WOODBRIDGE, Va. — We’re not sure if New Year’s Day will be warm or if you’ll need to bundle up, but all 35 Virginia State Parks — including Leesylvania State Park in Woodbridge — will offer special hiking programs.
More in a press release from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation:
Virginia State Parks, managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, will offer special hiking opportunities in all 35 state parks on New Year’s Day as part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes initiative.
On Jan. 1, 2012, more than 14,000 people hiked more than 30,000 miles in state parks across the country. In Virginia, 3,708 people hiked 5,583 miles during First Day Hikes.
“We are excited to host First Day Hikes as part of this national effort to get people outdoors and into our parks,” said State Parks Director Joe Elton. “First Day Hikes are a great way to cure cabin fever and burn off those extra holiday calories by starting off the New Year with an invigorating walk or hike in one of our beautiful state parks.
“All Virginia State Parks will offer guided hikes led by rangers and volunteers as well as self-guided hikes that allow participants to set their own pace and explore new trails,” Elton said. “Some parks offer scavenger hunts, and others have refreshments.” For a complete list of Virginia State Park hikes, visit this website.
Hikers are encouraged to bring cameras and share their photos using social media sites. A weekend cabin stay will be awarded for every 200 photographs entered. Winning photos will be determined by the most votes on Facebook. For more information on the contest, visit this website.
Represented by regional board members of the National Association of State Park Directors, America’s State Parks is an alliance of state park systems in all 50 states working to strengthen the importance of more than 6,000 state parks across the nation.
For more information about Virginia State Parks activities and amenities or to make a reservation for one of the more than 1,800 campsites or 300 climate-controlled cabins, call the Virginia State Parks Reservation Center at 800-933-PARK or visit virginiastateparks.gov.
DUMFRIES, Va. – The procession began at Town Hall and ended at the Dumfries Shopping Center where holiday revelers gathered for a block party.
The annual Dumfries Christmas Parade was held Saturday under the theme “Christmas Past, Present, and Future,” and hundreds of people lined U.S. 1 to see the marching bands, floats, classic cars, and Santa Claus himself.
More than 70 organizations marched in the parade which was lead by a town crier, a U.S. Marine Corps marching band, and several area elected officials to include Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Fairfax, Prince William), Delegate Luke Torian (D-Dumfries), Prince William Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, Dumfries Mayor Jerry Foreman, as well as members of the Town Council.
At Dumfries Shopping Center, marchers and parade viewers gathered for a DJ, singing by the “Dumfries Has Talent” runner up-Ms. Teriyaki Jefferson, a Zumbatomic demo, plenty of dancing, Town Council, announcement of winners, and photos with Santa.
“It’s always a challenge to get on Santa’s schedule, but to have him take time during his busiest time of year to: ride in a 55’ Chevy to the Town’s Christmas Tree Lighting, then to ride on a fire truck in Town’s parade a week later-and dance with our youngest citizens is truly special to us,” said Dumfries Community Services Director Cydny Neville, who organized this year’s parade. “It was a pleasure to see all of the children dancing, smiling, hearing their laughter…having a great time! This event really pulled the community together and you could feel a sense of pride in the community. The Dumfries Pride was palpable!”
Below is a list of all the winners from the judging competition:
1st-Freedom HS “Soul Squad”
2nd-Pride of the Potomac Marching Panthers
1st-Fraternidad Tinkus Surkay
3rd-Graham Park Middle School Dance Team
1st-Dumfries Animal Hospital
1st-Graham Park Middle School “Unique” Step Team
1st-Graham Park MS Cheerleaders
2nd-Potomac Middle School Cheerleaders
Vehicle Group/Motorized Unit:
2nd-Bull Run Street Rods
3rd-Top Flight Corvette Club
1st-All That & Jazz
3rd-Edge Party Trailer
1st-Dale City Top Teens of America
2nd-Girl Scouts Troop #1789
3rd-Girl Scouts Troop #3411
1st-Dumfries Triangle Rescue Squad
2nd-American Red Cross
1st-Forest Park High School JROTC
1st-American Legion Riders
2nd-Buffalo Soldiers of NOVA
3rd-Manassas Honda Rider’s Club
3rd-Two Guys Antiques
*Groups who did not pick up their awards on Saturday are encouraged to contact the Director of Community Services to make arrangements to pick them email@example.com.
