Morning Notes

Plastic Bag Tax Public Hearing Scheduled — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors authorized a public hearing for 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 14 to gather community input on a proposed five-cent tax on disposable plastic bags. If the ordinance is approved, Fairfax County would be the second locality in Virginia to adopt a bag tax. [Fairfax County Government]

Tysons Partnership Funding Approved — The Board of Supervisors approved $250,000 in Economic Opportunity Reserve funds for the Tysons Partnership, which will use the money to support branding efforts, install a mural on the former Container Store property, and position itself for long-term financial health. The board nominated the organization for up to $1 million in EOR funds in December. [Sun Gazette]

McLean Area Is a Hotspot for Rich Politicians — Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates both call Fairfax County’s most affluent zip codes home, with Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe living in a $1.1 million McLean mansion and Republican Glenn Youngkin boasting a $1.7 million estate in Great Falls. More notably, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich says he moved to McLean because he and his wife saw “an alcoholic” sleeping on the ground in Old Town Alexandria. [The Washington Post]

Vienna Restaurants Up for RAMMYs — The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington tweaked its 2021 RAMMY awards to recognize how the industry adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finalists include Clarity (Outstanding Covid-Safe Redesign), Caboose Brewing Company (Prime Pandemic Patio Scene), and Taco Bamba (Standout Family Meal Packages To-Go). The latter two categories will be open for a public vote from Aug. 2 to Sept. 2. [Patch]

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Morning Notes

Political Anxieties Drive Tensions at McLean Bible Church — “The leaders of McLean Bible, one of the D.C. region’s largest and most high-profile evangelical churches, are facing attempts from its own members to spread disinformation to take control of the church, Pastor David Platt warned the congregation in a sermon earlier this month…Platt said he believes the recent controversy has been a collision of several things, including racial tensions and political tensions.” [The Washington Post]

Vienna to Hold Meeting on Nutley Shared-Use Path — “Property owners were notified Monday about an upcoming meeting to discuss design of the Nutley Street shared-use path and Hunters Branch stream restoration projects. The Town of Vienna’s two projects are in design and focus on the area of Nutley Street south of Maple Avenue. A virtual meeting on both concepts will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4.” [Patch]

Fairhill Elementary Announces New Principal — “Grateful to have been on hand this afternoon when Mr. Cooper was announced as the new principal of @FairhillES. Looking forward to seeing him put his proven track record of success to work at this amazing Blue Ribbon School! #GoTigers” [Karl Frisch/Twitter]

Meet Internet Inventors Vinton Gray Cerf and Robert E. Kahn — “The indisputable inventors of one of the greatest planet-changing instruments of all time live a few minutes apart in McLean and have lived in Northern Virginia for four decades…The impact of the internet on life as we know it is profound and ongoing, but did you know until right now whom to credit — or blame?” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Northrop Grumman Hires Sustainability Chief — Northrop Grumman Corp. has hired Michael Witt as its vice president and chief sustainability officer, effective Aug. 9. Witt was most recently working at Dow, serving in several executive positions. Northrop Grumman didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry seeking comment. [Northrop Grumman]

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A mayor, a governor, and four Racing Presidents stepped onto a baseball diamond, and thus began the 2021 Virginia State Little League Majors Tournament.

Hundreds of young athletes and their families from across the Commonwealth descended on Yeonas Park in Vienna yesterday (Thursday) to kick off the five-day competition to crown a state champion, who will advance to a regional tournament for the chance to potentially play in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 19.

The day mostly consisted of formalities, from a recitation of the Little League pledge to ceremonial first pitches thrown by Gov. Ralph Northam, Town of Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert, and a representative from tournament sponsor Dominion Energy.

But for the players, it was an occasion for socializing and celebrating, a welcome return to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a cancellation of the 2020 Little League season. There was nary a mask in sight, aside from those donned by the catchers behind the plate for the first pitches.

“It’s exciting, especially [since] we get to play here at our home field,” said Tommy Weithman, a third baseman and occasional pitcher for Vienna National, which won the District 4 title last week.

The proceedings began with the 16 teams competing in the tournament lining up in numerical order by district behind the refurbished Cedar Park Shopping Center for a Parade of Champions.

Led by the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department’s antique fire engine, the parade pulled out of the strip mall at 5:40 p.m. and headed down Patrick Street straight to the park, where the teams were greeted by cheering parents as well as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt — the Washington Nationals’ four Racing Presidents mascots.

