WE ARE LOCAL News in Prince William, Virginia



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Explore these ghostly haunts of Prince William County

Prince William County is home to many amazing historical sites, each with their own unique stories. Some of these stories include a ghostly nature, perfect for the Halloween season.

Here are several spooky stories from our sites along with upcoming programs for you to possibly have your own paranormal experience.

Ben Lomond Historic Site ghostly encounters

With a chilling history as a Confederate hospital in the aftermath of the Battle of First Manassas, Ben Lomond Historic Site has a long history of ghostly encounters from unexplainable sounds to unexplained shivers.

But a Halloween experience told by one Prince William County employee is by far the most chilling to have occurred at the site. During a weekend of Halloween programs at the house, the employee stayed overnight sleeping on a cot in one of the rooms upstairs.

A sudden sensation of being dragged by the leg jolted him from his sleep, and when he opened his eyes, he found he was on the floor on the far end of the bed. One might guess that an enterprising spirit mistook the slumbering employee for yet another deceased body from the battle and attempted to pull him to an awaiting grave outside.

Rippon Lodge ”is so sinisterly haunted that no one will occupy it”

At Rippon Lodge Historic Site the beautiful scenic views overlooking the Potomac River belie the creepy past that has followed the site. A 1930’s paper supposedly once reported that the house ”is so sinisterly haunted that no one will occupy it,” and a long-standing rumor has it that Route 1 was altered to avoid passing too close to the house.

In the 1700’s, Mrs. Blackburn angrily struck an unfortunate slave child who then fell against the stone fireplace and died. An inquiry found weeks later proclaimed it an “accident” and many people are convinced they can see a bloody spot where the child’s head struck the stone. Others swear they have seen a little girl running towards the woods where it is supposed she’s buried.

Shot dead at Brentsville Jail

Injustice and tragedy are sown within the fabric of many histories and historic places throughout the county, but nowhere can it be found more evident than at the sight of the Brentsville Jail at Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre. It is widely considered to be one of the creepiest and most haunted locations in the county.

In 1872, a sensational trial swept Virginia in which James Clark was arrested for allegedly abducting Fannie Fawell, bringing her to Washington on promises of marriage and then leaving her. Before Clark ever received his chance to defend himself in court, Rhoda Fawell, brother of Fannie, shot him dead in his cell.

What started as an abduction trial suddenly became a murder trial in which a jury declared Fawell not guilty to thunderous applause from spectators sitting in the courthouse. If indeed it is the shadow of James Clark that haunts the jail where he was killed, few spirits have been more justified in the aftermath of such unbelievable injustice.

Prince William County Historic Preservation is offering a variety of Halloween programs where you can learn about the incredible, spooky and tragic stories at all of our sites. Check out our upcoming Halloween Programs below or call 703-792-4754 for general questions.

Spirits of Rippon Lodge: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., $10 per person, (not appropriate for young children)

On Friday, Oct. 21 and Saturday, Oct. 22, come and experience a uniquely haunted tour of the historic house and grounds by candlelight, perhaps encounter the departed spirits of notable residents and neighbors and hear their tales of sadness and triumph.

Reservations required; tours on the half hour (7, 7:30, 8, and 8:30) Call 703-499-9812 for reservations

Overnight Stay in Brentsville Jail: 8 p.m. – 8 p.m.; $125 per person, reservations are required

On the night of Friday, October 28, spend the night in the nearly 200-year-old building and learn the stories of the people who were imprisoned there, including James Clark. And keep your eyes open, you never know what you might see in the dark of the jail.

Call 703-365-7895 for reservations.

Hospital Horrors by Night: 7 – 9 p.m.; $10 per person, children under 6 free.

On Saturday, Oct. 29, come experience a unique opportunity to tour the house and grounds in the dark and hear the stories of soldiers, doctors and loved ones who were forever changed during the Civil War. Bring a flashlight.

You never know what spirits you’ll run into. Guided tours every half hour. Not recommended for children under 12. Reservations strongly recommended. Call 703-367-7872 for reservations.

Sponsored content by Prince William County Historic Preservation Division

Prince William County Police Digital Forensics team puts heart, soul, and mind into solving cases

This is the third of six stories in our series that will examine the unique assignments within the Prince William County Police Department.

We see it in the movies and on television all the time, and most of us would be curious to experience what it’s like to work in digital forensics. After all, forensics is a captivating division of police work. Something that looks completely innocent to the untrained eye could be the evidence that convicts a dangerous felon.

In the 21st century, evidence usually includes elements of the digital world we live in. It seems everyone has some kind of technology – witnesses, victims, and perpetrators. That is where the Prince William County Digital Forensics team steps in. Meet three detectives who take on hundreds of cases per year, deciphering evidence in several devices per case.



Detective Jon Kennedy

Detective Kennedy has been with the department for 16 years and says he likes keeping up with the numerous changes that come with an evolving field. When Kennedy (started with the Department), police vehicles didn’t carry computers. Kennedy began doing computer forensics with the Department before the Digital Forensics Unit was created.  Now, he finds himself working in all aspects of digital forensics.

“It’s challenging. We go to training as much as the budget will allow,” he said, “because technology is changing all the time.”

Kennedy likes the problem-solving aspect of resolving each crime. The caseloads are large. Requests for examinations of multiple devices per case are typical.

Each device must be put through a methodical and systematic exam.

“We do have to testify to what we do,” Kennedy explained, which is why everything must be carefully examined and documented. Certified as an expert witness, Kennedy said the examiners “try to present evidence in a way anyone would understand.”

“I enjoy the Job,” said Kennedy, who went into police work because he wanted to help people. “That’s pretty generic,” he said, “but that’s the truth.”

What is the most satisfying aspect of the work? “It brings closure for the victim or family of the victim, or all those involved in the investigation.”


