Nonstop Local News for Prince William County, Va.




We’ve got cloggers, belly dancers, wintry princesses, and train rides at the Heritage Railroad Festival in Manassas


The Heritage Railway Festival is back in Manassas for its 22nd year! Enjoy the rich railroad history of Manassas Saturday, June 4 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. surrounding the Train Depot.

A day full of family-friendly fun, the Railway Festival will feature a community stage on West Street hosting Premier Martial Arts, Wildlife Ambassadors, Bull Run Cloggers, and Magnificent Belly Dancers. Take an excursion train ride to Clifton and back featuring two wintry princess.

Tickets are available for purchase online and in person at the Train Depot. Excursion trains will leave at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m.. After your train excursion, walk over to the Harris Pavilion and view the memorabilia and model train displays. Stop by the Farmers Market, enjoy children rides, shop novelty vendors and more!

A new addition to the festival this year, is the chance to win a tea party with the two wintry princesses between the morning and afternoon trains. Bags of Hershey Kisses are being sold at numerous downtown merchant locations with winning bags containing blue Hershey Kisses. Winners will have a one-hour tea party at The Things I Love for additional time with the princesses.

Back again this year is the Norfolk & Southern J-Class 611 Steam Train. The Steam Train will take passengers on a half day excursion to Front Royal and back Saturday morning and return around noon to remain as a static display for the duration of the festival. The Steam Train will then take two excursions on Sunday, June 5. A limited number of tickets remain for the three Steam Train excursions and can be purchased online at

Whether you love trains and railroads or are just looking for some family fun, this event is a great way to spend your Saturday and see all that Historic Downtown Manassas has to offer. For more information on this and other events in the City of Manassas, go to

Brett Bowman to retire as Manassas City fire chief

Brett Bowman said he always planned on retiring by 2018. He decided to bump up his ride off into the sunset by two years.

Bowman will leave his job as Manassas City Fire Department Chief on June 30. His last day will mark the end of a 42-year career in the fire service.

City officials announced Robert Lee Clemons, Jr. will succeed Bowman. And like Bowman before him, he’ll make the move from the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue to Manassas.

Bowman came to Manassas in 2011 after working the previous 37 years for Prince William’s fire department. He was offered a job in the county fresh out of college.

Bowman, like many in the fire service, started as a volunteer firefighter in high school in Manassas. He kept it up while attending James Madison University in Harrisonburg and achieved the rank of captain by his senior year.

The Harrisonburg fire department offered him a full-time job but Bowman chose to come home to Prince William.

“I loved the job… that’s why I did it all of these years,” explained Bowman. “No two days are exactly the same. You have some your routines, but when the alarm goes off you never know what to expect.”

The toughest day on the job was April 16, 2007, the day 24-year-old Prince William County firefighter Kyle Wilson became trapped inside burning house and died.

“That will forever be in my mind and his family in my heart for the rest of my life,” said Bowman.

Some of the best days are when those he’s treated during a medical emergency have come back to say “thank you” for saving their life, he added.

The fire service has changed a lot since he joined as a volunteer. When it comes to today’s home construction, they don’t build them like they used to.

“With the rapid spread of fire contents in the home, and way homes built today, if you have a fire in your home today, you only have three or four minutes to get out before the lethal products of combustion over take you,” said Bowman.

Twenty years ago, occupants had 17 to 18 minutes before a house became fully engulfed in flames, he said.

Bowman plans to spend about six months in Europe with his wife after retiring. She works for the U.S. State Department and will be assigned there temporarily.

When he’s stateside again, he plans to move into a newly-built home on North Carolina’s coast.

After Bowman was hired, the department had just created a new unified structure that included both paid career and volunteer members of the department. “When I got here there was turmoil, and we were able to change things to being more positive,” he said. 

He is credited with bringing all members of the unified department under one EMS license.

At the firehouse, he said he’ll miss the coffee, conversation, and camaraderie he shares with those in the fire and rescue service.  “The fire and rescue service truly is a brotherhood and a sisterhood. You have to deal with each other as much as you do with your immediate family,” said Bowman. 

Mall walking keeps seniors fit, healthy (and humorous!)