Nearly 70 years after he earned it, an 88-year-old World War II veteran finally received his Bronze Star for Heroism at a ceremony in Congressman Gerry Connolly’s district office in Fairfax County on Friday.
Washington native and current Prince William County resident John “Jack” Faulconer Jr. was an 18-year-old infantryman assigned to a machine gun squad in Patton’s 3rd Army when he landed on Omaha Beach a few weeks after D-Day in 1944. Subsequently, he was severely wounded in a battle that killed two of his squad members.
Sixty-eight years after he earned the medal, Connolly and his staff worked with the Department of the Army to ascertain that Faulconer was eligible to receive the honor. Then-Private Faulconer also was awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries incurred in battle.
Faulconer was joined by his Joyce, his wife of 65 years, and one of his sons at the Friday ceremony in Connolly’s District Office at 4115 Annandale Road, Suite 103, Annandale, VA. Faulconer met his wife, a fellow World War II veteran who served in a Navy intelligence unit, while he was recuperating from his injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Congressman Connolly and the Faulconers were joined by two military officers: Col. Jerry Blixt, former Commander of Fort Belvoir; and 1st Lt. Joe Weeren, a member of Connolly’s staff who is an Iraq War veteran and an officer in the Virginia National Guard. Weeren handles veterans’ matters for Connolly. The Faulconer’s adult son also attended.
“It is an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to recognize the service and bravery of Jack Faulconer by presenting him with his Bronze Star,” Connolly said. “He certainly earned it.”
Ironically, Faulconer will receive his Bronze Star 72 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
More on Faulconer:
-Private John Faulconer was 18 years old when he arrived in France at Omaha Beach a few weeks after the invasion. Jack as he’s preferred to be called was an infantryman assigned to a machine gun squad in Patton’s 3rd Army. Jack participated in the Battle of Metz along the border of France and Germany.
-After surviving the battle of Metz, Jack and Patton’s 3rd Army advanced closer to the German border at the Saar Valley. According to Jack while advancing up a hill the Germans were defending, his machine gun squad was advancing under heavy artillery and small arms fire. Two members of his squad were killed. Jack was hit in his left arm and knocked to the ground, after realizing he was alone, behind enemy lines, and his arm severely wounded he waited for nightfall. After nightfall set in Jack crawled out of his position and began walking, staying low to the ground hoping to find fellow Americans.
-After some time he finally found fellow Americans and was able to get put on a stretcher and transferred to the battalion aid station. Jack was treated by doctors who hoped they could save his arm from amputation. After many surgeries the doctors were able to save his arm and Jack was transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.
-Jack spent many months recuperating at Walter Reed; however while attending a dance at Walter Reed he met his future wife Joyce a fellow World War II veteran serving in a Navy Intelligence Unit.
-After the war Jack and his wife Joyce lived in Springfield, VA for 38 years before moving to the Heritage Hunt Retirement Community in Gainesville, VA. Jack and Joyce have been married for 65 years and have two wonderful children and seven grandchildren.
-Jack had read that he potentially was eligible for a Bronze Star but unaware how to determine if he was eligible for the medal. He then reached out to his Congressman Gerry Connolly. What started out as a simple question turned into some extensive research by Congressman Connolly’s aide Joe Weeren, who also served as an infantryman in the Iraq War and is currently an officer in the Virginia National Guard. Joe was able to find out that Faulconer was awarded the Bronze Star, but never received it.
-Congressman Connolly submitted an inquiry to the Department of the Army regarding Faulconer’s Bronze Star Medal and the Army quickly determined that Jack was eligible for the Bronze Star Medal.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – Prince William has once again been recognized as one of the best 100 communities in the nation for young people.
