Newsletter

A duck takes a bath in Royal Lake near Burke (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The weekend is almost here. Before you double check your Congressional district or head to bed for some much-needed sleep, let’s revisit the past week of news in Fairfax County.

Here are the 10 most-read stories on FFXnow this week:

  1. Upcoming gastropub restaurant in Reston reignites family legacy, pays ode to Lake Anne
  2. Nothing Bundt Cakes bakery arrives in Herndon, will offer free ‘bundtlets’ at grand opening
  3. JUST IN: Truck hits McLean power line, killing man and prompting outage
  4. BREAKING: Assistant arrested for allegedly assaulting special needs student at Dogwood ES
  5. Developer seeks to convert Tysons office building into ‘live/work’ units
  6. DEVELOPING: Pedestrian in hospital after crash in Pike 7 Plaza parking lot
  7. FCPS ‘reviewing’ Virginia’s proposed policies on treatment of transgender students
  8. Metro board takes key step to setting opening date of Silver Line Phase II
  9. Proposed ‘home share’ program could help house older county residents
  10. Reston planning committee approves Vantage Hill redevelopment

Ideas for potential stories can be sent to [email protected] or submitted as an anonymous tip. Photos of scenes from around the county are welcome too, with credit always given to the photographer.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans, or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below. Have a great weekend, Fairfax County!

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McLean High School physics/astronomy teacher Jeff Brocketti on “Wheel of Fortune” (courtesy Eric McCandless/Wheel of Fortune®/© 2022 Califon Productions, Inc. ARR)

McLean High School teacher Jeffrey Brocketti can’t wait to tell everyone what he discussed with host Pat Sajak during a “Wheel of Fortune” commercial break.

He will soon be allowed to share that story and more after his episode — the 10th of the game show’s 40th season — airs at 7 p.m. Monday (Sept. 26) on ABC.

When it comes to solving the hangman-style word puzzles, though, even Brocketti may draw a blank when he turns on the TV next week — a common phenomenon, based on conversations with fellow contestants.

“They don’t remember all the puzzles from their show, which sounds ridiculous,” Brocketti told FFXnow. “You’d think this would just be burned into your brain, but it’s not. So, I’m kind of looking forward to seeing the episode, just seeing how it went and does it match my memory of it.”

Brocketti, who has taught physics and astronomy at McLean High for over a decade, describes the experience of filming a show he watched as a child as “surreal.”

He applied to become a contestant “on a whim” in April 2021 at the suggestion of his wife and one of his kids. Initially, he dismissed the idea, but while “sitting around” a few weeks later, he decided it couldn’t hurt, especially since the pandemic had pushed the entire tryout process online.

After submitting the form and a 30-second video pitch, Brocketti admits he forgot about the whole enterprise until this past January, when an unexpected email appeared in his inbox: he’d been selected to participate in a virtual audition.

“The first thing I did was check the email address to make sure it wasn’t some sort of phishing email,” he said. “I thought it was a scam, and once I figured out it was legit, then I realized, oh, this might actually happen.”

Told in February that he made the cut, Brocketti set his DVR to record “Wheel” and watched each night with his family, pretending to compete against the contestants on screen with a pen as a mock buzzer.

He fell out of the routine around mid-April, though, so a backlog of over 70 episodes had accumulated by the time he was told that his episode would film at the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City, California on July 28.

“I watched over three months’ worth of episodes in two weeks,” Brocketti recalled with a laugh. “So, that was my preparation. Just watch the show and play against the people on TV and try and get better at it.”

In some ways, competing in person was easier than at home, Brocketti says. Unlike on TV, contestants can always see the boards displaying each puzzle and the used letters, and after going through two dress rehearsals, his nervousness evaporated once the real game started.

However, the “flood of information that you have in your brain” made it hard to focus and fully digest the experience, he added.

