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Occoquan Local

Show Celebrates 60 Artists on 1 Block

Occoquan, Va. — Over the years, Occoquan has become a magnet for local artists. They plan to celebrate that this month at the first annual ‘Art on the Block” festival.

The event will feature four galleries located on one block in the small town with over 60 artists who will show their work.

“Art lovers like to come to an area where they can see the works of many artists and Occoquan can be a destination for these people,” said festival spokeswoman Jane Ernst.

The event will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, at the following galleries:

The Artists’ Undertaking Gallery, a co-op gallery located at 309 Mill Street was founded in 1977 by a group of artists searching for a place where they could have studios, sell their artwork and teach. It was first opened in the basement of 309 Mill Street, but after dealing with flooding, the group moved upstairs to its current location. In 2006, the gallery underwent an extensive renovation by expanding its size by taking over the business space behind it, and almost doubling its size. The gallery is home to 17 local artists whose media include art glass, basketry, copper work, drawing, eggshell carving, oil & acrylic painting, mixed media collage, pottery, photography, printmaking, turned wood and watercolor. The gallery will be celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2012.

The Loft Gallery at 313 Mill Street, was founded in 1986 by Marcia Weidler and Jackie Paetzold, and is comprised of 20 professional artists. Their shared dedication in organizing a co-op, which could present their work in the professional setting that it deserved, led to the opening of the gallery with a handful of local artists. A variety of media is represented, including watercolors, oils, woodcuts, pastels, acrylics, photography, original prints, collagraphs, lithographs, stained glass and pottery. The Loft Gallery also expanded its size to create The Loft Art Center, which includes working studios and a place for teaching. The gallery is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Art A La Carte, founded in 2010 by Donna Turgeon and Lorie Kagle, is located at 310 Mill Street. The gallery shows the artwork of 24 local artists. The media represented here includes painting, drawing, photography, pottery, turned and carved wood, clay flowers, stained glass, mosaics, wearable art, mixed media collage, art dolls and jewelry.

Kelly’s Artbox is located at 304 Mill Street, and is operated by artist, Kelly Campbell, who has been working as a freelance artist specializing in portraits, murals and custom model horses. Kelly’s Artbox also houses a classroom where Kelly teaches art classes. Her gallery also sells handmade jewelry, novelty soaps, luxury botanicals, cards, antiques and more.

Occoquan Hosts Fall Cleanup

The Town of Occoquan.

It may be fall, but the Town of Occoquan is doing a little spring cleaning.

This Saturday, October 15, the town will once again be a site for the Friends of the Occoquan’s annual fall river clean up.  Volunteers can meet at the Town Hall located at 314 Mill Street between 9:00 a.m. and noon, sign in, pick up cleaning supplies, and help spruce up the town and the environment.  

This year, Occoquan was hit particularly hard with flooding.  

Occoquan Craft Show This Weekend

The Town of Occoquan.

Occoquan, Va. — Crafters will once again descend on Occoquan this weekend for the town’s annual fall craft show.

The event takes place 10 a.m. 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday rain or shine and will feature more than 200 crafters, local merchants and restaurants at the fair.

Coupled with a craft fair in spring, the event is the largest annual happening in Occoquan.

With so many people descending on the town, fire and rescue officials say they are ready to help keep the festival safe with a fire department mascot.

“Sparky the Fire Dog is the OWL VFD firehouse mascot. Today Sparky helps to teach fire safety, but in the days of horse drawn fire carts, Dalmatians provided a valuable service. Dalmatians and horses are very compatible, so the dogs were easily trained to run in front of the engines to help clear a path and guide the horses and the firefighters to the fires quickly. They are still chosen by many firefighters as pets in honor of their heroism in the past,” said OWL VFD spokeswoman Rebecca Barnes.

As it has been in years past, drivers will not be able to park in Occoquan during the festival. The festival has created a webpage to direct drivers where to park and then take shuttle buses to the fair.

Divas Moving but Bubble Window Stays

Though the Polka Dot Divas store is moving across the street, the iconic bubble window on the front of their current location is not coming with them. (Uriah Kiser/PotomacLocal.com)

Occoquan, Va. — It’s one of the most unique windows in Occoquan, and the business it belongs to is leaving the building behind for a new location across the street.