America’s Promise Alliance named the growing county of 410,000 people one of the best for the third year in a row. The distinction was given to communities in 42 states, and many more were reviewed.
A celebration was held at the Prince William County Public Schools Edward Kelly Leadership Center on Friday morning where breakfast was served and several elected officials spoke.
More in a press release from the county school system:
The recognition is testament to the collaborative efforts of county parks, schools, and private sector organizations and individuals to promote positive experiences that influence the choices young people make. Among the Prince William County initiatives noted are student leadership and community service programs and school safety initiatives to combat bullying.
More than 56 percent of the local budget is allocated for schools, and an additional 10 percent is used to support youth programs. Programs such as Beat the Odds and Learn and Serve encourage students to take on leadership positions, which allow them to interact with adult mentors. Since its inception, Beat the Odds has provided more than $100,000 for youth-focused programs. The county’s Parents as Educational Partners outreach program helps empower parents to become their children’s biggest advocates; it has also improved English language skills and education among program participants. Today, Prince William County Public Schools graduates 88 percent of its students, well above the national average.
With the distinction comes a $2,500 grant that goes to fund signage that designates the county as an award winner, and to cover the cost of Friday morning’s celebration.
The judges for the competition evaluated criteria such as healthy and successful children, community safety, and how the community has worked together to overcome challenges.
LORTON, Va. – Art will be on display at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton on Saturday offering visitors a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
The center’s “2nd Saturday Art Walk” is held on the second Saturday of each month. They are free events designed to allow visitors to tour the arts campus and meet individual artists showcasing their work, purchase locally-produced art, and to tour the facility that has become a destination point in our community.
This month, several holiday-themed attractions will be featured at the Workhouse including “Tiny Treasures: Artful Gifts Galore” in the center’s W-4 Gallery, and a holiday showcase and opening reception that which will feature a collection from artists from the glasshouse in the W-7 studio.
A full listing of the evening’s events is below:
“Tiny Treasures: Artful Gifts Galore!” Studio 4 Group Show Opening Reception in W-4
“Fly With Me” Artist Songmi Park Solo Exhibition
Opening Reception in W-5 “Stripes Reinterpreted” Artist Ann Liddle Solo Exhibition Opening Reception in W-6
Holiday Showcase Glasshouse Group Show On display in W-7
A recurring exhibit of functional and sculptural works by Ceramic Resident Artists On display in W-8
“Building 10 Christmas Show” Studio 10 Group Show
Opening Reception in W-10 Associate Artist Exhibition with featured artist Lesley Clarke
Opening Reception in the Vulcan Gallery Artist Demonstration by Associate Artist Lorrie Herman in the Vulcan Gallery
Experimental music artists from Sonic Circuits will be performing on campus:
Blue Sausage Infant
The Art Walk begins at 6 p.m. Parking is free.
GAINESVILLE, Va. – A Prince William County Supervisor Peter Candland has called attention to the state of sports fields in Prince William County. He says some leagues are turned away from using sports facilities because there isn’t enough room for them to play.
More in a press release from Candland:
Supervisor Pete Candland hosted a town hall meeting last week featuring a panel discussion focusing on improving the sports leagues in Western Prince William County. The panel discussion involved representatives from the county Department of Parks and Recreation as well as leaders of sports leagues in the county.
“As a former high school basketball referee and father of children active in local sports, I know firsthand the value of athletics for our youth,” said Candland. “Our sports leagues in the county are growing every year, and it’s important that we keep up with the demands. Unfortunately, there are instances where leagues must turn away children because there isn’t enough capacity. This is why I felt it was important to bring together some of the main stakeholders to have an open and honest discussion about the future of sports in the Gainesville District and all of Prince William County.”