Detective Katherine Zaimis

Detective Zaimis is the newest examiner in the department, transferring to Digital Forensics in October of 2015. She majored in criminal justice in college, likes computers and is very hands on.

Like everyone else in the force, Zaimis worked as a patrol officer with Prince William County first. Six years later, she moved to the Digital Forensics Unit.

“I saw an opening in Digital Forensics, and I thought that would be a good fit for me,” she said.

Like Kennedy, Zaimis works with multiple devices, including computers, cell phones, department electronics, and obtaining footage from surveillance systems. When examining the device and its hard drive, Zaimis makes a virtual copy of the data to study so that the actual equipment can be preserved.

The team finds every day to be different, Zaimis noted. The team is careful with any equipment, as digital evidence requires special handling to avoid damage. Some of this special handling may need to be done on site because potential evidence may be lost if the device is shut down or moved.

Zaimis had some advice about advancement in the department as well.

“You really need to love police work in order to join,” said Zaimis.

She advised new recruits that there are many interesting careers in police work, and being a good patrol officer is where you must start. “It’s important to want to do the first job.” Then, when it comes to forensics, “It’s about having an aptitude and interest.”



Detective Josh Peters

A lifelong resident of Prince William County, Detective Josh Peters became a police officer twelve years ago. “I feel I should give back to the community that has given me so much,” he said.

After eight years of patrol and three years working with children as a school resource officer, Peters interned for a summer in forensics and never left.

“Our office is unique,” Peters said – unique and popular since most other police departments must send out their evidence to be examined.

Peters’ day depends on what the department needs.  Peters used cell phone recovery as an example. Damage to the hardware may include a bullet hole or a soaking in water. Peters works to recover information off the memory chips left in cells, as well as other electronic equipment.

“If you used one of those devices, we’re going to find the information on there,” he said, noting that the team is working on almost every case seen in the media. In some way, some sort of electronics is involved.

Peters also discussed ongoing educational challenges.

“We’re constantly training. We have to try to stay one step above.”  Peters said federal training in forensics with the FBI and Secret Service is a must. This is specialized training that cannot be offered through traditional college courses.

As the caseload grows, so does the unit. Peters estimates 20 applications coming from the unit, which is currently hiring. “This is a position that’s going to set you up for life. You don’t necessarily have to have a degree.”

“For me, this is the best fit,” Peters said about the unit and his co-workers. “The police department has always taken care of me. There’s a sense of family.”

For more information on a career in law enforcement with Prince William County, visit their career page.

Read more from our series

Prince William County Police detectives chosen to work for a higher cause

Prince William on patrol: ‘This Job is About Integrity’

How a love for animals and a vet degree spawned a career as a Prince William County Police officer


Junction B&B in Manassas is expanding

After seven years in business, and having to turn away hundreds of tourists due to space limitations, the Manassas Junction B&B is expanding.

Owners Mark and Ann Hempen plan to rehabilitate an existing outbuilding on the property into a 450-square-foot cottage suite for the Bed and Breakfast. The addition will provide a third “room” for guests; currently, two rooms are available for rent in the 2,700 square foot main house. As a long time residents of the City, the Hempen’s hope the addition will encourage additional tourists “to enjoy and be enriched by the history, culture, and friendliness of Manassas.”

Located in Historic Downtown Manassas, the Queen Anne, Eastlake style Victorian home was originally built in 1902. Completely restored, and furnished with period antiques, this cozy bed and breakfast is the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxing get-a-way weekend or to accommodate out of town guests.

The owners were able to take advantage of the City’s Arts and Tourism incentive program to help offset the costs of the expansion.

For additional information on the Arts and Tourism incentive program, visit:

For additional information on Manassas Junction B&B, visit:

This promoted post is written and paid for by the City of Manassas Department of Economic Development.

Manassas makes getting a food truck permit easier

Diners in search of fast, novel, and delicious meals may soon have more choices as new rules enable food trucks to open for business in the City of Manassas.

Although food trucks have always been a fixture at Manassas events like the Fall Jubilee, and have always been permitted at private events, recent changes to the zoning ordinance make it possible for food trucks to open on a regular basis. The zoning change responded to a growing nationwide and local demand among consumers for food truck fare and a growing number of local vendors ready to open for business.

Restaurateurs interested in parking their food trucks in Manassas will find a streamlined process for permitting. Food trucks are permitted to open if a property owner with at least one acre of land grants permission, and the truck owner obtains an annual $50 zoning permit, a business license, and all appropriate licenses and inspections from the Virginia Department of Health.

Up to three food trucks can stay open at an approved location for four hours between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., and all trucks must be removed from the property at the end of the day.

 Please visit www.manassascity.org/zoningpermits or call 703-257-8232 for more information.

This promoted post is written and paid for by the City of Manassas Department of Economic Development.

Prince William Chamber of Commerce MARKETPLACE: The Local Experience is Thursday, Oct. 27

  • Prince William Chamber of Commerce
  • Address: 9720 Capital Court, Suite 203
  • Phone: 703-368-6600
  • Website: http://pwchamber.org/

The Prince William Chamber of Commerce invites all residents of Prince William County and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park to attend MARKETPLACE: The Local Experience on Thursday, October 27 from 4 -7 p.m. at the Freedom Aquatic & Fitness Center in Manassas.

Formerly called “Connections,” MARKETPLACE focuses on bringing businesses and the community together for a uniquely “local” experience.

Says the Chamber’s Director of Marketing and Communications Andrea Whaley,

“With MARKETPLACE, the goal is to show Prince William and Manassas residents all of the incredible LOCAL places where they could be dining, shopping, playing and staying; as well as the local businesses will hope they will support. I invite the readers of PotomacLocal.com to join us on October 27th.  The Chamber would love the opportunity to show you that you don’t need to go to surrounding counties to find cool things to experience. We have it all right here.

