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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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McLean Community Center Executive Director Betsy May-Salazar (courtesy Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs)

To Betsy May-Salazar, the McLean Community Center (MCC) is a place for making connections.

Funded by a special resident tax district, the facility at 1234 Ingleside Avenue serves a variety of functions, from organizing community events like the annual McLean Day festival to offering educational classes and providing meeting space.

The overarching goal of all those activities is to bring people together, says May-Salazar, MCC’s newest executive director.

“A community center is a place for members of the community to connect, and our vision is to generate inspiration and creativity and connection to McLean and its communities,” she said in a recent interview. “Our goal again is to be a warm, inclusive environment for all, a place for McLean residents who want to learn, play, relax, connect.”

As a longtime McLean resident, May-Salazar’s experience with MCC extends much further back than her a few weeks as executive director, a position she officially assumed on Jan. 3.

In addition to regularly attending performances at the Alden Theater and other cultural events, she says her children were dedicated participants in the center’s summer camps and after-school programs at the Old Firehouse Center when they were young. She has also been involved in PTAs and other groups that meet at MCC.

May-Salazar told FFXnow she’s eager to pair her perspective as a patron of the center with her professional background working at D.C.’s National Building Museum. As the museum’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, she helped manage finances and operations, while also developing programs, such as a summer block party.

“We also positioned ourselves there as a town square, where people could gather and important conversations and dialogue take place,” May-Salazar said. “I think all of this experience is applicable when looking at the community center’s role to provide opportunities for the community to engage with one another.”

After a “whirlwind” of introductions to staff and board members, May-Salazar is set to meet with the full MCC governing board for the first time on Wednesday (Jan. 25). Her initial goal is to review the strategic plan that has been in development since fall 2021 and will be finalized “in the coming months.”

In terms of specific program or event ideas, she says she’s “not walking in the door with preconceived priorities” — a deviation in approach from her predecessor Daniel Singh, whose arrival in the spring of 2021 was accompanied by a full slate of newly announced programs.

May-Salazar noted that she’s joining “at a fortuitous time” after much of the work on the strategic plan has been completed. The document is intended to guide MCC”s priorities and programming for the next five years, a time period that will include the center’s 50th anniversary in 2025.

“I want to learn from the staff and from the board and from the community members about what’s working well and what opportunities we have moving forward,” she said.

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The McLean Community Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The McLean Community Center has found a new executive director who will, hopefully, be a bit more permanent than its last one.

Fairfax County announced yesterday that the MCC Board of Directors appointed Betsy May-Salazar at a special meeting on Wednesday (Dec. 14) after an over four-month search for a long-term successor to Daniel Singh, who resigned on July 26 just 14 months into the job.

Evan Braff, a countywide coordinator in Fairfax County’s Office of the County Executive, took over as acting executive director on Aug. 15 following Singh’s resignation. May-Salazar will officially assume the position on Jan. 3.

“On behalf of the McLean Community Center Board of Directors, I am pleased to welcome Betsy as our new executive director,” MCC Board Chair Barbara Zamora-Appel said in a statement. “Her extensive experience managing operations, strategic planning and development of compelling programs for the public, along with her longstanding ties to McLean, position her well. I look forward to working with Betsy to expand our reach, cultivate partnerships and make the McLean Community Center the best it can be for our community.”

A longtime resident of McLean, per the news release, May-Salazar had worked at the National Building Museum in D.C. since 1995, most recently serving as its senior vice president and chief operating officer.

Before that, she was program director of the Washington chapter of the American Institute of Architects, a professional nonprofit that provides education, advocacy and community outreach for architects.

She received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in interdisciplinary studies from Miami University and a master’s degree in arts in American studies from George Washington University.

When Singh arrived at MCC in April 2021, he and the board touted promoting diversity and equity as a top priority, a stance that occasionally spurred backlash from some community members.

While the county’s release didn’t share much insight into what May-Salazar will do in her new role, the community center has focused on expanding its audience as it works to finalize a five-year strategic plan and prepares for its 50th anniversary in 2025.

Last month, MCC launched a youth ambassador initiative to promote its events and programming more among local high school students.

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A woman holds up a piece of handmade decor at the 2021 McLean Holiday Art and Crafts Festival (courtesy MCC)

The McLean Holiday Art and Crafts Festival will hit the 40-year mark this weekend, just as gift shopping kicks into full gear.

Featuring work by 80 artisans from around the region, the annual handmade crafts fair will be held Friday through Saturday (Dec. 2-4) inside the McLean Community Center. Hours will be 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

This will be second time that MCC hosts the event in person during the pandemic. It first returned to 1234 Ingleside Avenue last year after going virtual in 2020.