You can see them bright and early, at 8 o’clock most mornings — walking, talking and laughing in Manassas Mall, enjoying the new layout and the mall extension. They are the mall walkers, an informal group of retirees who are into staying active and getting some social time in, too.

This particular group of mall walkers met each other initially by good, old fashioned, in-person introduction, and before long they formed a strong bond. Members have been walking the mall anywhere from five years all the way up to 20 years. They range from ages 65 to 90 years old and tend to walk alongside those who have similar paces.

While they may not have discovered the fountain of youth, these seniors recognize a healthy habit when they see one. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “The loss of strength and stamina attributed to aging is in part caused by reduced physical activity. Inactivity increases with age. By age 75, about one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity.” These stats don’t apply to the mall walkers.  

The benefits of walking are substantial. A study by University College London suggests that walking for an hour or two daily might lower the risk of stroke in both men and women by as much as one-third. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston say women who walk 30 minutes a day reduce their risk of stroke by 20 percent. If they engage in brisk walking, that benefit increases to 40 percent. And a study at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that post-menopausal women who walk up to two miles a day can lower their blood pressure by about 11 points in 24 weeks.

Walker Ruby Willbanks may or may not know about the stats, but she does know what advice to give. “Never give up,” she says. “Just keep moving.”

The benefits of mall walking are substantial.
The benefits of mall walking are substantial.
The benefits of mall walking are substantial.
The benefits of mall walking are substantial.
The benefits of mall walking are substantial.
The benefits of mall walking are substantial.
The benefits of mall walking are substantial.

The Social Side

Charles Willbanks half-jokingly says he started walking because his wife Ruby told him to. But he is evidence of what the CDC reports on seniors staying fit: “Social support from family and friends has been consistently and positively related to regular physical activity.”

“I come to the mall because I know where it is,” jokes Richard Perry, who also belongs to a gym. On a more serious note, he adds, “This is social. I don’t know anyone at the gym.”

Mary Griffith, who says she has seen a lot of changes in the mall over the years, has been a faithful mall walker for two decades. Twice a week she also goes to the Manassas Senior Center to take a class called “Stand Tall and Don’t Fall.” She meets her walking friends at the food court for coffee and conversation after their brisk walks.

Most of the group grew up in the area, but there are people from all over the world and from different backgrounds.

Jacob Mathai is from India. He has been walking the mall for about four years. Sporting an iPhone he uses to track his miles, he says, “We come here for exercise, networking and fun. We’re here for each other. The people who come just feel better about life.”

“Every day is a good day,” says Ruby Willbanks.

Rev. Ralph Benson, Pastor of Brentsville Presbyterian, joins the group. He is former military and a former Pentagon chaplain. When asked what the group talks about, he says frankly, “politics and religion.”

The walkers also go on what they call field trips. On the last Friday of each month, they eat at IHOP in the mall. They visit museums together, like the Air and Space Museum, the Marine Corps museum in Quantico and others. They carpool together. Fridays are “hat days” when everyone wears different hats.

The quote they chose for their particular little group?  “Everyone makes us happy — some when they come, some when they leave.”

But, Charles Willbanks adds more seriously, “Everyone is welcome.”

This post is sponsored by Home Instead Senior Care of Manassas.

Kyung Kim selected as Mother’s Day Makeover winner at Manassas Park Community Center


Mother’s Day is a special day set aside every May to celebrate the wonderful things our mother’s have done for us year round. Manassas Park Community Center selected one very special mother this year to win their Mother’s Day Makeover Contest.

The staff at the Manassas Park Community Center showered Kyung Kim, a 66-year-old mother of three with gifts. Kim received a makeover, jewelry, and food goods from area businesses, just to name a few prizes.

Kim’s daughters, Vivianne and Grace, now have children of their own that adore their Grandma Kyung. According to her daughter Vivianne Krol, she often tells her children about her mother being the head of their household and raising three young kids from the age of 31 in Korea.

Krol describes her mother as the most courageous and selfless woman she knows. She was able to provide for children without any higher education or prior job experience. Kyung would take any job available. She has worked as a housekeeper, delivery person, salesperson, seamstress, and cook. By working nights and weekends for many years, she was able to save enough money to open a restaurant.