Brocketti isn’t the first person to represent Fairfax County on “Wheel,” following in the footsteps of a former Chantilly Little League coach who won nearly $123,000. He encourages anyone interested in competing on the show to give it a shot.

“Just try it out, and see what happens,” he said.

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Morning Notes

Lake Audubon from bridge in Reston (photo by Ray Copson)

Reminder: Early Voting Begins — “[It’s] the first day to #voteearly in the congressional #midterms! The 8th, 10th & 11th U.S. House seats are up for election and there are three sites open for #earlyvoting on weekdays” [Office of Elections/Twitter]

Sexual Battery Trial Against Former Teacher Cut Short — “A Fairfax County, Virginia, circuit court judge has dismissed an indictment alleging aggravated sexual battery against a former music teacher who gave lessons to students out of his house. The dismissal came Monday, Sept. 12, in the midst of the jury trial of Roger McKay, according to court records obtained by WTOP.” [WTOP]

Reston Station Developer Talks Silver Line Phase II — “With the remaining Silver Line stations expected to open in the next few months and the Reston Comprehensive Plan Review in the public comment phase, this seemed like a good time to check in with the developer. Comstock’s Chief Operating Officer Tim Steffan agreed to answer a few questions…about the company’s recent acquisition and what it envisions for Reston Station’s future.” [Patch]

FCPS Sued Over Special Education Appeal Hearings — “Fairfax County Public Schools and the Virginia Department of Education have been hit with a federal class-action lawsuit claiming families of disabled children who challenge schools’ decisions about specialized education plans don’t get a fair shake.” [WTOP]

Free Student Bus Pass Program Adds Metrobus — “Fairfax County, City of Fairfax and Fairfax County Public Schools officials celebrated the Metrobus expansion of the free bus program Thursday at George C. Marshall High School…The recent expansion adds free Metrobus access to students at certain high schools.” [Patch]

Metro Safety and Budget Issues Collide — “Financial problems sparked by the pandemic, a prolonged train shortage and questions about the stability of Metro’s tracks converged Thursday as transit leaders said they will look outside the agency to help solve a growing budget gap while assuring the public the rail system is safe.” [The Washington Post]

Hilton Plans Voyage to Space — “[The] McLean hotel giant…said this week it will design astronaut facilities for a private space station called Starlab currently being developed by Denver’s Voyager Space Holdings Inc. and Bethesda’s Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT). Starlab will eventually be one of the replacements of the International Space Station” [Washington Business Journal]

Tysons Library Takes Kids to Spy School 101 — “Join us for a hybrid workshop presented by the International Spy Museum on how to be a spy! The workshop will take place in the library meeting rooms and start with an interactive group activity followed by the virtual presentation.” [Fairfax County Public Library]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 65 and low of 51. Sunrise at 6:59 am and sunset at 7:06 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Get ready to dance at Reston Station on Saturday, October 1 at the first-ever Silent Dance Party!

Reston Community Center and Comstock at Reston Station are partnering to create a dance party like you’ve never heard before — in fact, only each individual dancer will be hearing the music.

Here’s how it works: DJs will spin music that you alone can hear through a headset. The community voted via Facebook in August on the genres of music — from Latin to Hip-Hop, to music from the 1960s to today.

The party will feature the top three styles that voters chose. Dancers can change from one style to another — only they will know what’s on their own personal playlist. To dance, please bring a driver’s license to exchange for the headset.

“It’s hard to say what will be more fun — dancing to music you’ve selected or watching people dance to their music without hearing a sound,” said RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon. “Comstock is excited to host this unique event at the Reston Metro Plaza. It’s fun to try something new and exciting in Reston,” noted Tracy Schar, Comstock’s SVP of Marketing.

The party runs from 5-9 p.m. on October 1 at Reston Metro Plaza (atop the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station).

Admission is free. The party will also feature family-friendly activities for all ages, so bring the kids for this special event.

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

A Fairfax County Office of Elections ballot drop box from 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

In Fairfax County, the battle for control of Congress starts tomorrow (Friday).