Picture this: You enter a room filled with everything that makes our community a great place to live and play. To your left is an artisanal jewelry maker, samples from locally-owned restaurants and a booth featuring photos and information on family-friendly festivals right here in your hometown. To your right you find stores and wellness services from Occoquan to Haymarket–are selling their wares and offering demonstrations.  At the booth on the corner you deposit your entry for the $500 cash prize.”

With FREE admission, FREE parking, FREE food and close to 100 exhibitors, MARKETPLACE offers a fun way to learn more about the best our community has to offer! How many times have you gone to neighboring counties on the weekends to shop or explore? You might just be missing out on similar experiences right here in your backyard!

Why should you attend MARKETPLACE?

1. To support the “Buy Local” movement and help funnel essential revenue back into the local economy;

2. To discover exceptional products/services from providers you can trust, located from Bull Run Mountain to the Potomac River and in between (Come prepared to buy directly from our vendors!);

3. To enjoy FREE samples from local restaurants and caterers;

4. For the chance to win door prizes ranging from cash to gift baskets, electronics and more;

5. To find the experiences that interest you—available nearby! There is something for everyone! Check out the list of exhibitors to date. More added daily!

Learn more at PWchamber.org/marketplace or call 703-368-6600.

This promoted post is paid for by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce. 

Prince William County provides a true differentiator to IMSolutions

In electronics, a true differentiator cannot be easily physically quantified, because it allows for infinite gain at an infinite frequency. However, many businesses in Greater Washington are making that physical realization in Prince William County, by finding a ‘true differentiator’ in the unique advantages it offers.

IMSolutions is one such company, which found Prince William County to be the ideal location to create a unique people-centric business in management consulting. Today, Prince William County has helped IMSolutions truly flourish, growing from under $500,000 in revenue the first few years to around $14 million.


IMSolutions describes themselves as a management consulting firm, providing innovative and cost-competitive business and program management solutions to clients across the public sector.

Primarily, said Sean Wells, Senior Executive Vice President , IMSolutions, “we assist clients in acquiring mission critical capabilities, to include developing holistic program strategies for successfully implementing technologies to increase efficiency.” The company offers strategic planning and communications, quantitative analysis, knowledge management, integrative logistics support, acquisition support, survey support and more.

Wells said, “This [Prince William County] is home for us.” His father, Cornell Wells Sr., once worked at the Pentagon, and the family moved to Montclair, Virginia when Sean was born. Their business was also born in the area and nearby Marine Corps Base Quantico, was their first customer.


IMSolutions has made its home in several different locations throughout Prince William County since the company’s inception. The government contractor started in a small office on Main Street in Dumfries and has moved several times, all within the county, as their business experienced growth spurts.

Wells recalled that when his father first started the business, they had only three employees. They now have some 85 employees, which is why they have moved several times throughout Woodbridge and Dumfries. “We outgrew every building that we were in,” said Wells.

About half the customers IMSolutions serves are local. Of those customers, about 25 percent are located in Northern Virginia and Prince William County and the rest are dispersed across the country.

Doing business in Prince William County is ideal for IMSolutions, Wells said, because it provides the best of both worlds — we still garner business from Washington, DC but are far enough away not to be caught in the “contractor beltway” where 32+ top contracting companies do business. Wells added, “Our location allows us to differentiate ourselves from the competition.


In 2011, the Wells family and the business suffered the great loss their founder and father. “It was so devastating to the business…he was a visionary. Fortunately my mother came behind him. She too is a visionary and leader,” Wells said. Belva Wells wanted to make sure she saw her husband’s vision to fruition and continued to support their local business community and customers.

Wells favorite aspect of their business is the people side. They wanted to create a unique people-centric business model, unlike what you generally find in corporate America. It’s important for people to feel that the company values them. When we make decisions, we make them based on our workforce, not just our revenue,” Wells said.

IMSolutions main provision to the government is services — they are not product- or tool-based. Wells’ personal favorite service is strategic planning and executive coaching. “I love the human aspect of things,” said Wells, who has a background in social work and business. He enjoys figuring out why a business does what it does and where it’s going.


Wells said Prince William County has charm, is business-friendly and is growing. In regard to its approach to development, he said,The County is decidedly progressive and approaches growth wisely through healthy dialogue and active community engagement, unlike many other communities.”

“With a highly-skilled workforce, top-rated schools, plenty of outstanding recreational amenities and great area hospitals,” he said, “there are just a lot of unique advantages to locating in Prince William County. I wouldn’t think of being anywhere else!

For more information on IMSolutions, visit www.imsolutionsllc.com.

Home Instead raises funds for The Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Manassas

Families can spend tens of thousands of dollars in providing in-home care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

The disease is the most common type of dementia and those afflicted with it can experience complete memory loss in its advanced stage. It is estimated that over 5 million people in the United States have the disease and that number is expected to triple over the next 30 years. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the country according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Manassas aims to provide hope and help to those suffering from the disease by raising money that goes to research in finding a cure. Home Instead, an in-home care senior care provider in Manassas, is making an impact not only by providing in-home care to those affected by Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, but by also by recruiting CAREGivers, staff, clients and their families to Walk.

“Home Instead is on the cutting edge of training and care for these clients – we train our CAREGivers on how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s, said Colin Searcy, spokesman for Home Instead Senior Care, and provide continuing education classes to ensure our clients are receiving the best possible care. We hope to have at least 75 people from our office for the Walk on October 15th.”

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s began at a national level, comprised of national and corporate teams. Home Instead Senior Care got behind the Alzheimer’s Association in their work at a national level by promoting the work of the Alzheimer’s Association through sponsorship and fundraising by franchises across the country. Franchises form teams that fundraise and encourage people to come out and support the cause through various events.