With over 80 people in attendance, much of the discussion focused on the allocation of county and school owned fields and gymnasiums for use by the sports leagues and improving the communication between leagues and county officials. As the population continues to grow and more children participate in athletics, it is critical that the county finds ways to improve the accessibility of our youth to sports programs.
Candland added, “While we may not have reached an ultimate solution tonight, I feel that we accomplished a major step in bringing everyone together to have a meaningful discussion. There were many opinions and ideas shared, and the next step forward is to work together to ensure that our children are not turned away from opportunities to participate in athletics. I’m fully committed in reaching this goal.”
Students, staff, and faculty at areas schools will be ready for a long winter’s retreat when the holidays roll around. Here’s a look at winter break schedules for schools systems in the area.
Prince William County
Schools will be closed for winter break for students and teachers Monday, December 24–Tuesday, January 1 and will reopen on January 2 on a regular schedule. Friday, December 21 is a full day for students and all Division personnel.
All School Division offices will be closed on Monday and Tuesday, December 24 and 25. School Division offices will be closed on Tuesday, January 1.
Schools will close Monday, Dec. 24 through Tuesday, Jan. 1, and will reopen Wednesday, Jan. 2.
Friday, Dec. 21, is a regular day of instruction for Stafford County students.
Winter break for Manassas students, teachers, and staff begins Monday, Dec. 24, and will run through Tuesday, Jan. 1. Students will return to class Jan. 2.
Winter break begins for students, staff, and faculty in on Monday, Dec. 24 in Manassas Park. The break runs through Tuesday Jan. 1, 2013. Classes resume Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013.
By MARY DAVIDSON
STAFFORD, Va. – For the first time, Stafford County officials lit the county’s Christmas Tree.
The ceremony for the illumination took place in front of the county’s courthouse in Stafford. Santa and Mrs. Claus were in attendance, and so were many residents who came to share in the holiday cheer.
By JOCELYN DAVIDSON KISER
NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – A guy known for carrying a possum on his shoulder will be in North Stafford to sign copies of his children’s books.
A Possum’s Christmas tale follows the possum “Opie” as he begins an adventure in search of the meaning of Christmas.
Long is a faculty member at George Mason University and was nominated for the Northern Virginia Community College Alumni Federation Faculty of the Year Award. He currently lives in Virginia, according to his website.
Bella Café is located at 3871 Jefferson Davis Highway in North Stafford.
MANASSAS, Va. – Retired Prince William County Police Chief Charlie T. Deane got a proper send off this past weekend.
A private party for the chief was held at Flightworks at Manassas Regional Airport on Saturday night. It was paid for and attended by private citizens, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.
Deane was a founding member of the Prince William County Police Department and served as it’s chief for 24 years – one of the longest serving police chiefs in the nation.
He officially retired from the force Sept. 1. His going away party was held this past weekend because there wasn’t enough time to plan a party between the time Deane announced his retirement Aug. 1 and his official last day, said Perok.
Deane is credited for overseeing and assisting in several high-profile police investigations, including the Washington, D.C. sniper case in 2002 and the East Coast Rapist case in 2009.
STAFFORD, Va. – If you take a short trip down Spring Lake Drive in Stafford, you’re in for a long holiday lights show.
The house at 79 Spring Lake Drive is once again lit up for the holidays. And if you tune your car radio to 95.1 FM you’ll be able to listen to the Christmas music that accompanies these dancing lights.
Homeowner Randy Shumate begins setting up the light show in October. He says it’s a labor of love that he does for the neighborhood each year.
New for 2012 is a large sign with “Merry Christmas” lit up on the roof of the house. Shumate said what started out as a small project has grown into a family holiday tradition.
Neighbors were invited to his house to see the light show Saturday night where they were greeted with hot drinks, snacks, and camaraderie. The evening light show will run through Jan. 1.
DALE CITY, Va. – There is an increased need in our area this season to provide a bit of Christmas cheer for some needy children in Prince William County.