“This fun and festive community event includes every price point and is sure to inspire holiday cheer,” MCC Special Events Manager Catherine Nesbitt said in a news release. “Esteemed jurors have carefully selected artists who have created extraordinary treasures. Support your community and shop locally.”

Selected by a jury, the festival artists work in a range of mediums, from pottery, glass, wood and jewelry to soap, mixed media, holiday decor, and the culinary arts. Their works will be available for purchase.

There will also be an on-site café where visitors can grab a meal and drinks.

Admission is free for kids 12 and younger, but it otherwise costs $5, though that price covers all three days of the festival. The first 200 attendees will receive a free MCC-branded tote bag.

All proceeds will go to the nonprofit Northern Virginia Handcrafters Guild, which is cosponsoring the event and supports local artists with exhibits, scholarships and educational opportunities.

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The McLean Community Center’s Old Firehouse Center (file photo)

The McLean Community Center is on the lookout for local teens who are in tune with what kids these days enjoy.

The community center has launched a new MCC Youth Ambassador initiative that invites students from McLean and Langley high schools to provide input on and promote events at their schools and online.

MCC provides programming for older kids and teens through its Old Firehouse Center (OFC) at 1440 Chain Bridge Road. The facility generally attracts middle school-aged students, but attendance dips once kids enter high school, according to minutes from the governing board’s Sept. 28 meeting.

“I think the reason why is that they felt that it was more of MCC telling them to come — rather than it being a high school-oriented and high school-planned event publicized throughout social media,” said Charlotte Loving, who represents the Langley High School area on the board.

Conceived by Loving and Sarah Tran, who represents McLean High on the board, the initiative is open to all students enrolled in those two schools who live in MCC’s tax district, known as Dranesville Small District 1A.

Here’s more on the volunteer positions from MCC’s announcement, released on Friday (Nov. 18):

Youth Ambassadors will serve as liaisons between community youth and the two youth members of the MCC Governing Board, Sarah Tran (Langley High boundary area) and Charlotte Loving (McLean High boundary area). The ambassadors will promote MCC activities via their social media platforms and through resources at their respective schools. They will also assist in planning events and activities targeted to the youth of McLean in support of acquiring their growing participation in MCC programs. Ambassadors will meet monthly at MCC or the Old Firehouse Center to discuss public feedback and plan future activities.

Applications can be found on the MCC website and sent when completed to MCC General Programs Director Michael Fisher at michael.fisher@fairfaxcounty.gov. The deadline to apply is Friday, Dec. 9.

According to the website, the ambassador program is currently considered a pilot. If deemed successful, it could expand to allow participants from private high schools in the tax district.

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McLean Antiques Show (image via Fairfax County Government/YouTube)

The McLean Antiques Show & Sale is returning to McLean next month for its 46th year.

The event, sponsored by the McLean Community Center (MCC) at 1234 Ingleside Avenue, is described in a release as a “treasure hunt.”

“[The sale] will feature an exciting selection of designer vintage clothing and American Folk Art as well as well-known traditional show offerings,” the release said.

The show is scheduled for 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12 and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13. Admission is $10 per person for both days of the show, though anyone under 18 gets in for free.

The McLean Antiques Show & Sale typically brings in dealers from across the eastern seaboard, from New England to North Carolina, but the release said there will be some differences this year.

“This year’s show will be more diverse than in the past,” the release said. “Dealers will feature traditional offerings of fine jewelry, paintings, furniture, porcelains, a variety of interesting collectibles, accessories and Oriental rugs as well as a larger selection of designer vintage clothing and accessories, American Folk Art and country furnishings.”

The full list of dealers can be found online.

“Dealers offer unusual, quality items from various corners of the world,” said show manager Dordy Fontinel in the release. “The continued emerging trend of antiques and vintage items is appealing to sustainability-minded customers and provides a beautiful, greener alternative.”

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Parking lot sale at McLean Community Center (image via McLean Community Center/Twitter)

The McClean Community Center’s annual Fall Community Parking Lot Sale — a large flea market for local residents and businesses — is returning next weekend.

The sale is scheduled to run from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at 1234 Ingleside Avenue.

“Featuring more than 50 vendors, the Fall Parking Lot Sale is considered by many to be the first, biggest and best sale of the fall season,” MCC Marketing and Communications Director Sabrina Anwah said in a release. Local residents and commercial dealers will sell a wide variety of items at the open-air event — new and gently used household goods, electronics, furniture, clothing and appliances, among other items.”

The sale will also feature a special “Kid’s Row” set aside for sellers ages 3-15.