The county will open three early voting sites and start mailing out absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 general election, which will decide three seats in the House of Representatives as well as the Town of Herndon’s leadership.

Incumbents Don Beyer (8th Congressional District), Jennifer Wexton (10th CD) and Gerry Connolly (11th CD) are seeking reelection against

Turnout is tough to predict, but early voting and voting by mail “seem to be growing in popularity” after Virginia made both options available to all in 2020, Fairfax County Office of Elections spokesperson Brian Worthy says.

Nearly 70% of registered voters participated in the last midterm elections in 2018, but no individual House race saw a turnout over 37%, according to Worthy. Last November’s election, which anointed Glenn Youngkin as Virginia’s governor, drew a 60.2% turnout.

“Because the Office of Elections always prepare for high turnout, they will be ready to manage turnout greater than the recent gubernatorial election,” Worthy said.

He says the county has filled all of the 2,300 election officer positions needed for Nov. 8, but there is always a demand for bilingual poll workers, especially people who speak both Korean and English.

What’s New This Year

Voters may see different candidates than they anticipate on their ballot, thanks to last year’s redistricting process, which altered federal and state electoral boundaries in Virginia.

Polling sites will stay the same for 96% of voters in the county, but everyone should double check their district through the Virginia Department of Elections before voting in person, Worthy says. There have also been a few precinct changes unrelated to redistricting.

To limit confusion, the county elections office sent every voter a mailer with information about their legislative districts and polling place earlier this year.

“The office will be mailing voters a sample ballot with this same information, and the state is also sending a redistricting mailing to voters,” Worthy said.

In addition, Virginia will now let new voters register and cast a ballot up to and on Election Day. The General Assembly approved the change in 2020, but the law won’t take effect until Oct. 1.

While the new flexibility will be welcome for anyone who misses the Oct. 17 deadline, election officials don’t recommend waiting until the last minute to register. Voters who register Oct. 18 or later will get provisional ballots to allow “additional time to verify” their paperwork, according to WTOP.

Provisional ballots aren’t reviewed until after Election Day, and the state electoral board determines whether each of them can be counted.

“Because same day registration is a new law, the Office of Elections is uncertain of the impact, but they are prepared to manage a large number of same day registrants at early voting sites and polling places on Election Day, as well as to process these registrations,” Worthy said.

How to Vote

Starting tomorrow, in-person voting will be available on weekdays at the Fairfax County, Mount Vernon and North County government centers:

  • Fairfax County Government Center: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • Mount Vernon Governmental Center: 1-7 p.m.
  • North County Governmental Center: 1-7 p.m.

These sites will also operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on three Saturdays (Sept. 24, Oct. 29, and Nov. 5) and from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30.

An additional 13 early voting sites will open on Oct. 27 with the following hours of operation:

  • Weekdays: 1-7 p.m.
  • Two Saturdays (Oct. 29, Nov. 5): 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • One Sunday (Oct. 30): 1-5 p.m.

While Virginia no longer requires photo identification, voters must still present a driver’s license, utility bill, or another government document with their name and address.

Mail ballots must be requested by 5 p.m. on Oct. 28 and returned in person or postmarked by Nov. 8. Drop-off boxes will be available at all early voting sites, with a 24-hour box outside the Fairfax County Government Center.

The Candidates

8th Congressional District

10th Congressional District

11th Congressional District

Herndon residents also have mayoral and town council races to decide. Sample ballots can be found on the county office of elections website.

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This sponsored column is written by the team at Arrowine & Cheese (4508 Cherry Hill Road in Arlington). Sign up for the email newsletter and receive exclusive discounts and offers. Experience Arrowine’s Tastings & Events. Have a question? Email [email protected].

Hello again! So, many of you participated in our cleaning the glass experiment? Shocking, isn’t it?

Now you are on your way to better-tasting, terrior-driven wine. And what do I mean by that?