The area’s Un-Trim A Tree holiday gift giving program has seen a 24-percent increase in the number of children who need gifts this year. The program has over 5,000 children “adopted” or identified as needing gifts this year. For about 2,400 of the youngsters, Un-Trim A Tree organizer Mary Foley doesn’t know where the gifts will come from.
“This program is just about a little cheer for a kid- it’s a toy or new winter coat or fun stuff for a kid at Christmas,” she said.
The children who benefit from this program live in Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park. Thought family income levels vary, many of the children come from low-income families in the Dale City and Woodbridge areas and quality for free school lunch.
Foley says residents can help a child this year by contacting the program and adopting a child. Some adopters like to find out exactly what the child would like and then go out and shop for it, while others make gifts of cash or gift cards which are just as welcome.
“I have families with one child and I have families with 8 children. I can provide whatever your little heart desires,” said Foley to those considering adopting a child enrolled in the gift program.
Donations for Un-Trim A Tree can also be dropped off at IKEA Woodbridge at Potomac Mills mall.
The Un-Trim A Tree program is 25-years-old and is managed by Volunteer Prince William.
DUMFRIES, Va. – The holidays will light up this weekend in Dumfries.
This Saturday, residents will gather at Town Hall for the lighting of the Dumfries Christmas Tree – an event that hasn’t happened in this small town in many years.
The ceremony starts at 5 p.m. when the community will be invited to come and decorate the Christmas Tree in Garrison Park behind Town Hall – where all of the town’s festivals have taken place this year. Children are invited to go to the town website to print an ornament that they can color and then hang on the treat. Those who are not children but still have the Christmas spirit are encouraged to bring their own ornaments to contribute to the community tree.
“I used to teach, so the whole idea for the ornaments came from wanting to get as many people as possible involved in what we are doing,” said Dumfries Director of Community Services Cyndy Neville.
A large crowed of people are expected at the tree lighting ceremony. Those who come will hear the Quantico Saxophone Quartet play holiday songs, and Dumfries Has Talent competition winners Samantha Dimitria, Teriyaki Jefferson, and Dumfries’ singing police officer Brian Fields belting out Christmas carols.
Members of the Town Council will read holiday stories, and the man of the hour- Santa Claus – will arrive at the gathering in a 1955 Chevrolet, said Neville.
Carolers are welcome at the tree all season long. Any groups who want to carol are encouraged to contact Dumfries’ office of Community Services.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – Police and Santa will take some special children shopping and to breakfast this year.
On two Saturday’s next month, Dec. 8 and Dec. 15, the Santa Cops program returns as Prince William police, officers at the county’s Adult Detention Center, Virginia State Police, and police from Manassas, Manassas Park, and Haymarket will treat 100 children to shopping and breakfast.
In years past, a Walmart store in Woodbridge has been one of the stops on the Santa Cops program.
More now in a press release:
Battlefield Lodge 43a is looking for any donations, regardless how small to help make this mission a success. It is your one chance this year to do something good and make a child’s Christmas special. These children come from all walks of life and differing circumstances, but all are faced with financial limitations in their homes.
Our mission is to promote a positive law enforcement image with these children. Children need to experience officers as caring people who are willing to provide positive support. In supporting this project, we hope that we can make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable young people. Improving the connections between responsible adults and young people is the core element of effective crime prevention and deterring negative, delinquent behaviors and encouraging achievement. It helps leave a lasting impression of law enforcement with kids who sometimes don’t see us in a positive way. Remember: youth may make up 25 percent of society, but they make up 100 percent of the future!
Donations may be made out to the Battlefield Lodge #43 Charitable Organization and mailed to the Fraternal Order of Police, Battlefield Lodge #43, P.O. Box 195, Woodbridge, VA 22194. All donations are tax deductible.
We warmed you. Virginia Railway Express warned you. And now we know that VRE’s Santa Train Tickets sold online starting at 9 a.m. sold out in just four minutes.
That’s 3,605 tickets to ride special trains on the commuter railroad’s Fredericksburg and Manassas lines where Santa will be on board Dec. 8.