According to Searcy, Home Instead has several individuals in the office who go out and distribute fliers to area businesses to create awareness about the Walks. Searcy serves on a committee that meets monthly at the Home Instead office to discuss how local businesses, restaurants, and other organizations can become involved.

“We’re not just spreading the word in Manassas, we are going into other cities like Gainesville and Haymarket because Alzheimer’s is not just a Manassas problem,” said Searcy.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place on October 15 in Manassas starting at the Harris Pavilion. Participants may choose to enter the one-mile walk or the three-mile walk. The minimum donation for a t-Shirt is $100, but participants can walk by themselves or organize their own teams and set their own personal fundraising goals. All monies raised goes towards research and finding a cure.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. followed by an opening ceremony at 9:30 a.m. The Walk starts at 10 a.m.

Jonathan Way balances Manassas budget without substantial tax increases, all while providing public services

This post is paid for by Jon Leads the Way — Jonathan Way for Manassas City Council.

City Councilman Jonathan Way solves complex problems, works to preserve the city’s history, and is the “face of the city” in several regional commissions which have important impacts on the city.

Manassas City Councilman Jonathan Way could have chosen anywhere to retire, but he chose Manassas. To him, he said, the city offered the opportunity to accomplish all the things he hoped to accomplish and Manassas just had that comfortable “hometown” feel.

Before moving to City Council, though, Way worked on the Planning Commission and then moved to Chair. He felt he was doing good for his community in this position, so 10 years ago he ran successfully for Manassas City Council, something which he is doing again this year. Way says of his motivation, “I want to leave Manassas in a better place than when I came here.

Way is passionate about figuring out the answers to complex problems. He says virtually all problems that come before the Council are complicated. Working on the City Council is a balancing act. Since people frequently have different opinions, he said, it’s difficult to please everyone. His job, he said, is to make sure the public is satisfied with the Council’s decisions (or at least “comfortably dissatisfied.”)

Way’s current pet project is the 100 plus-year-old water tower in the city’s Downtown. He is actively working with a team of volunteers to save what has been an icon of the city. He says that even though it’s not needed for water management, the water tower is historically significant and “deserves better than to become a parking lot.”

The biggest challenge to City Council is having a balanced budget without substantial tax increases, while still providing the superior services the public needs. Way said, “It’s a heck of a balancing act… but we do it each year. It’s satisfying to overcome such a challenge.”

Regarding the campaign trail, Way said he takes great satisfaction from meeting people. He said the public is almost “universally polite,” which makes for a pleasant experience and allows a serious exchange of ideas. “You meet a lot of interesting people and learn a lot of interesting things about the city,” said Way.

Election campaigns in the city have thus far not been vicious.

“People point out what they can do, some point out what they’ve already done, some people say they want change, but that’s about as argumentative as it gets. We try to not ‘bad mouth’ other candidates,” he said.

Way said he is a good candidate not only because of extensive experience, but also because he is retired, so he has the time to put in the 1,200 or so hours per year necessary fulfill Council responsibilities and also represent the city on several regional commissions including Greater Washington Council of Governments, Transportation Planning Board, Virginia Railway Express Board of Directors, Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission director, Novant Prince William Health System Board of Trustees, Member of Governance Board of Directors, and Quality committees and an associate of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

It’s tough for council members who are still working full-time to meet all these commitments, Way said.

“In our country where polarized government has taken over the landscape,” Way said, “I’m a balanced, sensible conservative who has been a Republican since the days of Dwight Eisenhower. I recognize the other side has legitimate concerns and feelings as well. I’m satisfied to have a workable compromise solution to most problems, not a ‘my way or the highway’ approach. If you do that, you can end up on the highway yourself, and that’s not the way to run a government.”

For more information on Jonathan Way’s campaign, visit www.jonleadstheway.com.

This post is paid for by Jon Leads the Way — Jonathan Way for Manassas City Council.

Join in on the Pickleball sensation at the Manassas Park Community Center

Football may be the sport everyone is talking about on any given Sunday. But, on any given Tuesday, Thursday and Friday morning between the hours of 8 and 10 a.m., the sport were talking about (and playing) is Pickleball.

Stop by the Manassas Park Community Center during these times, and you’ll see a group of dedicated Pickleball players tearing it up. This is a sport whose popularity is skyrocketing-not only here at the Community Center, but everywhere.

Pickleball is a racquet sport that combines tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It is played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-size court with a modified tennis net. It is played with a plastic paddle and a plastic ball (similar to a whiffle ball), and is played as doubles or singles.

Pickleball was accidentally invented in the mid-1960s by three families who were actually trying to play badminton, but they could not find the shuttlecock or a full set of racquets. So they combined parts of tennis, parts of badminton, and parts of ping pong, and joked the sport was created with the leftovers of these sports.

This reminded them of pickle boats because pickle boats are manned with the leftovers of other boats. Pickle boats became Pickleball.

Now that you have a little history of the game of Pickleball, you need to try it. Consider joining the Pickleball group that plays every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Manassas Park Community Center.

“Our group plays to have fun; we really aren’t very competitive,” explained Bonnie Ballentine, a retired teacher who has become the unofficial spokesperson for the Pickleball group at the Community Center.

Her friend, and Pickleball teammate, Judy Nevitt, also a retired teacher added, “The game of Pickleball can progress very quickly, but initially, you just want the basics, the strategies will come later.”

Pickleball can be played competitively; in fact, almost every state has a state senior game, and here in Northern Virginia, we have the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics,” explained Ms. Ballentine.

Both ladies pointed out that the Community Center provides paddles which the ladies admitted are good for beginners.

“We encourage all new players to try the beginner’s paddles provided by the Community Center. Our group will also offer our own racquets so that new players can see which they prefer, then we introduce the basics of the game,” Ballentine explained.