According to Krol, her mother greatly encouraged her and her sister to pursue higher education because she was never given the chance. Kim’s father did not believe in sending girls to school because he thought of it to be a waste of money, she added.

“For her own daughters, she always emphasized the importance of a good education and supported us any way she could.  My mom was very proud when my sister and I graduated from college,” said Vivianne Krol.

Kim, 66. still believes in challenging herself. She has become a naturalized citizen and is taking line dancing classes. A recent knee surgery has limited Kim’s line dancing and her ability to play with her grandchildren. According to Krol, her mother has maintained a positive attitude as well as continuing to inspire her family.

To kickoff her Mother’s Day Makeover, Kim was taken to PR at Partners to get her hair and makeup done. She then received a pedicure and manicure from Pretty Nails in Manassas Park.

According to Krol, her mother received a lot of compliments on her new look from friends and family. Upon arrival to the Manassas Park Community Center, Kim was able to pick out a necklace from Deb Vaughan of Stella and Dot. She also received a spa basket and a basket of gourmet cookies from Bijou’s Sweet Treats.

The family was also served a gourmet lunch catered by Heart 2 Heart Catering.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers stabilized a stream bank in Nokesville


In partnership with the Prince William County Department of Public Works, Habitat for Humanity volunteers stabilized a stream bank in Nokesville on Saturday, May 14, 2016.

Stream erosion can carry away irreplaceable soil, degrade the appearance of a community and pose a hazard during floods whereas a healthy stream can be an important water resource for humans, livestock, fish and wildlife. Members of the Kappa Lambda Chi Military Fraternity stabilized three stream sections and rerouted the stream flow

at one section. IMG_0953

A second group of volunteers cleared away a huge pile of logs, limbs and branches and stacked the logs from a tree that was cut down. Our many thanks to Habitat Volunteer Team Leader Diane Nelson and Tim Hughes, Engineering Assistant from the Watershed Management Branch and Environmental Services Division of Prince William County’s Public Works Department, for leading the groups.


Shown here with Team Leaders Nelson and Hughes, volunteers from Kappa Lambda Chi included Zackery Friend, Robert Coleman, Demarcus Benson, Darryl Alexander, Michael VanHorn, Shaun Hickman, Xavier Jones, Rick Roger, James Lott and Jimmy Coates.


Pictured here with Team Leader, Diane Nelson, afternoon volunteers included Jessica Say, Mary Ta and Bryan Vu. To learn how your group can be involved in Habitat for Humanity’s Community Development projects, give us a call at 703-369-6708 or send an e-mail at

volunteer-button donate-button

Barricade ends with trespassing charge


A barricade situation at a home in the 8400 block of Tomislav Street outside Manassas is over.

A family member came to the home and would not leave despite requests from those inside the house, according to Prince William police.

The barricade situation ended about 1 p.m., according to police. A massive police and fire and rescue had gathered on the residential street lined with single family homes.

Nearby Bennett Elementary School was placed in secure the building status as a precaution.

There were no weapons involved, and no injuries were reported. Police said the yet-to-be identified suspect is charged with trespassing.

Manassas leaders float idea of downtown co-working space

New Owners to Combine Best of Past, Present and Future to Transform 100-Year-Old
Hynson Department Store Building Into Flagship Office Space

Manassas City officials propose spending up to $200,000 to place a co-working space inside the newly acquired downtown Fiducial building.

The co-working space would serve entrepreneurs and start-up businesses in the market to rent personal workspaces, offices, and conference room space to hold client meetings. The move comes after the Mason Enterprise Center, which catered to small start-up businesses on the Science Technology Campus of George Mason University in Prince William County, was shuttered a year ago.

The vacant Fiducial building, once home to Fauquier Bank, was jointly purchased earlier this month by ECU Communications and Whitlock Wealth Managment. ECU will relocate its offices from Prince William County to the 2nd floor of the building. Whitlock also plans to open a second office there.

The $200,000 would be used to build out the 1st floor of the building for the co-working space, according to sources familiar with the project. The money would be a one-time investment on the city’s part, and funds could come from a pot of about $600,000 the Manassas City Economic Development Authority has in reserve — not taxpayer funds.

A group made up of city administrators, Historic Manassas, Inc. officials, and the new owners of the Fiducial building approached the EDA about acquiring the funds, according to sources.