This is a popular event each year and tickets always sell out fast.
VRE spokesman Mark Roeber said it’s a possibility that individual vendors have a few tickets left for the Santa Trains, but they don’t yet know which ones have them.
The Santa Trains are used to raise awareness for rail safety and Project Lifesaver.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – Two community organizations in Prince William County are selling fruit for the holidays.
First, the Dale City Lions Club has set up a produce stand in Woodbridge. Here’s a press release from the Dale City Lions Club:
Don’t want to gain weight this season? Keep plenty of fruit on hand to eat.
These guys have a whole truck full!
Come to the 1st Baptist Church of Woodbridge parking lot on Minnieville Road (across from Cowles Ford) and buy a case (or a 1/2 case or a bag) of Apples, Tangelos, Oranges or Grapefruit.
Sales benefit Dale City Lions’ many community causes.
The Lake Jackson Lions Club is also selling fruit:
The Lake Jackson Lions Club will be holding its annual citrus sale on December 6, 7, and 8 from noon until 5p.m., at LIONS Park / 13586 Dumfries Road.
Boxes ($29.00) or bags ($9.00) of navel oranges, tangelos, and grapefruits will be available.
OCCOQUAN, Va. – Business owners and town residents welcomed guests to Occoquan on Friday for the annual lighting of the town’s Christmas Tree.
The local shops in the village held specials for customers who came out to shop.
WOODBRIDGE, Va. – It’s not often the community comes together to build a new house for neighbors.
But that’s what’s happening for Mahammad Islam and his wife Rebaya Kahtoon who will move into a new home on Traverser Court in Woodbridge at the end of the month.
It will be the first home of their own since they moved to the U.S. , and they’re doing it with the help of Habitat for Humanity of Prince William County, and with the knowhow of TV home guru Steve Thomas from Renovation Nation and This Old House. Thomas worked alongside volunteers Friday who were installing bathroom vanities and fixtures, kitchen appliances, switch plates, outlet covers the at what will be their new home in Woodbridge.
Habitat for Humanity Prince William County Director Traci DeGroat said it was exciting to have the experience which included a reception with food and drink.
“It was funny, we were there for a reception and we were all drinking hot chocolate, but there were no toilets,” said DeGroat.
It was a fun experience for volunteers, but it’s a serious one that means a new home for homeowners-to-be Islam and Kahtoon. Both work at Walmart and McDonalds, respectively, have a son studying at Virginia Tech and a daughter taking classes at Northern Virginia Community College.
The family is already paying down payments on this house, and paying rent at their current home.
This is the fifth house Habitat for Humanity Prince William has purchased, refurbished, and then sold back to the homeowners at cost. In order to qualify for the program, applicants must make anywhere between 30 and 50 percent of the median Washington-area income, show a willingness to partner with Habitat, have income, tax, and credit records checked, and must already pay 30 percent or more of their total income on housing expenses.
DeGroat said the application process is based on need, so those who are homeless, living in crowded conditions, or with relatives often qualify.
Habitat for Humanity Prince William since 2007 has helped more than 100 people in the area with home repairs, refurbishing, and has built eight houses from the ground up, said DeGroat.
A ceremony welcoming Islam and Kahtoon will be held Nov. 29.
By KJ MUSHUNG
STAFFORD, Va. – On Nov. 14 at Wawa gas stations all over Stafford County, people could plaster police cruisers with dollars for Special Olympics.
The event was organized by the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office. Chief Harman of the Aquia Harbour Police Department, who donated her time and was off duty during the event, raised $173 on her cruiser.
WOODBRIDGE, Va. – The fifth and final film adaptation of the Twilight book series was released in midnight showings Thursday. As our Kristina Kotlus shows us, fans lined up at AMC Theaters at Potomac Mills mall to see the Breaking Dawn Part II.
The parking lot was full well before midnight, and fans lined up inside for the movie.
Dubbed the “Twilight” series named after the first book, the books and films tell the stories of teenage vampires and werewolves.