Really, the best way to play Pickleball is to get out there and learn as you go,” she added, “The rules are kind of quirky and we find it easier for people to understand the rules if they learn the rules as they progress.”

Pickleball isn’t just about the game. As you play week after week, you build bonds and make new friends.

“We play three times a week—it’s a steady thing. Our group is so nice, and we love playing so much that we even have a back-up plan if we can’t play here at the Community Center, Ballentine shared.

We also get together socially at least four times a year for lunches and to celebrate the holidays,” Ms. Nevitt added.

“We really are a dedicated group,” Ms. Nevitt emphasized, “One of our group members was stiff with arthritis and had a hard time moving when he first started playing. But slowly, he began to progress, and now we tease him that the more he plays, the better he moves.”

“Sometimes, when you look in the gym, depending upon which of our Pickleball players is there, we look like we are held together with Velcro,” Ballentine laughed. “I’ve got bad knees, Judy also has bad knees, but it doesn’t matter because we are staying active and having a great time.”

Nothing stops the Manassas Park Community Center Pickleball group from playing their game!

“We have a good time and we laugh a lot,” agreed Ms. Ballentine and Ms. Nevitt.

“We like to introduce people of all ages to our favorite game,” Ms. Ballentine pointed out, “Once, when we were playing outside, a teenager heard us playing and laughing and came over to see what all the fuss was about. He was there watching a baseball tournament, but ended up playing Pickleball with us!”

You will enjoy it too, just stop by the Manassas Park Community Center on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8 to 10 a.m.  and join the Pickleball enthusiasts who welcome all who want to play their favorite sport. Also check out the guided instructional programs such as Introduction to Pickleball which is currently on Wednesdays from 7 to 8 p.m.

The Manassas Park Community Center is located at 99 Adams Street in Manassas Park, Va. Managed by the City of Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation, the facility is home to basketball courts, a swimming pool, and wellness areas as well as a variety of special events and programs. For more information visit us at www.ManassasParkCommunityCenter.com or call at 703-335-8872.

This post is written and paid for by Manassas Park Community Center.

Fact Checking the Manassas City Council Forum: A negative turn for the City Council race

Recently, Historic Manassas, Inc. hosted a City Council Forum.  A lot was said and a lot of ideas were raised.  The conversation was on point and civil– until the closing remarks. 

City Council candidate Rex Parr chose to use his closing statement to go decidedly negative, making inaccurate claims that in some cases play to our fears rather than hopes.  When such false claims are made, it tarnishes our city’s reputation and the hard work done by our city staff and employees.

There’s so much negativity in the politics at our state and federal levels, I’d hoped the local race would set an example of how elections should be.  Unfortunately, that hope has been seriously diminished.

Mr. Parr may be new to running for office, but he’s mastered being a politician.

Since these false claims are in the public domain now, I think it’s important they be examined, vetted and corrected.

I’ve chosen the top offenders to showcase below.

Rex Parr False Statement 1:
“[the council experiences] stalemate, tie votes, no action on vital issues before the council that affect our kids, our communities and future economic development”

The truth:
The council has a diverse range of positions, indicative of the diverse range of thoughts held by our city residents.  There are, on occasion, tie votes, as there are on any elected body, but none have stopped critical actions from being taken that impact our kids/schools/communities or economic development as Rex has claimed.  At most, the wide range of views has triggered compromise, which is far too lacking in most political bodies.

Rex Parr False Statement 2:
“[since the great recession] efforts to restore spending have been consistently blocked”

The truth:
The city budget is now above pre-recession levels. Funding has been restored.  Also, showing prudence and fiscal restraint has earned our city a AAA bond rating, which will save our citizens millions in borrowing costs in the future.

Rex Parr False Statement 3:
“our public services have been starved […] their missions have been jeopardized”

The truth:
Our public services are award winning and rank among the best in the nation.  From a police department in the top 1%, to an award winning utility department.  Our public services also received stellar reviews by you, the citizens, in the recent citizen satisfaction survey, beating state and national averages.

Rex Parr False Statement 4:

“[because of city council austerity] the reputation of our schools [has been] tarnished”

The schools are managed by an independently elected School Board who has made it VERY clear that they are in charge of the schools. The city council has met its funding obligations to the schools, and the system currently spends 10%-15% more per pupil than our surrounding localities.  Let me say it again: the city council meets its funding obligations.  If our school’s reputation is “tarnished” as Mr. Parr states, it is less likely to do with city council austerity, and more likely due to the drop in test scores and achievement we’ve suffered– which would be the responsibility of the School Board.  He’s directing his ire at the wrong elected body.

I consider Rex to be a good guy, and hope he’ll pull back from this unfortunate course and run the rest of this race in a positive, accurate way.

This post is paid for by Manassas Councilman Ian Lovejoy.

Enter the pumpkin pie eating contest and beer and wine garden at the 34th Annual Manassas Fall Jubilee

It’s that time of the year again! The 34th Annual Fall Jubilee will be held October 1 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

This highly recognized craft and artisan festival brings out nearly 30,000 people to visit Historic Downtown Manassas each year. Streets become lined with booths featuring unique crafters, non-profits, local community booths, and numerous downtown merchants. There is fun to be had for everyone at the Fall Jubilee!

This year brings back exciting contests introduced last year to the Fall Jubilee. Fall is the season of pumpkin pie and the pie contests are back again! Enter your homemade pumpkin pie into the baking contest or sign up for our pumpkin pie eating contest.

The pumpkin pie eating contest will be broken up into two age groups for children and adults – and there’s a catch, no hands allowed! The Main Stage on Prince William Street will feature music from DarcyDawn & Company and Kitty and the Fat Cats. Underneath the Harris Pavilion attendees can find the community stage featuring local dance troops and musical acts.