Polka Dot Divas opened in nearly four years ago by two diva-licious women, Julie Marshall and Kristyn Gleason, in Bavarian-style building with an iconic bubble window on its front. Recognizing the window’s popularity, the shop used it as part of their marketing on their website.

But the time has come for the shop that specializes specialty gifts for women, no make that for divas, is moving into Occoquan Antiques which is going out of business.

“It is very exciting we can’t wait to have two large windows, and have Steve Lippert of Any Ideas set up his amazing displays for our product. The new location will give us the extra room we need now along with extra room to grow,” said Marshall in an email.

The store has a dedicated following, and many customers have been supportive of the move – especially since the divas are just moving across the street.

Why Occoquan Flooded

Occoquan, Va. — When you live by the Occoquan River, there’s a few things you have to accept, like the possibility of flooding. But on Thursday night it wasn’t the river that toppled its banks, but the Ballywhack Creek which runs through town.

The stream inundated the small Town of Occoquan with flood waters never before seen by its mayor, Earnie Porta. “We knew that flooding from the river was unlikely, because during the hurricane we looked at the river levels and we know when it is going to come over its banks. But I was stunned to see the flooding from Ballywhack Creek and how fast the waters rose,” said Porta.

The mayor was at Maddigans Waterfront restaurant for dinner Thursday night when the flooding began. He walked outside the restaurant where water was already up to his ankles.

Refusing an umbrella, he went to direct traffic and told drivers – who normally cut through the town to beat traffic and get to nearby Old Bridge Road — to avoid the area because the creek was flooded.

“The creek turned Center Lane and Union Street into a river. People have lived in town for longer than I have, and say they remember back to a time when the creek was more manageable,” said Porta.

Much of the creek’s watershed is outside Occoqaun’s town boundaries and is in neighboring Prince William County, where crews from the Virginia Department of Transportation worked feverishly during the storm to clear stopped-up culverts along the creek.

Those clogged culverts contributed to the flooding of the town, said Porta.

“We’re going to need some help from the county and put some cost into what it’s going to take to maintain the culverts and the creek to stop this from happening again,” he added.

Amazingly, many of the businesses beside the river along Mill Street were not heavily damaged. A popular hangout, The Underground, had water that pooled outside their below-street level entrance, but the door held managing to keep the water out.

Nearly all of the shops and restaurants in town opened Friday.

On Saturday, Porta was scheduled to tour portions of the flood damaged town with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D 11th-Fairfax, Prince William). 

Slide show: After Irene

Hurricane Irene brought a soaking rain, downed trees and power outages to the Potomac Communities.

Julie Bohn lives along the Occoquan River at the town that shares the same name. Though two tree limbs fell into her yard due to high winds during the height of the storm, she was happy things did not get as bad as they could have.

“We get a lot of big storms and then we get the flooding, but there is always something to fight down here. Living on the river has got its joys and its good points, and then, sometimes, you’ve got other things like this to deal with,” said Bohn.

More to the story: Mapping Irene: post your report to our Hurricane Irene Map.

Occoquan officials warned residents before the storm that town could flood, but a down Mill Street in Occoquan Sunday morning revealed no significant damage.

What’s left after Irene can be summed up with the various downed trees and power lines in the area. Dominion Virginia Power says they are responding to the 1.2 million people without power after the storm, and has asked anyone without power to call them.

Also in Occoquan was a downed tree hanging on a power line blocked a portion of Union Street leading into town.

More to the story: Few take refuge in an emergency shelter.

In the rural Arkendale area of North Stafford, a fallen tree closed a gravel section of Brent Point Road near Arkendale Road. An electrical cable also laid in the intersection of Arkendale and Widewater roads Sunday morning.

At 2 a.m., the long awaited brunt of the storm picked up bringing high winds to the area, but otherwise the storm brought some much-needed rain to the region.


Occoquan Braces for Flooding

The Town of Occoquan.

Occoquan, Va. –– Occoquan is bracing for the effects of flooding caused by Hurricane Irene

The area along Mill Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, is prone to flooding during storms.