Well, it’s a little complicated, but I do my best. The only reason to drink wine is for pleasure, period! And that means more than just “it tastes good.” A well-made wine is a companion, a friend, sometimes an antagonist, but always a good conversationalist. So it must speak eloquently of its birthplace. When tasting it, I need to recognize the lineage, that exact spot on the globe.

Unlike our ancestors, drinking wine today is an option, not a necessity. We don’t need wine anymore to survive. Fresh water is abundant, so wine is now optional. We don’t drink wine to live. Instead, we drink fermented beverages because they enhance our culinary experiences and please us.

What gets to me is no one talks about wines’ dirty little secrets. Sometimes, I feel like Frank Serpico; I just dated myself, but I love classic movies, so who cares? It’s a good analogy. When did speaking the truth become a liability? We are talking about wine, not national security. I don’t tolerate lazy, sloppy, or greedy winemakers. If you care, you are vigilant and proactive. We deserve a clean wine that speaks to us.

Today’s wines are cleaner and fresher than we drank forty years ago. And they should be. When you embrace science, you preserve terroir, which means uniqueness. Modern science allows a bottle of wine to reflect the exact spot it came from. So a well-made wine speaks to and talks to you like you have been there.

If a wine doesn’t smell and taste like fermented pure grape juice, meaning “grapey,” you have a problem! Wine is NOT supposed to smell like leather, mushrooms, wet-basement, barnyard, burnt tire, green pepper, bandaid, cloves, nail polish, green peppers, or dirt! But, if it does run, I will expand on the causes of faults in a future column.

There are tricks of the trade that remain “trade secrets,” and that’s a problem. For example, did you know your California Cabernet, Chardonnay, or Zinfandel can be technically sweet? The question I’m most frequently asked is, is it “dry?” Well, that depends, and it’s not as simple a question as you think.

Table wine should be dry unless the cuisine has a note of sweetness, which I’m sad to say is far too prevalent today. A winemaker can leave unfermented sugar in the wine to make it easier to drink — think Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, it was deliberately bottled with a slight but perceptible amount of residual sugar to make it appealing to the masses.

Classic European cooking has little, if any, sweetness. Therefore a dry wine is needed. A New World wine is in order if there is any hint of sweetness. Wines from the New World tend to be higher in alcohol from all the sun. Thus energy the vines receive. In the New World, we plant for “commercial” reasons and ensure success, so we grow grapes where we know they will ripen. If not, over-ripen.

Our ancestors weren’t so lucky. So they planted where they stood and had to figure the rest out. Unless you had well water, you couldn’t be sure the water floating downhill was pure enough to drink. Fermented beverages were necessary for survival, lucky us.

Cheers,
Doug

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

A Fairfax County police cruiser outside Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Fairfax County Police Department is seeking the public’s help identifying suspects in three recent jewelry store robberies, two of which are believed to have been committed by the same people.

The first robbery occurred at the Prince Jewelers in Tysons Corner Center at 2:45 p.m. on Sept. 8, police said in a release last night (Wednesday).

The FCPD says its detectives believe preliminarily that the same men were also behind a Sept. 18 robbery at Fair Oaks Mall, where two men entered Henzley Jewelers at 1:06 p.m. and stole “a number of high-end watches.” The store’s display case was also destroyed, according to police.

“In each case, they used hammers to destroy the display cases and fled the scene in stolen vehicles,” the department said. “The stolen vehicles were found in nearby parking lots. Detectives continue to investigate, including an extensive review of surveillance footage.”

Police are also investigating a robbery of Sonia’s Jewelers & Boutique Inc. (6681 Backlick Road) in Springfield.

According to the FCPD, two men entered the store at 11:50 a.m. on Tuesday (Sept. 20):

The first man was let into the store under the guise of shopping for jewelry. Once inside he presented a handgun and instructed employees to let the second man inside. The two men used hammers to destroy the display cases and fled the scene in a black Lexus SUV with stolen license plates. The stolen vehicle in this case has not been recovered.