Once the teams were assembled on the Fred Crabtree Field outfield grass, District 4 Administrator Ellen Witherow introduced Northam, Colbert, and other dignitaries in the audience and acknowledged the many volunteers making the event possible, including the crew of umpires.

A color guard from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, took the field to set the stage for singer DC Washington, who belted “The Star-Spangled Banner” with the same commitment that has made him a mainstay at Nationals Park.

Northam and Colbert’s first pitches both went high, though the mayor got hers close enough to the strike zone for the catcher to snag it.

While cases have started to climb again in Virginia and the U.S. as a whole, Northam described the Little League tournament as a heartening milestone in the state’s efforts to curb the novel coronavirus’ spread and vaccinate residents. It is easily the largest event to come to the Town of Vienna since the pandemic hit in March 2020.

“People have done the right thing in Virginia,” Northam said. “We’re getting people vaccinated and getting people out and about, so it’s really an exciting night, and I know it’s exciting for these players and their families.”

Vienna National center fielder Credan Reasons, who also does some pitching and first base, says not being able to play last year was “a real big bummer,” so it has been a joy to reunite with his teammates, many of whom carried over from the team that won the District 4 championship in 2019.

He attributes Vienna National’s continued success to the fact that all of the players get along with each other, adding that “it’s an honor” to be able to host the tournament, something Vienna last did in 2004.

“It’s going to be really fun playing in front of a lot of people and playing in my town, just like I said,” Credan said. “…I love baseball, and I love playing, especially here in front of this many people. It’s just going to be fun.”

Now that the ceremonial portion of the tournament is over, Vienna National pitcher Andreas Millradt is eager to take the mound and show off the skills that he has been honing since he was 6. He struck out 12 in a 59-pitch perfect game for this year’s District 4 semifinals, the Sun Gazette reported.

“[My approach is] really just do my best and rally my teammates, because together, we can do anything,” Andreas said.

The tournment’s first game started today (Friday) at 9 a.m., and the final game for the state championship will begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday (July 27). The full game schedule can be found on the District 4 Little League website.

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Morning Notes

Governor to Throw First Pitch for Little League Tournament — The 2021 Virginia State Little League Majors Tournament kicks off at 5:30 p.m. today in Vienna with a Parade of Champions led by the Washington Nationals Racing Presidents. Opening ceremonies begin at 6:15 p.m. at Yeonas Park with Gov. Ralph Northam and Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert throwing out the first pitch. [Town of Vienna/Facebook]

Idylwood Substation Timeline Extension Supported — A State Corporation Commission hearing examiner recommended approval of Dominion Energy’s request to extend the timeline for construction on its Idylwood substation until Dec. 31, 2026. The project has frustrated residents, but Holly Crest Community Association President Lori Jeffrey expressed hope when contacted by Tysons Reporter that requiring the utility company to file quarterly construction status updates will bring some degree of accountability and prevent a repeat of this past spring. [SCC]

Merger Floated for Tysons Company — Tysons-headquartered Cvent, a private event-management company with around 4,000 employees, will merge with Dragoneer Growth Opportunities Corp. II and become publicly traded, according to The Wall Street Journal. “The company isn’t commenting on WSJ speculation at this time,” spokesperson Nevin Reilly told Tysons Reporter. [WSJ]

Police Department Adds First Data Director — “Fairfax County Chief of Police Kevin Davis has hired Dr. Noah Fritz as the Department’s new Director of Crime Control Strategies & Data Analytics. Dr. Fritz will be a key contributor to Davis’ data-driven strategy, which aims to guide FCPD’s approach to fair and effective policing through the collection, analysis and sharing of statistical information.” [FCPD]

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The third Wednesday of July has arrived, and that means it is officially National Hot Dog Day.

Once again, Vienna Inn will celebrate the occasion by offering a slight discount on its signature hot dogs. Starting at 10 a.m. today, customers can buy a hot dog for $2, and chili dogs are also available at an additional cost.

The typical price of a hot dog from the longstanding Vienna restaurant ranges from $2.45 to $2.75, depending on whether it’s served with cheese, chili, onions, and other toppings.

“We have customers stop in from all over the country to try one of our dogs,” Vienna Inn owner Marty Volk said in a press release that says the restaurant still serves more than 10,000 hot dogs a month even with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

National Hot Dog Day is an annual event cooked up by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, a trade organization established by the American Meat Institute, but the promotion carries a bit more weight this year for small businesses like Vienna Inn that could use the boost after over a year of navigating the pandemic.