The hurricane’s storm surge could also be a problem for the town nestled on the Occoquan River, which is now expected to be at least one to two feet above normal river levels by the time Irene rolls into the Potomac Communities early Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

“Occoquan has had a significant amount of experience with storm surges created by hurricanes. We can expect flooding along Mill Street, as well as power outages of varying duration,” said Occoquan Mayor Ernie Porta.

Just west of the town lies a large dam used to contain the Occoquan Reservoir. Porta also issued a warning for anyone thinking of going to the dam during the storm to observe the river.

“…the views of the Occoquan River can be quite dramatic during and after a storm. If you choose to see what things are like along the river, please exercise caution when doing so. The Occoquan High Dam is not a flood control dam; there are no sluice gates to regulate the flow of water from the reservoir. Consequently, whatever comes down the river is coming over the top of the dam at nature’s command, so please use sound judgment,” said Porta.

He also asked residents to check on neighbors during the storm.

Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department has tips on what to do before and during a flood:


  • Keep your automobile fueled.
  • Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.
  • Prepare a disaster supply kit.
  • NOAA Weather Radio (battery-powered portable).
  • Extra batteries.
  • Change the batteries during spring and fall when you change your clocks (spring forward, fall back).
  • Flashlight.
  • Can opener (manual).
  • First-aid kit.
  • Canned food, non-perishable foods, bottled-water.
  • Rubber boots, rubber gloves.?
  • Additional clothing.
  • Develop a family evacuation plan.
  • Discuss the plan and make sure everyone knows what to do in case of flooding.


  • Get out of areas subject to flooding and seek higher ground.
  • Avoid underpasses, underground parking garages, and basements during or after heavy rains.
  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown (TADD).
  • DO NOT attempt to cross flowing streams.
  • NEVER drive through flooded roadways — six inches of water can stall a vehicle!
  • If your vehicle stalls, get out and move to higher ground.
  • 2 feet of moving water can sweep a vehicle, including SUVs, downstream!
  • If walking in water that is above your ankles, stop and turn around – six inches of rushing water can sweep you off your feet!
  • At night, be cautious when driving or walking, visibility is poor and it becomes harder to recognize flood dangers.
  • Children should NEVER play around high water, storm drains, streams, ditches, etc.
  • When conditions are dangerous, DO NOT camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers, etc.

Slide Shows, Ideas Shared at Pecha Kucha Night


Occoquan Mayor Ernie Porta talks about his trip to Egypt to watch the “transit of Venus.” (Uriah Kiser/PotomacLocal.com)

Occoquan, Va. –– What can you talk about in six minutes? A lot.


About 30 people gathered at Occoquan Town Hall on Saturday night for the Pecha Kucha Nature Night (pronounced Peeka-Coocha) to share some of their favorite photographs taken in nature and the stories that go with them.

Elected officials and residents alike all made slideshow presentations that each lasted six minutes, with each of the slides showing for no more than 20 seconds a piece.

Occoquan Ernie Porta presented a slideshow about a trip he and his wife took in 2004 to Eqypt to watch the “transit of Venus.” With pictures taken with a camera and his telescope, Porta wowed the audience as he showed the small black dot (Venus) pass in front of the enormous sun.

It took about five hours for the planet to pass across the sun, and earthbound people will be able to witness the “transit” again on June 5 and 6 in Hawaii, he said.

Back here on earth, Liz Cronauer of the Fairfax County Park Authority made her presentation on sustainable trails.

“One of the most common problems we come across is that people try to put trails on flat land, but the land is too flat. Sustainable trails need to be built on hills with a 60 percent slope, which is quite steeper than most people think,” said Cronauer.

She also showed examples of how many flat trails often become areas for water to pool after rain storms.

Pecha Kucha means “chitter chatter” in Japanese, said Prince William Conversation Alliance Executive Director Kim Hosen.

This is the latest in a series of Pecha Kucha events held by the alliance.

Occoquan Spring Craft Show Returns

The sidewalks are swept clean in Occoquan. (File photo)

Occoquan, Va. –– One of the things to look for this weekend at the annual Occoquan Spring Craft Show are new vendors.