“These young vendors gain entrepreneurial skills and put their math skills into practice as they sell toys, clothes, games and other items,” Anwah said.

Admission to the sale is free.

Image via McLean Community Center/Twitter

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The cast for McLean Community Players’ upcoming “The Show Must Go On” revue (courtesy MCP)

The McLean Community Players is taking another shot at a dramatic return from its pandemic-induced slumber.

The nonprofit theater group will stage “The Show Must Go On! A Musical Revue” at the McLean Community Center’s Alden Theatre (1234 Ingleside Avenue) on Sept. 23 and 24, delivering its first public, in-person performances since August 2019.

Blending past musical work with previews of future shows, the production had been scheduled to take the stage in July, but a spate of COVID-19 cases forced a last-minute cancellation.

“We are revisiting favorite MCP productions from the past and then moving on to exciting new productions currently available,” co-directors Jess Rawls and Michael Replogle said in a press release. “Hopefully audiences will be reminded of old favorites and get a taste of what MCP’s future might hold with their help.”

The two-act program features songs from both classic and more recent musical theater hits, from “Company” and “Oliver!” to “In the Heights” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” which coincidentally just started its run at the Kennedy Center.

The revue will be performed at 8 p.m. on both days with a 4 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Sept. 24.

Tickets cost $20 for adults with a $5 discount for MCC tax district residents, seniors, and older students. For kids 9 and under, the price drops to $10, and groups of 10 or more people pay $15 each.

Tickets are now on sale on MCP’s website, by phone at 866-811-4111, and at the Alden box office.

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Online registration for the annual McLean 5K is now open (via McLean Community Center)

Registration is officially open for the 14th annual McLean5K. 

The event — which is designed for runners of all abilities — is set for Oct. 1 at 8 a.m. The start and finish line is located at McLean Square Shopping Center (6631 Old Dominion Drive).

The run will benefit the McLean Community Foundation, a local charity that supports the community through grants and projects, from “fire trucks to playgrounds to social services,” the event page says.

Sponsors include Century21 New Millennium, the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce and other organizations. 

The registration packet will be available for pickup one day before the race at the Old Firehouse (1400 Chain Bridge Road) from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the morning of the race from 7-8 a.m.

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The Furia Flamenca Dance Company will serve as the artist-in-residence for The Alden’s 2022-2023 season (courtesy McLean Community Center)

A D.C.-based flamenco dance company will entertain McLean audiences for a full year as The Alden’s new artist-in-residence.

The McLean Community Center announced last week that its in-house theater will host public events and serve as an “incubator” for the Furia Flamenca Dance Company, which has performed in the center at 1234 Ingleside Avenue in the past.

“Alden audiences absolutely adore flamenco and pack the house at Furia Flamenca’s performances here,” MCC Performing Arts Director Sarah Schallern Treff said, noting that Furia founder and artistic director Estela Vélez de Paredez’s lectures on flamenco history and styles “have been especially popular.”

“I can’t wait to share even more of the company’s great work with the community,” she added in the news release.

Since it was founded in 2004, Furia Flamenca has performed throughout the D.C. area, including at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Theatre, National Theatre, and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, according to its website.

The group will put on the first public show of its 2022-2023 residency at The Alden on Oct. 8 with “A Trip to Spain,” an interactive, family-friendly introduction to flamenco music and dance. Tickets for the show, which is being tied to Hispanic Heritage Month, will cost $10 for MCC tax district residents or $15 for non-residents.

Throughout its residency, Furia Flamenca will host open rehearsals, workshops and lectures for the public, concluding on June 3 with the show “Recordando La Alhambra” that it debuted in 2014.

“The production combines choreography with musical arrangements to highlight the common roots of flamenco, Middle Eastern and North African music and dance,” MCC says. “Furia Flamenca will be accompanied by live music.”

Expressing excitement about the upcoming residency, Vélez de Paredez noted in the news release that The Alden was home to the company’s first-ever theatrical production in 2009.

“We are therefore excited to come back to the venue where we made our first big visions a reality, this time as a resident company,” Vélez de Paredez said. “We look forward to continuing to educate our audiences on all aspects of flamenco and to returning to the Alden stage! We want to thank Sarah Schallern Treff for this amazing opportunity and for embracing us once again.”

Furia Flamenca will join an eclectic 2022-2023 season for The Alden that will kick off with rhythm and blues musician Lil’ Maceo on Sept. 11. MCC also shared today (Friday) that Sons of Mystro, a duo of reggae/pop violinists, will give a free concert at 5 p.m. on Sept. 17 in McLean Central Park.

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