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Marshmallow and chocolate on sticks with peppermint (via American Heritage Chocolate/Unsplash)

The Rotary Club of McLean will peer back into the colonial era this weekend for its 11th annual chocolate festival.

Set to return this Sunday (Jan. 29), the McLean Chocolate Festival will feature a colonial America chocolate-making demonstration, along with vendors, free entertainment and children’s games. The demo is being presented by American Heritage, a brand of locally headquartered candy maker Mars Inc.

The festival is organized by and serves as a key fundraiser for the rotary club, which uses the proceeds to support local and international charities and educational programs, according to the website.

The 2022 festival, which marked a return after a year off due to Covid, drew 2,500 attendees and raised almost $24,000, the rotary club says.

The following chocolatiers and other vendors will be participating this year:

Entertainment options include a talk about the history of chocolate from Mars Inc. chocolate historian Dave Borghesani and music from the J2N2 Project, a Maryland-based flute quartet.

The festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue). Admission costs $2, though kids 3 and under can get in for free.

For anyone whose chocolate cravings aren’t sated Sunday, you won’t have to wait even a week for the return of Fairfax City’s Chocolate Lover’s Festival, which will be held Friday, Feb. 3, through Sunday, Feb. 4.

Photo via American Heritage Chocolate/Unsplash

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The annual Herndon Festival will return in full for 2023 (via Herndon Festival/Instagram)

The Herndon Festival will return this year in the summer, bringing back a tradition that was scaled back to a carnival last year.

The festival is set to take place from June 1-4 at the Northwest Federal Credit Union campus (200 Spring Street). The credit union is the title sponsor for the free event.

The town announced the coming of the festival yesterday (Thursday), unveiling a new logo and media package.

But a town spokesperson said it was too early to share details on the planned scope of the festival.

“We are finalizing the scope of the festival in the coming weeks and will be able to announce more information soon,” Reid Okoniewski, a spokesperson for the town’s parks and recreation department told FFXnow in a statement.

Last year, the town organized an alternative to the annual festival — a carnival — at the same venue. The format of event to help the town transition back to hosting large-scale events following the height of the pandemic, FFXnow previously reported.

Photo via Herndon Festival/Instagram

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The artwork features animals in celebration of the Year of the Rabbit (courtesy Tracie Griffith Tso)

Inspired by the Year of the Rabbit, a local exhibition in Reston aims to celebrate the Lunar Year.

Titled “Creatures Were Stirring,” a series of work by artists Tracie Griffith Tso and Lisa Schumaier is on display through Jan. 31 at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road).

The exhibit includes small and large creatures depicted in watercolor drawings to dramatic ink on silk and paper using traditional Chinese brushstroke work.

“Rabbits are celestial animals in the Far East,” said Griffith Tso, who has a pet rabbit herself. “They are lively and charming and their ears and posture expresses mood.”

A collection of 3-D clay art and jewelry from Schumaier and Griffith Tso are available year-round at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria.

The artists met in 2008 at the Torpedo Factory, sharing a love with clay and expressive art. They are also behind that venue’s BunnyFest, which typically occurs the Saturday before Easter.

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The eternal question “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” has finally been answered. He’s in Fort Hunt, at least for the weekend.

Works from famed cartoon animator Ron Campbell will be on display and for sale starting tonight (Thursday) through Saturday at Nepenthe Gallery in Fort Hunt.

Campbell is known for his five-decade career animating some of the world’s most beloved cartoons, including Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, The Smurfs, Rugrats, and the 1968 Beatles’ movie “Yellow Submarine.”

“Abbey Road” by Ron Campbell (courtesy Scott Segelbaum)

After retiring, Campbell partnered with Scott Segelbaum to put on a traveling cartoon pop art show featuring works inspired by his 50 years animating beloved television shows.

When the artist died in early 2021, exactly two years ago this weekend, Segelbaum decided to continue the show as a way of keeping his friend’s memory and legacy alive and help others remember their happiest days watching cartoons.

Ron Campbell basically animated your childhood and your parents’ childhood — and their parents’ childhood,” Segelbaum told FFXnow.

Scooby-Doo by Ron Campbell (courtesy Scott Segelbaum)

When setting the show’s schedule for the year, Philadelphia native Segelbaum looked up art galleries in Alexandria after hearing great things about the local art scene. That’s how he found Nepenthe Gallery.

The relatively new art gallery located in the Hollin Hall shopping center on Fort Hunt Road was opened by the husband-and-wife team of Carrie and Jim Garland in March 2022.