No injuries have been reported in any of the incidents. Detectives are still working to determine if all three cases are connected, police say.

Police describe all of the potential suspects as Black men who are about 6 feet in height. Those allegedly involved in the Tysons and Fair Oaks robberies wore gloves and masks.

The FCPD says anyone with information about these incidents or others that may be related can contact its detectives at 703-246-7800, option 3. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone (1-866-411-TIPS) and online.

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Morning Notes

Bicyclists on the W&OD Trail in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

County Needs More Taxing Power, McKay Says — Like other Northern Virginia leaders, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay has long pushed for Virginia to expand local authority, an uphill battle particularly under Gov. Glenn Youngkin. McKay says “he would like the option for the county to levy taxes on personal income or other services to diversify the county’s revenue, which is about 90% dependent on property taxes.” [Axios D.C.]

Democrats Plan Caucus for 35th District Nominee — The Fairfax County Democratic Committee announced yesterday (Wednesday) that it will hold a caucus on Oct. 8 to select its nominee to fill the seat vacated by Mark Keam. Voters in the district, which includes Tysons, Vienna, Dunn Loring and Oakton, will be able to participate at three locations, along with an early voting site at the FCDC headquarters. [Patch]

Tolling on New I-66 Express Lanes Looms — “Tolling and high occupancy vehicle (HOV) rules will begin this Saturday, Sept. 24, on the recently opened western section of 66 Express Lanes. Motorists will be able to use this nine-mile stretch of new Express Lanes from Route 29 in Gainesville to Route 28 in Centreville by paying a toll or can ride toll-free if traveling as an HOV with two or more people and an E-ZPass Flex.” [VDOT]

Man Convicted for Bailey’s Crossroads Drug Overdoses — “A Dumfries, Virginia, man was convicted Wednesday on charges that he caused the overdoses of six people in Fairfax County. One year ago, Michael Vaughn, 28, distributed cocaine laced with fentanyl at a party inside an apartment in the Skyline area of Fairfax County, according to court documents and evidence presented at trial.” [WTOP]

One Injured by Lake Barcroft House Fire — “One person was injured in a house fire Tuesday night in the Lake Barcroft area, according to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue…One resident was taken to the hospital for evaluation. No firefighters were injured…Damages were estimated to be around $25,000.” [Patch]

Herndon Part of Rivana Development for Sale — “Fairfax County’s portion of the gargantuan Rivana at Innovation Station mixed-use development is up for sale, meaning its owners are actively shedding the ‘at Innovation Station’ part of the project’s billing…By prevailing norms, it’s prime, transit-oriented real estate. Which makes it all the more curious that the site’s owners…are seeking to sell it. [Washington Business Journal]

Local Airports Could Add Amazon Checkout Tech — “Amazon.com Inc.’s Just Walk Out retail shopping technology, which allows customers to skip the checkout line using sensors and cameras, appears to have locked down its first third-party users in Greater Washington: Reagan National and Dulles International airports.” Both airports plan to use the tech at planned convenience stores. [WBJ]

Book Sales Galore This Weekend — The Friends of the Reston Regional Library will have over 40,000 items, albeit without kids’ books, at its Big Fall Book Sale, starting today through Sunday (Sept. 25). This weekend will also bring book sales at the Kingstowne and Patrick Henry libraries. [Fairfax County Public Library]

It’s Thursday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 78 and low of 61. Sunrise at 6:58 am and sunset at 7:07 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Pike 7 Plaza in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A woman has been taken to the hospital after she was hit by a vehicle at Pike 7 Plaza in Tysons, police say.

The driver allegedly hit the woman as she was walking in the shopping center’s parking lot, according to the Fairfax County Police Department, which describes her injuries as life-threatening.

Officers are currently on the scene at 8389 Leesburg Pike. The driver remained at the site, police said in a tweet at 2:36 p.m.

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