The city’s EDA is funded by monies it receives from outstanding loans issued by private banks and backed by the city and state economic development authorities. The city’s EDA collects a tenth of one percent of each outstanding bond at the end of the year, said EDA Chairman Holmes Smith.

The city’s EDA also provides grants to help city businesses open and expand. Recently it gave $20,000 in grant money to help open Jirani Coffeehouse in downtown, and The New School on Liberia Avenue to open its doors, Smith added.

The one-time $200,000 for the co-working center would be a one-time, good-faith investment to spur new business in the city. Some cities, like Fairfax City, which provided $25,000 from its annual fiscal 2017 budget to fund its Mason Enterprise Center located off the university campus, can opt to fund incubators on a yearly basis.

Mason Enterprise Center business incubators in Woodbridge and Spotsylvania County have closed. A Mason Enterprise Center at the Science and Technology Campus of George Mason in Prince William is now the Serious Games Institute. Stafford County leaders this month voted to use $500,000 fund a new business incubator in that county.

If the Manassas co-working space fails within three years, the money must be paid back to the EDA, sources said.

Fredericksburg provide a $50,000 grant to Fredxchange so it could open its co-working space called “The Foundry” which opened in August 2015.

Neither the Manassas City Council or the EDA have held public discussions about the project. A straw poll during a closed session at the EDA’s last meeting May 17 ended with two Board members in support of the project, two who opposed it, and three others on the seven-member board seeking more information about the proposal, sources said.

Historic Manssas Inc., the city’s downtown promotional arm, would be tapped to staff the co-working center, promote it, and recruit new businesses to rent space the center, sources said. The organization is already charged with promoting the city’s downtown by holding events, and advertising empty storefronts.

New responsibilities at the co-work space would be an expansion of Historic Manassas Inc’s role in downtown. Any additional expenses incurred by the expansion of duties, to include new staff, would be paid for by the building’s owners, sources said.

ECU Communications Founder and President Jackie Krick and her company provide marketing and recruitment advertising for Federal Government agencies. She has received multiple calls from interested business owners about renting space in her new building, she said.

Krick said she started her business from her kitchen table and would have benefited from a co-working space early on. She declined to comment about the co-working space eyed for her building. 

“We want somebody to fill the space as soon as possible,” said Krick.

EDA Chairman Holmes Smith said he wanted to hold a public meeting on the matter “as soon as possible.” Smith suggested that he could call a meeting of the EDA in the conference room of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce at 7:30 p.m. June 16 to discuss the matter for the first time publicly.

Plan your Memorial Day escape with these local travel tips

Traffic headed south on U.S. 1 toward the Falmouth intersection frequently backs up due to a traffic signal where U.S. 1, U.S. 17, and Va. 218 converge. (Photo: Jim Lawrence/For

More than 38 million people across the U.S. will travel this Memorial Day weekend.

It is the second highest number of travelers expected to get out of town on the long holiday kick off to summer since 2005.

Low fuel prices — the lowest they’ve been in 11 years — will spur most of that travel.

Around here, the operators of the E-Z Pass Express Lanes on Interstate 95 from North Stafford Alexandria are getting ready. Toll lanes operator Transurban says toll prices will be higher than average, drivers should pay attention to overhead warning signs, and that congestion on I-95’s travel lanes can lead to congestion in the Express Lanes at the southern terminus in Stafford County.

When to go:

The busiest getaway travel times on the regular I-95 lanes and the 95 Express Lanes before Memorial

Day weekend in 2015 were Thursday and Friday between noon and 6 p.m. Delays were worse on

Friday. We expect those periods will again face the heaviest travel volumes

To avoid higher-than-average tolls and peak traffic, drivers should depart before noon on Thursday or after 6 p.m. on Friday

On the road:

An advisory sign before the Quantico/Joplin Road exit will alert Express Lanes drivers to any delays ahead on the Lanes

Drivers can then decide whether to exit the Lanes at Joplin Road or continue to the end of the 95

Express Lanes near Garrisonville Road

If delays increase, signage before the Joplin Road exit will advise travelers to exit to the regular lanes

Express Assist crews will be available to help drivers who get stuck on the Lanes

Riding with family or friends? If you have at least two passengers in your vehicle, don’t forget to put your E-ZPass® FlexSM in HOV mode for a toll-free trip

Here’s the northbound / southbound schedule fro the lanes for the holiday weekend:

The 95 Express Lanes reversal schedule will be adjusted for holiday getaway traffic and to accommodate the Rolling Thunder event on Sunday, May 29. Here’s what drivers can expect:

Thursday, May 26: Southbound reversal begins one hour earlier at 10 a.m.