They dreamed of owning a business together after their kids grew up, and an art gallery was a natural fit, considering their families’ long history of collecting art. So, the Garlands opened Nepenthe Gallery and a frame shop below the gallery, which is about a mile from their home in a space that used to be a Curves gym.

“We still get women who come in,” Carrie said. “I always tell them they are welcome to exercise here.”

The gallery’s location in Fort Hunt near the Hollin Hills historic district is in the middle of what Carrie calls an “art-centric corridor” between Old Town Alexandria and Mount Vernon.

Carrie and Jim both noted that their gallery is open to all sorts of styles of art. They never want to “pigeonhole” it, as Jim said.

So, when Segelbaum reached out about bringing his cartoon pop art show, the Garlands were happy to oblige. Read More

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The final polar dip returns to Reston next month (courtesy David Madison Photography)

Camp Sunshine’s 15th polar dip — Freezin’ for a Reason — will return to Reston’s Lake Anne Plaza on Feb. 11 for a final hurrah.

Beginning at noon, spectators will gather to watch registered participants plunge into the lake — or take a “chicken dip” with just toes —Ā to raise funds for Camp Sunshine, a nonprofit that organizes retreats for families who have kids with life-threatening illnesses.

“The Virginia Polar Dip has a unique aspect that adds to the fun,” Gail Toth, event founder and organizer, said. “We have a one-hour succession of splashes that brings plenty of cheers and laughter from the crowd of spectators.”

The event is the final dip after Toth and the team anticipate reaching their fundraising goal. Organizers hope to raise $100,000 for the charity in an effort to reach a $1 million target set when the event began in 2008.

Online event registration is open. On-site registration begins at noon on the day of the event, followed by the beginning of the polar dip at 2 p.m.

The fundraising model encourages registered participants to raise or donate a minimum of $100 to plunge into the frigid waters of the lake. Participants receive an event t-shirt.

The event was started by the Toth family, who took part in Camp Sunshine in 1996 when their 3-year-old daughter was a cancer patient. The family brought the event to Virginia to support other local families after they took part in a dip in New Jersey.

The inaugural Virginia event in 2008 brought 2,199 dippers to the lake.

Event organizers note that Reston Association does not maintain the lake for swimming standards. Typically, swimming is not allowed in Lake Anne.

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Heart-shaped platter of chocolates (courtesy City of Fairfax)

A local festival celebrating all things chocolatey is making a comeback in the City of Fairfax.

The Chocolate Lovers Festival is scheduled to launch the weekend before Valentine’s Day, running from Friday, Feb. 3, through Sunday, Feb. 4. This is the first time the festival has been held since the start of the pandemic.

The all-ages event — hosted by the Fairfax City Parks and Recreation Department and local chocolate confectioners — includes goodies to sample like cakes, candies, brownies fudge, ice cream and more.

Admission to the event is free, but tasting requires the purchase of $1 “pogs” to be exchanged with vendors.

“We are extremely excited for the return of this flagship city event,” Parks and Recreation director Stacey Sommerfield said in an email. “We’ve had an outpouring of vendors both old and new who are excited to return. The event will feature new exciting events while once again gathering chocolate lovers from across the region.”

Events include a liquid chocolate demonstration in Old Town Square (10415 North Street), a mock trial at the Historic Fairfax Courthouse (4000 Chain Bridge Road), and a look at the history of chocolate at the Legato School Museum (4117 Chain Bridge Road).

According to organizers, the event will feature the same number of vendors as previous years, with growth limited by the size of Old Town Hall. A shuttle bus, the Chocolate Express, will be available on Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.

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Participants line up for the 2022 Polar Plunge at the Mosaic District (courtesy Sean Wallach/Special Olympics Virginia)

Special Olympics Virginia is ready to make another splash at the Mosaic District.

The nonprofit’s annual Polar Plunge fundraiser will return to the Merrifield community for a fourth year on Saturday, Jan. 14. As in previous years, participants will jump into a pool of icy water to raise money for the organization’s more than 18,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities.

The event is Special Olympics Virginia’s first fundraiser of the year and one of five planned in the state for 2023, according to Senior Director of Development Ellen Head.

“I love that we start things off with a plunge because long before we had unified sports (where people with and without disabilities play on a team together instead of segregated) we had plunges which, by nature, are unified,” Head told FFXnow by email. “We have Special Olympics athletes alongside of everyone else jumping into the cold pools!”

