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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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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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The D.C. area’s first-ever Winter Lantern Festival is coming to Lerner Town Square at Tysons II (courtesy Kaleido Arts & Entertainment Group)

Thousands of lanterns will take over Lerner Town Square at Tysons II this winter.

Based in New York City, the Winter Lantern Festival will bring over 10,000 Chinese-style lanterns to Tysons for a nearly two-month stay from Dec. 16 through Feb. 12. This will be its first-ever stop in the D.C. area, the festival announced Wednesday (Nov. 30).

“We are thrilled to debut the Winter Lantern Festival, expand to new locations, introduce all visitors to the beauty of these artisan installations, and have the show become part of the DMV’s cultural holiday tradition,” said Haokun Liu, partner of Kaleido Arts & Entertainment Group, which organizes the annual festival.

Founded in 2018 as New York Events & Entertainment, Kaleido Arts assists companies, nonprofits and others with events that promote “global cross-cultural communication,” according to a press release.

The New York City festival has drawn over 150,000 guests annually over its three years of existence. It’s expanding to five different locations this year, but Tysons is the first and only site outside of New York state.

The outdoor venue at 8025 Galleria Drive, which hosted Cirque du Soleil this summer, will be filled with displays made out of painted lanterns to resemble animals, such as polar bears and penguins, as well as figures out of Chinese myths and legends.

All of the lanterns are handmade by over 100 artists, who fit silk cloth over steel wire frames with LED lights using techniques that date back to the Han dynasty, per the festival website. The displays can reach up to 30 feet in height and will span 60 acres.

“Lantern festivals have been a part of Chinese culture and history for thousands of years, honoring our ancestors and celebrating peace, prosperity, and good fortune,” Liu said.

The festival will also feature interactive light swings, see-saws and tunnels, along with live entertainment and food vendors.

Tickets are now on sale for $31.99 for adults and $19.99 for kids 12 and under, including a $2 service fee. For now, customers can get a 30% discount if they use the code EARLYP.

The festival will generally operate on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but it will be open daily between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1, 2023. Hours will be 5-10 p.m.

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The Boro is bringing back its annual Oktoberfest celebration (courtesy The Boro Tysons/Lancer Photography)

Theoretically, an intrepid day drinker could hit up all three of the Oktoberfest celebrations around the Tysons area scheduled for next weekend.

Provided they have a designated driver or don’t mind quick Uber trips from the Metro: here’s where they’ll be going:

Kicking off a full day of Oktoberfest activities around the Tysons area is Caboose Commons (2918 Eskridge Road). The Merrifield brewpub is launching is “Hoptoberfest” on Saturday, Sept. 17, at around 11 a.m. The celebration will run all day and feature beers from various local breweries.

Shipgarten (7581 Colshire Drive) is launching the same day at 1:15 p.m. The Tysons bar is launching its Oktoberfest on Saturday, Sept. 17, with a ceremonial “tapping of the keg” for a beer imported from Germany. the festival ends at 6 p.m. The festivities will feature over 50 beers from Germany, Austria and the United States.

Nearby, The Boro (8350 Broad Street) is kicking off its Oktoberfest an hour later. The Boro’s Oktoberfest will launch at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, featuring a biergarten, outdoor games, polka music and more. The first 150 guests will receive a free branded stein.

That same day, Cox Farms’ Fall Festival kicks off. The festival opens on Sept. 17 and will be open every weekend (Thursday through Monday) until Tuesday, Nov. 8. The festival features several large slides and a hay ride, among other attractions. The Fall Festival opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m., with the last entry one hour before closing, so the theoretical Tysonian might want to visit the Fall Festival before touring the Oktoberfests.

A little later than the others: Vienna’s Oktoberfest is scheduled to return on Saturday, Oct. 1, from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. along Church Street. This year, the event is slated to feature two beer and wine gardens, along with a selection of international food, a car show and more.

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McLean Day returns with amusement park rides like the Himalaya, pictured from 2019 (courtesy McLean Community Center)

Thousands of people are expected to descend on Lewinsville Park Saturday (May 21) for the first full-fledged McLean Day since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

After getting canceled in 2020 and limited to a drive-thru event last year, the McLean Community Center’s annual outdoor festival will return for its 107th year with all of the usual carnival rides, live entertainment, food vendors, and family-friendly activities.

McLean Day will unfold from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1659 Chain Bridge Road. While admission to the overall event is free, the rides require tickets that can be purchased online in advance or on site.

Community members can get a sneak peek of the rides from 2-10 p.m. tomorrow (Friday).

