount Vernon Bike Trail along the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway is in its early stages and to clear the way, a significant number of trees have been cut down along the road. According to the project team, there is no plan to replant additional trees when the project is completed, a county spokesperson said.” [The Connection]

Tysons Real Estate Leaders Explore Nats Sale — The Lerner family, which is behind the Tysons II development master plan, has hired an investment bank to explore potential investment partners for the Washington Nationals, The Washington Post reported. Mark Lerner, the baseball club’s managing principal owner, called the move “exploratory” with “no set timetable or expectation of a specific outcome.” [Patch]

County Unemployment Rate Declines — “Inflation may be eating away at their earnings, but a larger share of Fairfax County residents had jobs in February than a month before, according to new federal data…The county’s unemployment rate for the shortest month of the year stood at 2.5 percent, down from 2.9 percent a month before.” [Sun Gazette]

Local LGBTQ+ Advocates Worried About New Law — “Under a new law, Virginia school districts must notify parents whenever instructional materials include sexually explicit content and must provide parents alternative, non-explicit materials if requested…FCPS Pride said the bill ‘creates an adversarial relationship between teachers and parents or guardians.'” [The Washington Post]

Public Safety Workers Honored in Reston — “Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce officials on March 31 honored police, fire-and-rescue and Sheriff’s Office employees for their outstanding acts of public protection. More than 600 people attended the 44th annual Fairfax County Valor Awards, held at the Hyatt Regency Reston.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Herndon Plans Town-Wide Clean-Up — “The annual spring clean-up, an opportunity for residents to place large or bulky items curbside for pickup, takes place April 27-29. Pickup is on your trash day only.” [Town of Herndon]

It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 72 and low of 53. Sunrise at 6:37 am and sunset at 7:44 pm. [Weather.gov]

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