Friday, May 27: Southbound reversal begins one hour earlier at 10 a.m.

Saturday, May 28: Normal operations – Lanes reverse to northbound at 2 p.m.

Sunday, May 29: Northbound Lanes will close around 7:30 a.m. The Rolling Thunder event will access the Lanes via Opitz Boulevard with the support of Express Assist crews. The Lanes will open around 11 a.m. again in the northbound direction

Monday, May 30: Express Lanes remain northbound all day

Tuesday, May 31: Normal operations – southbound reversal begins around 11 a.m. with Lanes opening by 1 p.m.

For those staying close to home and taking Metro, the subway will operate on a Sunday schedule on Memorial Day with the first Blue and Orange line trains leaving the station at 7 a.m. and the last Orange line train arriving at the Vienna station at 12:35 a.m. and the last Blue line train leaving arriving in Springfield at 12:44 a.m.

Prince William Sheriff to kick off Special Olympics torch run in Occoquan


Special Olympics Virginia on Thursday will kick off its Law Enforcement Torch Run in Occoquan.

“We will celebrate this partnership at the Law Enforcement Torch Run Kick-Off Ceremony, May 26 at 11:30 am in Historic Occoquan (200 Mill Street), during which we will officially light the “Flame of Hope” as officers prepare to run it thousands of miles to Richmond. The Ceremony, which commences the countdown to Summer Games (June 10-11 in Richmond), will bring more than 100 law enforcement officers from across Virginia to Northern Virginia, as well as Prince William County Sheriff Glendell Hill, the 2016 State Chair of the Virginia Torch Run.” 

-Virginia Special Olympics spokeswoman Holly Claytor

Prince William County Sheriff Glen Hill is the Chairman of the 2016 torch run:

“Sheriff Glendell Hill became the Chairman of the 2016 Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Virginia in October of 2015. Special Olympics Virginia Law Enforcement Torch Run is a voluntary partnership between Special Olympics Virginia and law enforcement members. The program is designed to raise money to help sponsor and support Special Olympic athletes throughout Virginia. Each year, thousands of officers and deputies run, raise money and extend the ultimate gift of friendship, acceptance and inclusion to the 21,000 Special Olympics athletes from Virginia.” 

-Prince William County Sheriff Glen Hill spokeswoman

Here’s more from Virginia Special Olympics:

In addition to lighting the Flame, we’ll also celebrate the fundraising efforts of the more than 2,000 officers involved in the Torch Run, sponsored by the SunTrust Foundation, the Wawa Foundation and Enterprise and supported by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, the Virginia Sheriff’s Association, the Virginia Department of Corrections, the Virginia Association of Regional Jails and the Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. Since June 2015, they have raised a record $1.3 million for Special Olympics, pushing their overall fundraising total to more than $18 million since the Torch Run’s inception in Virginia in 1986.

Then, beginning June 4 in Bristol, officers from across the Commonwealth will run the Flame more than 1900 miles, from every corner of the state. On June 10, Metro Richmond officers will run the last leg from the Capitol to the University of Richmond’s Robins Stadium, where they’ll join more than 1500 Summer Games athletes and officially open Summer Games. For the Northern Virginia route (Region 1), which begins at 9:30 am June 9 at the Iwo Jima Memorial, visit the Torch Run Web site,, and click on the Routes link.

Torch Run History: The Torch Run began 33 years ago with founder Wichita Police Chief Richard LaMunyon, and five law enforcement officers carrying the torch for Special Olympics Kansas’ Summer Games in Wichita. The Torch Run has since evolved into the largest grassroots fundraiser for Special Olympics with more than 100,000 law enforcement participants around the world, and a cumulative sum of a half a billion dollars raised since its inception in 1981.

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