At this time last year, Vienna Inn was only able to provide a limited amount of indoor seating, relying instead on contact-free curbside pickups and outdoor dining under a newly installed tent in its parking lot at 120 Maple Avenue E.

Dubbed the Outside Inn, the tent accommodates over 60 diners and has been outfitted with large-screen televisions to replicate the sports bar experience that’s as much a part of the establishment’s appeal as its chili dogs and wood-paneled furnishings.

Volk says the addition of the outdoor tent has been critical for getting Vienna Inn through the past year.

The tent was made possible by an emergency ordinance that the Town of Vienna has had in place since June 2020, allowing commercial activities on sidewalks and in parking lots due to COVID-19 health concerns. The ordinance has been extended five times, most recently on June 7, and is now scheduled to expire on Dec. 7.

“The last year was a challenge,” Volk said by email. “Without the addition of the Outside Inn (our tent which allowed for outdoor dining) and the loyalty of our customers who raised money to buy meals for first responders and hospital workers and found any excuse to order take-out, we may not be here today.”

Earlier this year, Vienna Inn commemorated its 61st anniversary with celebrity guest hot dog tenders and a challenge to customers to purchase 1,960 meals for first responders and other front-line workers by the end of February. The restaurant exceeded its goal by selling 2,176 meals that month, according to its website.

Vienna Inn says it has seen “a large increase” in dine-in customers since Virginia lifted all capacity and social distancing restrictions on May 28.

The restaurant is now preparing for an influx of new faces with the Virginia State Little League Majors Little League Tournament rolling into town tomorrow (Thursday).

“It’s been nice getting back to somewhat normal,” Volk said. “Seeing familiar faces, sports teams and families back in the restaurant has been a great feeling.”

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Vienna National, winners of the District 4 tournament, will play in the Virginia State tournament. (via Vienna Little League/Facebook)

The Town of Vienna is about to become the center of Virginia’s Little League baseball world.

For the first time since 2004, Vienna Little League will host the Virginia State Majors Little League tournament, which will take place at Yeonas Park (1319 Ross Drive SW) from July 23-27.

VLL is working with the Town of Vienna and other partners to put on a parade, opening ceremonies, and lots of games to determine a state champion who will represent Virginia in the U.S. Southeast regional tournament, all leading up to the Little League Baseball World Series on Aug. 19.

Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert says getting to host the state championship tournament is “a real honor” not just for local players, but for the town as a whole.

“Our Vienna Little League has been hard at work for months organizing what I’m sure will be a class A event, and our town’s business community is sure to benefit, too, as it welcomes players, coaches and families,” Colbert said. “Vienna has many good family-friendly restaurants and businesses that are perfect for traveling families. I am looking forward to attending opening day and to watch our state’s exceptional teams compete.”

The tournament will feature 16 teams from around the state with Vienna National representing the Town of Vienna and District 4 after winning the district’s under-12 championship last week. The event is expected to bring 800 to 1,000 people from across the state, according to VLL.

The festivities will kick off this Thursday (July 22) with teams checking in, a Parade of Champions at 5:30 p.m., and opening ceremonies at 6:15 p.m.. Games will be Friday through next Tuesday with the champions being crowned on Tuesday (July 27) at 10 a.m.

“We are having a parade of champions prior to the opening ceremony,” VLL Board Member Lynn Jacquez said. “The teams will parade down Patrick Street, from the Cedar Shopping Center to Yeonas Park, where they will be greeted by the four Nationals Racing Presidents as they enter the park. And we’d love to have our neighbors and town citizens line the streets to applaud.”

The tournament is free for spectators and open to the public. There are sponsorship opportunities for businesses that want to support the event.

Community members can also participate as a Vienna ambassador, helping visiting teams find restaurants or things to do in town during their downtime. Anyone interested in being an ambassador can contact Vienna Little League at [email protected].

“Volunteer resource and support resources in the town of Vienna and then the Town of Vienna [government] itself is just an unbelievable youth sports supporter and someone that we can rely on and are relying on,” Jacquez said. “The fire department, the city staff, the police department, everybody is just stepping up, and wholeheartedly. And that’s Vienna, right? We are the town of champions!”

The baseball gods have looked favorably on Vienna this year.

In addition to Vienna National winning the Little League District 4 championship, James Madison High School’s baseball team earned its first state title since 2015 in June on a stellar outing by James Triantos, who was drafted 56th overall by the Chicago Cubs on July 12.