This year’s Beer and Wine Garden can be found on the Manassas Museum lawn from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Sample beers from Manassas’s own BadWolf Brewing Co. and Heritage Brewing Co and get your wine fix from the new tasting room in downtown Manassas, Aroma.

There will also be loads of fun for the kids including, rides, games, and the Southern States Pumpkin Patch full of pumpkins waiting to be decorated. At noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m, there will be a DareDevil Dog Show on the museum lawn! Stop by to see tricks and a chance to meet the rebellious pups.

Parking for the Manassas Fall Jubilee can be found in the free, downtown multi-level parking garage on Main Street and Prince William Street. For more information about Historic Manassas, Inc., the Manassas Fall Jubilee, and other great Manassas events, go to visitmanassas.org.

This promoted post sponsored by Historic Manassas Inc. 

After beating lung cancer, LaVerne is not about to concede to woodpeckers

LaVerne Leven-Berry worked in the carpet business her husband owned for 40 years. The business closed after her husband passed away in 2010 from lung cancer and LaVerne struggled to maintain what she had. Shortly after his death, doctors discovered that LaVerne also had lung cancer and removed a portion of her lung. Not one to be defeated, LaVerne fought back to health. She now works as a home health aide, caring for two individuals.

LaVerne - headshot

There’s a story behind every Habitat project

LaVerne and her husband bought their Woodbridge home 38 years ago. She raised two sons in the home and now watches three of her grandchildren in the mornings. LaVerne manages to work more than 50 hours a week in the healthcare business and still keep an impeccably neat and tidy home and lawn. She feels that keeping the home properly is an important legacy to the tireless energy and effort her husband made. She’s grateful for his pursuit to purchase the home and maintain it all those years.

What Habitat will do

LaVerne reported that woodpeckers were pecking the siding on the home. Habitat sent a pest control expert to the site for an evaluation. The expert determined that the paint may be peeling from the aluminum siding on its own without influence from the birds. However, woodpeckers are definitely pecking holes into the woodstove chimney, which is shiny. Apparently, the birds find their reflection very attractive. Habitat will treat the chimney with a surface product, will repaint the aluminum siding, will replace a wooden fence that is in disrepair, will replace a non-functioning water heater and will replace broken glass in a bay window.

How you can help LaVerne and others

We invite you to work with us to provide safe and affordable housing in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park. Habitat’s Home Repair programs, including its Home Preservation program, rely on your support through donations and volunteer time. Your generous donations make it possible for us to purchase the needed materials and tools for repairs. Your volunteer hours help us save money on labor.To give and to volunteer, click the links below. To watch the repairs as they progress, check in frequently by clicking the Family Story button below.

LaVerne - donate button

LaVerne - volunteer button

LaVerne - family story

Please partner with us on Dee’s home preservation project in Manassas!

Dee - Irongate - Doreathea Vanterpool

Dorothea “Dee” Vanterpool

There’s a story behind every Habitat for Humanity project

Dee Vanterpool moved to her Manassas townhouse in 1992. A quaint townhouse facing the community pool, it is well-kept and Dee is content there. Dee retired from the Federal Government where she had worked at the Pentagon in Logistics as a General Supply Specialist. Today she lives quietly, enjoying her church in Burke, Virginia, playing Solitaire, watching Christian TV and walking at the mall. Her son lives in New Jersey. Her daughter and sisters all passed away in the last five years. Dee has suffered from arthritis since childhood and has experienced significant illnesses in her adult life so she could use Habitat’s assistance to correct some minor home issues.

Dee - Irongate gate

What Habitat will do for Dee

Habitat for Humanity will relocate a bathroom vent that discharges improperly into the attic, rebuild a fence gate and strengthen its posts and paint the exterior trim on the front entry door. We’re looking forward to giving this deserving resident a hand up with home preservation services that will make her home safer and more secure.

How our program works

Habitat for Humanity’s Neighborhood Revitalization (NR) program engages residents and other community partners to revive neighborhoods and make them safe, inviting places to live.

The Neighborhood Revitalization program delivers a wide array of housing solutions such as making minor exterior repairs; providing critical home repairs that alleviate critical health, life, and safety issues or housing code violations; rehabbing vacant and foreclosed homes or building new homes to provide home ownership opportunities for low-income families; and improving the energy efficiency of homes through weatherization.

If you’d like to learn more about the application process, including income criteria and other requirements, please click here to be directed to the Programs section of Habitat’s website.

How you can help Dee and others

Habitat’s Home Repair programs, including its Home Preservation program, rely on the support of your donations and volunteer time. Your generous donations make it possible for us to purchase the needed materials and tools for repairs. Your volunteer hours help us save money on labor. Please partner with us on Dee’s Home Preservation project in Manassas! To give and to volunteer, click the links below. To watch the repairs as they progress, check in frequently by clicking the Family Story button below.

navy - donate button

navy - volunteer button

navy - family story

House of the Day: 4362 Allens Mill Boulevard in Haymarket

  • C.C. Bartholomew Real Estate
  • Address: 8100 Ashton Ave, Suite 103 Manassas, VA
  • Phone: 703-282-4800

House of the Day: 9366 River Crest Road in Manassas

  • Homes By Marcia
  • Address: 7521 Virginia Oaks Drive Ste. 100 Gainesville, VA 20155
  • Phone: 703-754-1770
  • Website: http://homesbymarcia.com/

Wear your favorite team jersey to Chick-fil-Bristow on Mondays, get one SURPRISE menu item

Prince William on patrol: ‘This Job is About Integrity’

Sponsored by the Prince William County Police Department, this is the second of six stories in our series that will examine the unique assignments within the Prince William County Police Department.

It’s morning, and in various stations across Prince William County, police officers sit in roll call, waiting for their daily assignments.