Here is more of what to expect from McLean Day, from MCC’s news release:

Rides and More Amusements

The large amusement rides are a big draw at McLean Day. This year’s selections will shake things up! In addition to the large rides on the parking lot, the Kids’ Way area of the park offers smaller, ticketed rides especially for younger children. Also, for the young and young-at-heart are costumed superhero characters who will be available for photos. Other free activities include laser tag, Bubble Ball, two rock-climbing walls, balloon twisters, a magician and a petting zoo.

Lots of Treats to Eat!

Do you favor festival food? Come to McLean Day ready to enjoy a wide variety of international entrees, snacks and beverages. Some of the area’s best gourmet food trucks that will be on hand to serve the crowds in Lewinsville Park.

Performers Onstage and Off

Free performances will be offered throughout the festival on the Community Stage. Young dancers enrolled in MCC’s Art in Motion Dance classes will open the show at 11:05 a.m. The McLean Community Players will follow at 1:05 p.m. The Alden’s Unruly Theatre Project teen improv group will perform at 1:45 p.m., followed by the McLean High School Chorus at 2:25 p.m. The McLean Citizens Association will present its Teen Character Award at 3 p.m. and G’NASH, a five-member rock band comprised of McLean High School students, will perform at 4 p.m. In addition, a Jugglers’ Stage, located close to the children’s ride area, offers free performances throughout the event.

Voting will also be underway for this year’s MCC Governing Board election, which has been unusually heated with nine adults vying for three seats. There are also three youth candidates for the two teen seats on the ballot.

While absentee voting concluded at 5 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday), the in-person election will be held at McLean Day from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

With parking at Lewinsville Park unavailable during the festival, Fairfax Connector will provide free shuttle service from 10:25 a.m. through 6 p.m. Buses will be available from the McLean Metro station, MCC (1234 Ingleside Avenue), McLean Baptist Church (1367 Chain Bridge Road), and the Trinity United Methodist Church (1205 Dolley Madison Blvd.).

The festival is being sponsored this year by Wheat’s Landscaping, Mars Inc., McLean Properties, and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, which opened a primary care office in McLean in February.

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Peraton owns a class of robots that have appeared in several movies (via Peraton)

Robots that have graced the screens of Hollywood will appear at the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art’s annual arts festival in Reston this year from May 20-22.

The technology, which is owned by event sponsor Peraton, is called Remotec robot systems and has appeared in “The Hurt Locker,” “CSI” and “Seinfield.” The robot also provided the sound for the title robot in Pixar’s “WALL-E.”

“With more than 6,000 of our employees in the DC metro area, it’s important for Peraton to support initiatives like the Festival across the communities in which we live and work,” said Matt McQueen, Peraton’s Chief Communications and Engagement Officer. “Tephra ICA promotes innovation, creativity, and the impact art can have on the way we think, act, and grow. In a world where boundaries are blurring between traditional and non-traditional security concerns, it is important to support those who encourage us to think creatively, and the arts is a wonderful vehicle for spurring the imagination.”

Peraton Remotec is a mobile robot system used especially for hazardous duty operations. It was acquired by the company through the purchase of Northrop Grumman’s integrated mission support and IT solutions business.

The company plans to display its robot system and provide opportunities for festival-goers to interact with the technology.

Jaynelle Hazard, Tephra’s executive director and curator, said Peraton’s support as title sponsor has been “invaluable.”

“Peraton’s commitment to and championship of veteran and servicemember artists aligns with our mission and the important ways we are expanding our reach within the field and into the community,” she wrote in a statement.

This year, more than 200 artists will travel from 30 states and two international locations to exhibit their work at the festival. It was formerly known as the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival.

Performances are planned throughout the weekend. This year, the Trisha Brown Dance Company, a contemporary dance company dedicated to the work of founding artistic director and choreographer Trisha Brown, is also scheduled to perform. The performance is presented by Reston Community Center.

“Our excitement is growing in anticipation of this event where we will fill the streets with artwork and people, celebrating the resilience of artistic practice and creating opportunities for visitors to bring artwork home,” said Tephra’s new Associate Curator and Festival Director, Hannah Barco.