The Mosaic District hosted a plunge for the first time in 2019. The event returned in early 2020 before taking 2021 off due to the pandemic.

Like last year, the Polar Plunge will be held on Strawberry Lane in front of Target. Check-ins will start at noon, followed by a costume contest and award presentation at 1 p.m. and the actual plunging at 1:15 p.m.

Advance registration is currently open, and participants have already raised over $20,000, according to Special Olympics Virginia’s website. Proceeds from the Mosaic District plunge have grown every year, from roughly $35,000 in 2019 to $50,000 last year, according to Head.

For this year’s event, the nonprofit has partnered with Archer Hotel, which replaced the Hyatt House at the Mosaic District last year. As an incentive, the hotel will provide access to its suites before and after the plunge for the two teams and two individuals who raise the most money.

Collectively, the polar plunges raise close to $1.5 million each year, though Special Olympics Virginia hopes to exceed that mark in 2023, Head says.

The organization also hopes to see its program enrollment bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, which surpassed 23,000 athletes.

In addition to organizing free local and state-level sports programs and events, the nonprofit provides health and fitness resources. A clinic at its annual Summer Games offers free physical and mental health services, including dental, vision and hearing care.

“This is important since many of our athletes lack this care due to the limitations of Medicaid,” Heard said.

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Bestselling and award-winning author Kwame Alexander and Dara Coulter will take part in a book signing and reading later this month (via Brown Books for Young Readers)

Bestselling and award-winning author Kwame Alexander and illustrator Dara Coulter will visit Reston later this month for a book signing and reading.

Alexander and Coulter will take part in the event at Scrawl Books (11911 Freedom Drive) on Sunday at 4 p.m. The team is celebrating the release of “An American Story,” a picture book that tells the story of teacher struggling to help her students understand the history of American slavery.

Leah Grover, the communications and events manager for Scrawl Books, said the bookstore is looking forward to welcoming both authors and illustrators.

“Kwame is a friend of the store, and we can’t think of anyone more deserving of the widespread love and admiration he’s received. It’s always a pleasure to work with him,” Grover said. “If you’re not familiar with Dare Coulter, you’ll be blown away by her artwork! Her illustrations are as affecting and complex as Kwame’s words.”

Participants are encouraged to register online for the event.

Alexander is currently on a book tour featuring his latest release. He has authored 36 books, including “The Door of No Return” and “The Crossover.”

He has received several rewards including The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Coretta Scott King Author Honor and three NAACP Image Award nominations. He writes in a penthouse in London, where he now lives, according to his website.

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Martin Luther King Jr. addressing the crowd in Washington at the Civil Rights March in 1963 (via National Archives)

A bestselling author who wrote a book on the cost of racism will be the keynote speaker for Reston Community Center’s 38th annual Reston Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration.

The main event on Monday, Jan. 16, features Heather McGhee, the author of The New York Times bestseller “The Sum of Us: What Racism Cost Us and How We Can Prosper Together.” The address begins at 11 a.m. at RCC Hunters Woods. Tickets are $5 for Restonians and $20 for all others.

“It is vital to ask ourselves every day ‘are we keeping the promise?'” Beverly Cosham, chair of RCC’s Board of Governors, said. “When we commemorate Dr. King’s birthday and recall that he gave his life to achieving justice, we are called again to the fight for universal human rights. Memory of his beliefs and service to others fuel our commitment to making our community and world better for everyone.”

A complete line up of events from RCC is below:

Saturday, January 14

Community Service Projects
9:00 a.m., Cathy Hudgins Community Center at Southgate, 12125 Pinecrest Road, Reston
6 years and older — Free

Join friends and neighbors in honoring Dr. King’s legacy by serving your community. As Dr. King said, “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve.” RCC is partnering with the Cathy Hudgins Community Center at Southgate, Reston Association, Cornerstones and The Closet on community service projects. Indoor projects include sorting and organizing items from The Closet and making bag lunches for the Embry Rucker Community Shelter. There will also be outdoor projects such as cleaning up the natural areas, pathways and hardscapes, weather permitting.

To volunteer, please contact Ha Brock, Volunteer Reston Manager, at 703-435-7986 orĀ habrock@reston.org.