Photo via Vienna Little League/Facebook

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A crowd on the lawn at Wolf Trap National Park’s Filene Center (via Wolf Trap/Facebook)

The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Monday (July 19)

  • Town of Vienna Offices Closed — The Town of Vienna government offices are closed today, but regular waste pick-up will take place as scheduled.

Tuesday (July 20)

  • Inez Barlatier at Wolf Trap— 11 a.m. at the Filene Center (1551 Trap Road) — Inez Barlatier will perform “Ayiti: Stories and Songs from Haiti,” a show geared towards children. The show will tell the stories and folktales of Haitian culture. Tickets will be sold in socially distanced pods for two to eight people with no single tickets available. Questions can be directed to Wolf Trap’s patron services at 703-255-1868 or [email protected].
  • Horse Show at Frying Pan Farm Park — 4 p.m. at Frying Pan Farm Park (2739 West Ox Road) — Come participate in a horse show! There are fees to participate, which differ if you are riding in dressage or hunter horse shows. Check out the registration form for more details!

Wednesday (July 21)

  • Oran Etkin: Timbalooloo at Wolf Trap — 11 a.m. at the Filene Center — Award-winning clarinetist Oran Etkin travels the globe to make new instrument friends and share a message of friendship and understanding. This event is suggested for ages 2 to 10.
  • Amos Lee at Wolf Trap — 8 p.m. at the Filene Center — Join singer-songwriter Amos Lee for a special solo evening that “knows no musical limits.” This event will take place on Wednesday and Thursday.

Thursday (July 22)

Friday (July 23)

Saturday (July 24)

  • Dan + Claudia Zanes with Friends at Wolf Trap — 11 a.m. at the Filene Center — Grammy award-winning artist Dan Zanes and jazz vocalist and music therapist Claudia Zanes will perform a mix of songs including some of Dan’s new songs. This is an interactive show and the audience is invited to dance and sing along.
  • Chris Thile at Wolf Trap — 8 p.m. at Filene Center — Grammy Award-winning mandolinist and singer-songwriter Chris Thile will dazzle the Wolf Trap audience with his distinct American sound for two nights, Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday (July 25)

  • Summer Sunday Concert — 5 p.m. at McLean Central Park gazebo (1468 Dolley Madison Blvd.) — Next up in McLean’s Summer Concert Series is Nashville Girls Night Out. Dynamic vocalist Jenny Leigh Miller will perform some county hits!

Photo via Wolf Trap/Facebook

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Vienna has hosted many tenants at 175 Maple Avenue East over the years, from a gelato shop to a Persian rug store and America’s arch support experts, but the southwestern corner of Maple Avenue and Park Street hasn’t seen anything quite like Lily’s Chocolate & Coffee.

The cafe, which held its grand opening this past Saturday (July 10), purports to be the first in the U.S. to specialize in lokma, a fried dough pastry popular in the Middle East and Mediterranean.

Owner Saifalden Alobaidi and his sister Lily Alobaidi wanted to share a taste of their native Iraq with their adopted home, but knowing that many potential customers might not be familiar with the treat, they decided to add their own touch, substituting the traditional honey or date syrup coating with a drizzle of chocolate.

“It’s a family-owned business,” Saifalden told Tysons Reporter. “We’re just trying to bring our culture from back home, from Iraq, introduce it to the community here…and make a friendly place, so people can come to a different vibe, a different coffee shop style than normal.”

The lokma, which can be filled with peanut butter or nutella, isn’t the only thing that distinguishes the Town of Vienna’s newest eatery, which operates from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

In fact, just about everything in Lily’s Chocolate has been specially designed, from the cardamom-spiced hot tea and Belgium-imported chocolate to the mousse, cakes, and other bakery-style desserts that Lily makes herself each day.

The coffee is a blend of Guatemalan and Brazilian beans that the Alobaidis developed through “a lot of coffee tasting,” Saifalden says. The beans are roasted by Grace Street Coffee in Georgetown, which has formed a partnership with Lily’s Chocolate.

Even the cafe’s tables, chairs, lighting fixtures, and other furnishings were custom-made by Saifalden, who also works as a civil engineer and owns a construction business. This is his first venture into the food service world.

“We’re trying to be unique so it’s not repetitive,” Saifalden said. “Even the coffee taste we have, the pastry we sell, the style of the place, we’re trying to be different than what’s in the market.”