The morning roll call is important for patrol officers like Kimberly Walton and Borys Vargas heading out to the streets. Roll call is a chance to catch up on incidents from the previous shift.

Roll call might tell them what they could encounter throughout the day. Roll call, though, can’t possibly prepare them for the various challenges that get thrown their way.

Vargas gives examples of a busy day. The list includes everything from animal-related calls like getting bats out of a building to investigating bank robberies. The first call could be a parent requesting an officer talk to the kids about not wanting to go to school, and the next call may be about a murder suspect on the west end of the county.

The next shift may include property crimes, traffic stops, and arrests. The officers must take extreme caution and practice safety during arrests. They do encounter gangs in the area. The Police Department even has a special gang unit.

“Every day is unpredictable,” said Vargas. “But It’s always good that when something happens like a bank robbery, you can make a difference.”


Walton’s area includes Leesylvania, Hoadly, Triangle, Dumfries and Cardinal Drive to the Stafford County line. Walton and other officers may be called to work in other areas if they are having a busy day.

Walton says the feel from the communities she serves is positive. “They love us,” she says. “They come up, shake our hands.” She believes this is partly due to the respect and courtesy she and other officers show the public. “You don’t have to be a social butterfly, but you have to have tact and be respectful,” she says.

Walton says that as a kid, she always felt a positive connection with the police, and it was these types of interactions that helped her decide in high school that she wanted to make a difference as a police officer.

Walton enjoys working high priority cases and doing her job with integrity. She also likes the fact she is having fun.

With a laugh, Walton adds another reason why the job is still a blast: “using the sirens.”


Vargas’ motivation was a bit different. Vargas felt going into police work was the best way to use the skills he learned in the military. He says the application process is demanding, but worth it.

Vargas appreciates the schedule. He works 10-hour shifts that consists of five days on, four days off, five days on, four days off, five days on, five days off, giving a nice stretch of time off to decompress.

He also finds reward in doing the best he can as a representative of the county every shift. “When you put on this uniform, you represent the whole county,” he says. “You have to take that very seriously.”

The Road to Becoming an Officer

For those interested in joining the force, the easiest part of the application process, Vargas says, is the ability to apply online. He tells potential applicants to be thorough and honest. “You don’t want people to think you’re trying to hide anything,” he says. “This job is about integrity.”


Vargas also says to follow up with phone calls. “If you do that, it looks like you’re interested.”

After the initial application, there is a stringent background check going back 10 years. There are written tests, physical tests, medical and psychological tests. Patience is not just a virtue in this case. It’s a necessity.

It can take up to six months to get hired. If the applicant is in the military, it could take longer because the applicant might have moved frequently prior to applying.

Vargas explains that the background check includes an investigator talking to the applicant’s former neighbors. Frequent moves means more neighbors to interview, possibly around the country.

Applicants must be 21 years old upon graduation of the academy. A college degree can increase salary. But, Vargas says, a degree is not necessary. Many officers come in with just a high school diploma.
The department is always looking for bilingual applicants.

Women are also encouraged to apply. “You can’t discriminate,” Vargas says, regarding female officers. “They go in and respond to the call just like anyone else.”


Applicants making it through the process can look forward to six months of academy training with pay and benefits. Then it’s time to hit the streets.

Walton’s advice to new recruits? “Learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re not 100% sure, ask. And always try to do your best.”

Vargas has some advice as well. “If you think you can make a difference, apply.”

For more information on careers with the Prince William County Police Department, visit the career pages on their website.

Read more from our series

Prince William County Police detectives chosen to work for a higher cause

Prince William County Police Digital Forensics team puts heart, soul, and mind into solving cases

How a love for animals and a vet degree spawned a career as a Prince William County Police officer


George Mason Ph.D. candidates meets Habitat for Humanity, public works, spruce up county lot

Ph.D. candidates studying at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government partnered with Habitat for Humanity Prince William County and the Prince William County Department of Public Works last weekend. The students are members of the Association for Public Policy Ph.D. Students (APPS) group.

So, you know what they say about Ph.D. candidates?

You know you’re one of them when the concept of free time scares you.

On Friday, September 9, and in their spare time, the APPS group cleared vegetation on a 1.5 acre, vacant, County-owned parcel near the Brighton Commons condominiums in Manassas.

PHD Candidates cleared brush & vegitation

The students cut back limbs and branches on cedar trees and overgrown scrub brush. They removed litter and debris from the site. And, they installed a “no loitering, no dumping” sign to discourage unwanted activity in the area.

GMU PHD candidates trim trees

Furthermore, you know you’re a Ph.D. candidate…

when you find taking notes in a park relaxing.

All kidding aside, we hope the group found their work with Habitat to be a much-needed break from the rigors of their studies. Student members included Katrina Dunlap, Hong Zhang, Angie Gill, Josh Lee, Mo Ogutimein, Kirk Heffelmire and Simi Fasehun. And, we’re hugely grateful for the time they took from their busy schedules to help us out on our Community Development project.


Habitat for Humanity Prince William County regularly partners with the Prince William County Public Works Department in its Community Development work. Tim Hughes, an Engineering Assistant with Prince William County’s Environmental Services Division, coordinates the work sites with Habitat.

Tim Hughes team leads GMU PHD candidates

Community Development projects are part of Habitat for Humanity’s Neighborhood Revitalization program (NR). The NR program engages the residents of neighborhoods and other community partners to revive neighborhoods and make them safe, inviting places to live. Community development projects impact many residents. They improve the health and well-being of residents by revitalizing public areas, removing blight, improving water quality and generally giving residents improved access to public areas and a better sense of well-being and safety.

GMU PHD Candidates plant bushes

If you’d like to participate in a Habitat for Humanity Community Development project, or you know of one that should take place, please contact us at 703-369-6708 or programs@habitatpwc.org.