More than 270 vendors from points all across the U.S. are expected to descend on Occoquan this Saturday and Sunday, many of the newer ones will be artists and glass pottery makers.

Of course, you’ll still be able to find time-honored favorites at the show like can’t-get ‘em anywhere else handcrafted products and quilts, said the show’s director, Pat Thomas.

“It’s a unique show that features a lot of things you just can’t get commercially,” said Thomas.

This is the 42nd year the show has been staged in the town on the first weekend in June, and the spring show is usually a bit smaller than the fall show held each year during the last weekend in September.

“During the fall show, I think everyone is in the holiday mindset because we have a lot of Christmas-themed items on display,” said Thomas.

But there will be plenty to do this weekend, with crafters, food for almost every appetite, and live entertainment at the Coffee House of Occoquan.

To get the fair, it’s best to use one of the many shuttle buses that will serve nearby commuter lots every 15 to 20 minutes.

Fair goers can park in the Old Hechinger’s Commuter lot at Gordon Boulevard (Va. 123) and Old Bridge Road, the commuter lot just off Interstate 95 at mile post 160, the parking lot at the Vulcan quarry in Lorton, or at the Tacketts Mill Shopping Center in Lake Ridge.

The free show hours are Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Georgetown Moves Race to Occoquan


Occoquan Reservoir

Lorton, Va. ––The waters of the Potomac River have been running more rapidly and brown the past few weeks.

That has prompted Georgetown University to move their scheduled boat race to Occoquan Reservoir.

See the university’s full statement about the relocation below:

The Georgetown University women’s rowing team has moved its originally scheduled Class of 1998 Cup race against George Washington and George Mason to Sunday morning on the Occoquan Reservoir in Lorton, Va.
The race been moved from its original site in Washington, D.C. due to the current instability of the Potomac River.

Georgetown and George Washington will compete for the Class of 1998 Cup, while the Hoyas, Colonials and Patriots will be competing for the George’s Trophy, which will be awarded to the best overall team.

Sunday’s Racing Schedule: 9:00am – Third varsity eight race (Georgetown third varsity vs. George Washington vs. Georgetown fourth varsity) 9:15am- B4 (George Washington vs. Georgetown lightweights) 9:30am- Varsity four (George Washington, George Mason, Georgetown) 9:45am- Junior varsity eight (George Washington,George Mason, Georgetown) 10:00am- Varsity eight (George Washington, George Mason, Georgetown)

We’re Going to be in Occoquan!

PL Box LogoWe’re doing it again! PotomacLocal.com will hold its second in a series of free neighborhood meet ups at 6 p.m. Wednesday May 4, at Madigans Waterfront at 201 Mill Street in Occoquan, Va.

What better place than in Occoquan, known as the “crown jewel of Prince William County,” to have a neighborhood get together and talk about community, have some fun and meet new friends?

In addition to all of you, Kayne Karnbach from the Prince William Clean Communities Council will join us to tell us all about what their organization does to keep the Occoquan and the rest of Prince William beautiful.

If you came to our meet up in March at the Potomac Town Center in Woodbridge you know how much fun it was.

This time we’ll be on the river, have a few laughs in the lounge and enjoy the music at the tiki bar.

We think it’s a great way to celebrate spring, and we hope you’ll join us!

By the way, those who come will get a free PotomacLocal.com ink pen, so come on out!

Restrictions eyed for Occoquan reservoir


Occoquan Reservoir

Fairfax County, Va. ––If you live along the Occoquan Reservoir, there may be some changes coming that will dictate what you can do with your property.

Fairfax Water will hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday February 3 to discuss updates to their easement plans for those with homes along the body of water, which separates portions of Prince William and Fairfax counties.

Some of the new regulations awaiting approval prohibit residents from putting debris in the reservoir, requiring residents to plant vegetation along the shoreline to prevent erosion, and new regulations that permit stairs along the shoreline where grades are at 10 percent or greater.

Fairfax officials are accepting comments on the matter until Feb. 2. You can email them to ShorelinePolicy@fairfaxwater.org.

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