Photo via Peraton

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Morning Notes

Looking south to Falls Church over Washington Blvd. (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Health Department Updates Covid Data — The county’s dashboard for COVID-19 data will report the 7-day average number of daily cases instead of the number of new cases, and two other metrics were added to the dashboard. The additions are the 7-day average number of daily new deaths, and the current community level, including the metrics that determine the level (hospitalizations, hospital capacity and cases within a community). [Fairfax County Government]

FBI Relaunches New HQ Search — “President Joe Biden’s administration made it clear that the federal government would be consolidating the FBI’s headquarters outside of D.C. in the General Services Administration’s fiscal year 2023 budget request…The move has been in limbo for years. During then-President Barack Obama’s administration, the GSA had narrowed down potential locations to Greenbelt, Landover and Springfield.” [Bisnow]

Three Fort Belvoir Firefighters Have Babies in 24 Hours — “They were all expecting their sons to be born soon, and they joked at the fire station that they would run into each other at the hospital. None of them thought it would actually happen.” [Washington Post]

Food for Fines Adapts to Read and Feed — “As of Jan. 1, FCPL no longer charges overdue fines on most materials. To continue its partnership with Food for Others, FCPL is now hosting ‘Read and Feed’ in April. Those who wish to give may simply drop off donations at any FCPL branch during its regular hours throughout the month of April.” [Fairfax County Government]

Vienna School Renovation Progresses — “Fairfax County Public Schools’ plan to renovate and expand Louise Archer Elementary School got some necessary boxes ticked March 21 when the Vienna Town Council unanimously approved a series of site modifications.” [Sun Gazette]

McLean Little League Opens Season — “McLean Little League players are busy scurrying around the baseball and softball diamonds these days, following the opening of the 2022 season. Enjoy these photos from the annual opening-day ceremonies, held March 26, as captured by Dave Facinoli.” [Sun Gazette]

Bluebells Festival Returns in Great Falls — “After a two-year hiatus, Bluebells at the Bend Festival is BACK! The day’s highlight features the emergence of the iconic Virginia Bluebells, native wildflowers that bloom in the moist woodlands of eastern North America and can create a bit of their spring magic in your own garden.” [Visit Fairfax]

Enjoy Cherry Blossoms at the PARC at Tysons — “#Spring is in #fullbloom at the PARC! Stop by next week, April 4-9 from 9 AM – 5 PM, to check out our @cherryblossfest decorations and enjoy #free fun-filled spring #activities and #treats from @tysons.creamery. You won’t want to miss this spring celebration! #spring2022” [Twitter]

Herndon Middle Schooler Earns Honors — “Jada Elfar, a seventh-grade student in Shawn Ratliff’s civics class at the King Abdullah Academy in Herndon, recently was named the winner in several levels of the American Legion Department of Virginia Middle School Essay Contest.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Thursday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 64 and low of 55. Sunrise at 6:56 a.m. and sunset at 7:32 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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Taste of Springfield is set for June 4, 2022 (courtesy KOJAM Productions)

The Taste of Springfield festival is returning for a fifth year on June 4, bringing food vendors, businesses, and activities to the Springfield Town Center.

The festivities will last from noon to 5 p.m. in the parking lot nearest Frontier Drive (near the Target and Nordstrom Rack). In addition to food vendors and exhibitors, the event boasts a beer garden, live bands, and local youth entertainment.

Tickets are on sale to use toward $1 tastings and full menu items. Food vendors will provide a menu selection based on the $1 tasting tickets, according to the EventBrite.

The event, organized by Alexandria-based KOJAM Productions in collaboration with the town center, has brought together more than 75 vendors in the past. Registration is still open for interested vendors at www.kojamproductions.com.

“We are excited to be back for our 5th year to provide the local Community with a chance to network with businesses in the area and show support of the wonderful food establishments in the area,” KOJAM Productions President Karen Joyner said. “It’s a chance for families to come out and enjoy this free event as there is something for everyone.  Food, entertainment, shopping and more!”

While the event was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it returned for its fourth year in 2021.

Photo courtesy KOJAM Productions

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The annual Herndon Festival will take on a new format this year (via Town of Herndon)

While not the Herndon Festival residents are used to, the town will bring back some summer festivities this year in a scaled-back format.

The annual festival is taking on a new form: a carnival.

The event takes place June 2-5 at the Northwest Federal Credit Union at 200 Spring Street, a town spokesperson told FFXnow.

Town staff said they have changed the format of the beloved town tradition to “help our town and department transition back to hosting events.”

“The plan is to host a full Herndon Festival in 2023. Northwest Federal Credit Union is our title sponsor,” said Abby Kimble, a spokesperson for the Herndon Parks and Recreation Festival.

This year’s event includes carnival rides, games, food vendors, strolling entertainers, a free shuttle bus, and a 5K race at the Herndon Community Center.

Next year’s festival, which will be the town’s 40th Herndon Festival, is expected to feature the more typical elements of the annual event: craft and business vendors, children’s activities, stages of entertainment, beer sales, and a 10k race.

More details are expected soon.

The festival was canceled for the last two years due to the pandemic. It departed from its usual location in downtown Herndon to the NFCU campus in 2020 due to expected construction in downtown Herndon.

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