Reston Community Orchestra
Annual Musical Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Words and Music as Diverse as the World of Which He Dreamed
4:00 p.m., RCC Hunters Woods Community Room
All ages — Free

With music and words specifically chosen for this occasion, RCO joins the Reston community in a weekend commemoration of the contributions made by this celebrated American, and his vision of a society free of prejudice and racial division. The program features Reston vocalist Beverly Cosham, students from Al Fatih Academy and other special guests. There will be songs and spirituals known and loved by Dr. King.Ā Tickets available through the RCC Box Office.

Sunday, January 15

Mark G. Meadows:Ā Music and The Movement
2:00 p.m., RCC Hunters Woods — the CenterStage
$15 Reston/$20 Non-Reston

Join Mark G. Meadows & The Movement as they pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mark G. Meadows is a man on a mission to create a unifying sound that breaks through social barriers. There’s something for everyone in his music, which harmonizes jazz, gospel, R&B, hip-hop and rock. Mark uses his artistry to send a positive message of love, joy and hope to his audiences. Get ready to lift every voice and sing with Mark G. Meadows & The Movement.Ā Tickets sold through the RCC Box Office.

Monday, January 16

Keynote Address by Heather McGhee followed by Community Lunch
11:00 a.m.
RCC Hunters Woods: the CenterStage and Community Room
$5 Reston/$20 Non-Reston

A renowned expert on the American economy, Heather McGhee is one of the most brilliant and influential thinkers exploring inequality today. Both her viral TED talk and her instantĀ New York TimesĀ bestsellerĀ The Sum of UsĀ reveal the devastating true cost of racism – not just for people of color, but for everyone. Deeply stirring, intelligent and compassionate, McGhee’s talks offer us an actionable roadmap during one of the most critical – and most troubled – periods in history. Following the keynote address, a family-style lunch will be provided in the RCC Community Room.

Especially for Youth
10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
RCC Hunters Woods
6 – 12 Years Old – Free.Ā Registration Required.Ā Reg. #704750

You may register your school-age child (first to sixth grade) to participate in activities at RCC. Children must be registered in advance and no onsite registration will be available on the day of the event. Children will rotate through a series of activities, including an age-appropriate video and arts and crafts. All activities will be based on the history of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. Lunch will be provided.

Tuesday, January 17

American Red Cross Blood Drive
RCC Hunters Woods
1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Reston Community Center partners with the American Red Cross and Fairfax County NAACP to offer a blood drive. People with minority roots are especially encouraged to participate to increase the blood supply for vulnerable populations. Make your appointment here.

The events are organized by RCC with the cooperation of the Cathy Hudgins Community Center at Southgate, Cornerstones, The Closet, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn’s office, Reston Association, Reston Community Orchestra and local schools.

Photo via National Archives

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Tephra ICA’s new exhibit “Between a rock and a hard place” features five regional artists (via Tephra ICA/Deborah R. Grayson)

A new group exhibit organized by Reston’s Tephra Institute of Contemporary Arts is set to open this weekend.

Between a rock and a soft place” aims to reframe the concept of rest as a practice on its own and irrespective of the concept of work, a press release said. An opening reception is slated for tomorrow (Saturday) from 5-7 p.m.

In the exhibit, five regional, contemporary artists — Holly Bass, Adjoa Burrowes, Deborah R. Grayson, Katie O’Keefe, and Britt Sankofa — reflect on the structures that stand between the subject and a life of ease, exploring topics such as who gets rest and when, what is restorative, and how do individuals allow themselves to slow down.

Each artist was asked to response to exhibition prompts that explored what being well-rested looks like from different perspectives.

Here’s what the exhibit’s guest curator, Deirdre Darden, said about the theme and process:

When the pandemic forced me to rest, I realized that it was the essential missing piece of my practice. As independent curators and artists, we’re always thinking of the next deadline while trying to meet the current one. It’s a cyclical life that leaves little time for reprieve. As I worked with Tephra ICA to develop the theme of the [open] call, I settled on the idea of rest. Research led me to understand this idea of creating art around ‘burnout’ wasn’t just a pandemic trend. Many contemporary artists have started to adjust their subject matter to reflect the need to see people, especially black people, disabled people, and more marginalized folks at ease. Domestic scenes, peering out a window, moments of joy, tending a garden. This is the art of the rest revolution.

The exhibit is a product of the institute’s Mary B. Howard Invitational, a biennial program that supports collaborative exhibition-making and “the development and public presentation of innovative new work,” per the exhibit website. It was named after an artist and longtime board member and is funded in part by ArtsFairfax.

The presentation is free and open to all. RSVPs are encouraged in advance online.

The exhibit is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gallery will be closed on Dec. 13-15, 24, and 31.

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