The Alobaidis immigrated from Iraq to the U.S. — specifically to Arizona — in 2009, according to Saifalden, who obtained a master’s degree in engineering management from the University of Arizona before entering construction work.

After traveling from state to state for a while, he moved to McLean in 2016, and he and Lily came up with the idea for a lokma shop, signing a lease for the Maple Avenue spot in October 2020.

Though he now lives in Reston, Saifalden says he loves the Town of Vienna for its family-friendly atmosphere and an increasingly diverse population that embraces different cuisines and cultures. The town’s central location within Fairfax County and efforts to support small businesses heightened its attractiveness.

Getting Lily’s Chocolate off the ground was not without its challenges, though, as the COVID-19 pandemic delayed shipments and prolonged the licensing process and other preparations.

Saifalden also allows that he has gotten a few comments about the availability of parking at the site, which is prominently but awkwardly situated at the intersection of two busy streets with little room for drivers to manuever into or out of spaces without blocking traffic.

The building does have additional parking in the back, and he says the cafe is working to put up a sign to make that clearer to passersby. He also anticipates getting reliable foot traffic, including from pedestrians and bicyclists coming into town on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

According to Saifalden, Lily’s Chocolate drew over 300 people between 6 and 9 p.m. for its grand opening, which offered free pastries, tea, and coffee. The cafe has also gotten some social media buzz, thanks in part to the popular Vienna VA Foodies Facebook group.

Expansion plans are already taking shape. A friend has expressed interest in starting a franchise in Georgia, and the Alobaidis are looking at a possible location in Georgetown to complement their partnership with Grace Street Coffee.

“We’ve been getting a lot of feedback from people about the place, the design, the location, the scene, the quality of the coffee, the pastry or the lokma that we are serving, and a lot of reviews on Facebook, on Instagram as well,” Saifalden said. “We appreciate everybody’s business here.”

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Morning Notes

Metro Extends Service Hours This Weekend — Starting Sunday (July 18), Metro will provide rail service until midnight for the first time since operating hours were reduced at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The transit agency approved a package of fare reductions and service improvements in June aimed at attracting riders as more offices are set to reopen in the fall. [The Washington Post]

Freedom Hill Park to Recognize Historic Carter Family — As part of an interpretive history project, the Fairfax County Park Authority is inviting the public to a traditional land ceremony and sign dedication at Freedom Hill Park in Vienna on July 31. The new signs will tell the story of the multiracial Carter family, whose accomplishments include establishing the First Baptist Church of Vienna and possibly spying for the Union during the Civil War. [FCPA]

Fairfax County School Board Elects New Chair — The school board unanimously approved Sully District representative Stella Pekarsky as its new chair for the 2021-2022 school year. Board members thanked Mason District representative Ricardy Anderson for her time as chair amid the pandemic and noted she will get some much-deserved time with her family. [FCPS]

Food Trucks Stop by Providence Community Center — “Come by the Providence Community Center tomorrow [July 16] from 11am to 1:30pm for some freshly made empanadas by @empanadasdemza! This will make for a great snack over the weekend so make sure you grab some extra to share with your friends and families!” [Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Twitter]

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The Town of Vienna is receiving a huge tranche of money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), but it’s still unclear where that funding is going.

The Vienna Town Council formally accepted $8.5 million in ARPA funding this year on Monday (July 12). The town is expected to get an identical amount in funding next year.

Marion Serfass, the town’s director of finance, told Tysons Reporter that Vienna staff will be working over the next few months to gather public input to help determine where that funding would be best utilized.

The town will hold a public hearing on Aug. 30 to collect feedback on what issues locals would like to see that funding put toward, and the town council will have a conference on Sept. 20 to pin down a definitive list of where the $8.5 million is going.

Serfass told the town council on Monday that the advice she has received in conferences about the funding is to “take your time, be deliberate, and look at transforming projects.”

Serfass said her office is currently working with the town attorney to pin down what is or isn’t eligible for ARPA funding. The town could also get ideas, she said, for how to proceed from watching where other localities spend their ARPA funds.

Nearby, Alexandria received $29.8 million in its first tranche. The city spent the most — $4 million — on rental assistance and other emergency assistance programs. $3.7 million went to stormwater repairs and $3 million to a pilot program to guarantee a minimum income for city residents.

Looking long-term, Serfass told the town council that there’s no set deadline to spend the funding, giving Vienna room to invest in longer-term programs without putting next year’s tranche of funding at risk.

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