And, if you’d like more Ph.D. student jokes, head to http://www.shlomifish.org/humour/by-others/grad-student-jokes-from-jnoakes/#know.

Prince William Chamber presents ‘Direct Access’: A municipal gameshow-style event

The Prince William Chamber of Commerce has changed the name of one long-time event and added a fun new twist. Formerly known as State of Prince William, the newly formatted Direct Access: A Conversation with Local Leaders will be held on Thursday, September 29 from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the Red Rose Event Center (9705 Liberia Avenue, Suite 101; Manassas, VA 20110). Tickets to the luncheon are $40 for members of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce and $55 for non-members. All are welcome.

State of Prince William has always been a popular event for us, offering our members a look at how the three municipalities we serve—Prince William County and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park—work together. Direct Access represents a change in format aimed at making the event more interactive. Audience members can expect to not only gain insight but also to find answers for their concerns in real time,” says Chamber President & CEO Debbie Jones. She went on to say that the business community has a “responsibility to work side-by-side with local governments to improve the economic climate and enhance the local quality of life if they want to see their businesses thrive.”


So what is Direct Access? In simplest terms, it is a conversation between the business community and top local elected officials sitting on the “celebrity panel.” This year’s panelists are Chairman Corey Stewart of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, Mayor Hal Parrish of the City of Manassas and Mayor Frank Jones of the City of Manassas Park. The program is modeled after the old game show, “What’s My Line?” Guided by host Jim Aram– a member of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and co-owner of Advantage Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation — audience members will trade questions with the panel on subjects such as challenges to business growth, economic development, workforce development and quality of life issues. In turn the panelists will ask questions to find out more about the audience member’s role in the community and how local government can better serve the community. Participants will have the chance to win prizes for bringing their questions to the panel.

Chamber Director of Government Relations, Brendon Shaw, likens the program to a town hall meeting saying, “We want our members to have fun with this event. That’s why we have added the gameshow-style theme this year. We also want our members to take ownership of this program because this is their Chamber and their community.  Submit questions that you want our panelists to answer. Whether you are a business owner, community volunteer, or an employee who also happens to live nearby, Direct Access provides an opportunity for you to get involved in the political process in a new and interesting way.”

Shaw is accepting questions for the celebrity panel prior to the event. Questions will be selected to represent a broad array of interests and perspectives. Potential registrants should email their questions to bshaw@pwchamber.org. Event registration is available online at PWChamber.org or by calling 703-368-6600.

Sponsors for Direct Access: A Conversation with Local Leaders include: Novant Health UVA Health System; QMT Windchimes; Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, PC; Dewberry; InsideNOVA-Prince William and Transurban (the Prince William Chamber’s Advocacy Vision Partner).  

 This promoted post is paid for by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce.

Competitive Edge helps battle childhood obesity

When people think of a sports training center, many images might come to mind, none of which include children who are overweight. About 18 percent of children suffer from childhood obesity, a statistic that has increased by 5% since 2013.

Competitive Edge Athletic Performance Center in Woodbridge, Virginia is doing something about it, giving kids a fun way to address their health, without the stigma.

A Program that Works

Ashley Than, a strength coach at Competitive Edge, has a Bachelor’s in Health, Physical Education and Exercise Science from Virginia Commonwealth University. Through her education and training, she has become familiar with the national issue of childhood obesity and has dedicated her professional life to helping children overcome it.

Every day at Competitive Edge, Than helps children gain confidence and live healthier, more active lives. She says every day is different for her at work, but she is usually in the weight room.

“I warm up the athletes and run them through their workouts, making sure they are working as hard as they can, doing the exercise right, and getting the most of their lifts. Other days I am coaching Tennis, working on techniques, gameplay, and speed and agility on the court,” she said.

During the school year, Than works with homeschool PE days, when they keep home school children active. Their workouts begin with a run, followed by dynamic warm-ups, followed by a workout like circuit training or obstacle courses. These PE sessions are designed to be fun. The workouts are interspersed with games to keep kids engaged.

Changing the Trend

Than sees the top causes of childhood obesity as poor diet (overeating, limited access to nutritional foods), sedentary lifestyle (playing video games or watching too much television) and genetic factors (race, ethnicity, age, heredity and fat cell development).

Obesity in children can cause lifelong illness. According to Than, children’s risk of developing diabetes rises exponentially if they are obese.

“Being obese makes the child more at risk for metabolic syndrome, which is a set of health conditions that can lead to heart disease, stroke and, of course, diabetes,” Than said. “If a child has any risk factors in adolescence, they will never lose them as they grow into an adult.”

Childhood obesity makes people more susceptible to weight gain, and it makes it more difficult to maintain weight loss as an adult, as well as increases the risk for developing weight-related diseases, said Than.

Making good food choices is imperative. Schools are part of the equation.

Regarding school lunches, Than doesn’t believe schools offer the healthiest options but says they have come a long way over the years.

“You know, back when I was in school, I remember eating pizza, fries and burgers, foods with very little nutritional value. Nowadays, the school systems are starting to implement higher standards for school lunches and including healthier options like whole-wheat pasta, wraps, salads, and fruits.”

She pointed out that schools are now following the Choose My Plate program, which is a great way to introduce healthy eating to children.

For families struggling with childhood obesity, Than’s advice is to begin making lifestyle changes as a family. She advises making small, gradual changes, like cutting back on TV and electronics usage, going for walks and incorporating more outdoor activities.

She also advises implementing good portion control and using the tools at Choose My Plate to make healthier eating choices. “Motivation will be the key thing here,” said Than. “In my experience, the kids won’t want to move or leave the house. Be creative. Definitely, don’t force them into anything. Encourage them.”

Find more information about Competitive Edge’s innovative programs at www.competitiveedgeva.com.

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