For a Better Commute. For Better Connected Communities in Prince William & Stafford, Va.

Occoquan Local

Riverboat Ghost Tours Planned

By Stephanie Tipple

OCCOQUAN, Va. — A company fascinated by things that go bump in the night will offer ghost hunting tours in Occoquan.

Footsteps to the Past, a family-owned business in Northern Virginia, specializes in historical ghost tours in Alexandria and surrounding areas. Run by two members of the Potomac Valley Paranormal Society, this tour will take you on a smooth ride on the Miss Rivershore boat on the Occoquan River, while tour guides provide information and insights into the various aspects of ghost hunting.

But you don’t need to worry about handling weapons when it comes to ghost hunting – just some technological gadgets and a camera, as explained by the tour guides. Guests who attend the ghost hunting tour will have the opportunity to hear about the different kinds of spirits, or ghosts, along with methods on how to potentially capture their existence and hear tales and experiences that the tour guides have experienced with those who have “passed on.”

The highly energetic and friendly vibe of this tour may seem off course for a ghost hunting endeavor, but this tour will provide you with all of the necessary information you need to know for the next time you might find yourself in a graveyard or a haunted house.

These ghost hunting sessions in Occoquan will continue into the spring, and the company will host more ghost tours in other Northern Virginia areas in the coming months.

Occoquan’s Cock & Bowl: Food and Beer to Savor

Crevettes Boclique

By Stephanie Tipple

If you’re looking for a hearty meal, a beer, and an excellent atmosphere on your next trip to Occoquan, then stop in at the Cock & Bowl.

Owned by couple Jacquie and Michael Lopez, this restaurant is a culmination of their love for entertainment, food and French and Belgian culture.

The Cock & Bowl at 302 Poplar Alley has become an established local favorite, recognized as one of the Best New Restaurants by Northern Virginia Magazine. The restaurant was also rated number two for one of the Top Prince William Places.

The location of the Cock & Bowl was originally a Belgian restaurant, and while studying Belgian culture, the Lopez’s discovered the French culture that they loved was deep within the roots of Belgian culture and decided to expand on this theme for their restaurant. Their menu also incorporates seafood elements like mussels, and a popular item – frites—which are dipped in mayonnaise.

"We Are the Champignons"

One thing that many patrons rave about at the Cock & Bowl is their extensive beer list.

“Beer is so much more approachable,” Jacquie Lopez commented, comparing it to French wines. “We have a two-page food menu, and a 12-page beer list – we’re a beer joint,” Michael Lopez said of the atmosphere he wants to convey to patrons.

In addition to their beers, and their comfort food meets that French cuisine dishes, Cock & Bowl offers restaurant goers live acoustic music on their patio. And like a good reporter always does, I decided to dig in and see for myself if the Cock & Bowl’s food and atmosphere lived up to the reputation.

After poring over the menu, I selected a shrimp dish called the “Crevettes Bucolique.” This dish was a great portion of shrimp with a cream based sauce, garnished with steamed spinach and tomatoes. For the side dish, I ordered the famous frites with mayonnaise, which truly live up to their reputation. This meal is light seafood fare that melts in your mouth, leaving you happily satisfied with the portion and flavors.

My companion selected the “We Are the Champignons” mussel dish for her entrée, which was a delicious plate of mussels, with a cream and mushroom based sauce, along with a side of bread. While many people may shy away from seafood, particularly shell fish, my companion commented that the mussels were light and not over-burdened by the seafood taste, and that the creamy rich sauce complimented the mussels nicely.

One of the best known Belgian dishes in American culture is Belgian waffles, and the Cock & Bowl offers these Belgian waffles in a variety of forms on their menu for a dessert treat. If you’re a little weary of having a breakfast item for dessert, then take a look at their varieties with fudge and caramel, topped with a scoop of Hagen Daz ice cream.

The “Ganache Belgian Waffles” are far from your traditional breakfast waffles, with a light fluffy waffle made fresh, topped with whipped cream and a heavy dousing of chocolate. This dessert is as fun to look at as it is to eat, and hits the spot after a beer and a great meal.

Prince William Bans Burning

Prince William County, Va. — Fire officials in Prince William County have banned all outside burning for Friday due to unusual weather circumstances.

Tomorrow’s weather forecast is calling for low humidity and dry conditions with high winds of 20-30 mph and gusts up to 50 mph. The Fire Marshal’s Office would like to alert the community regarding the threat of fire danger, i.e. outside fires that can spread quickly and out of control escalating into multi-alarm incidents threatening woodlands and structures while depleting fire and rescue resources.

These weather conditions are similar to the conditions that arose this time last year in February that produced numerous brush fires. Therefore, the Fire Marshal’s Office is banning all outside fires commencing today, Thursday, February 23rd through Saturday, February 25th.

Due to high winds and wind gusts, the Fire Marshal’s Office urges residents to secure all outdoor furniture, trash receptacles, cooking grills, and other free-standing items that may become air born causing injury and damage if not properly secured.

The weather has been unseasonably mild this winter prompting homeowners to start early spring clean up and removal of large piles of debris such as damaged trees, shrubbery and leaves. Please note that outside burning of debris is prohibited for residential areas and the preferred method of debris removal is to have it chipped or shredded on site and/or transported to the landfill for disposal.

Earlier this month, the fire marshal’s office instituted it’s 4 p.m. burning law that requires all residents to burn brush after 4 p.m. when humidity levels are typically higher.

-Prince William Fire and Rescue Department 

Last year, a high winds spawned a rash of wildfire in the Potomac Communities along Interstate 95 and behind shopping centers on Prince William Parkway.

Occoquan Will Host Civil War Reenactment

Occoquan will host a historical Civil War re-enactment on Feb. 25 for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. (Submitted photo)

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. — “Yankee” and “Rebel” may seem like names only used long ago when describing the Civil War. But local re-enactors are looking to revive the events of that time by hosting a lecture, re-enactment, and encampment in Occoquan on Saturday, Feb. 25, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

This reenactment group, comprised of members in the Northern Virginia and Maryland, is involved in projects and re-enactments year-round in the area.

“We portray a variety of infantry units, including on occasion Confederates,” said Michael Schaffner, of the reenactment group.

The re-enactors fancy themselves primarily a Union sharpshooter company, added Schaffner.

For this event, noted author Robert Alton will be offering attendees a lecture on the background history of the Civil War. It will be followed by the re-enactors who will be acting out a conflict that happened in Occoquan, exposing residents to the culture and past of history of the town on the river that bears the same name.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit the encampment of the sharpshooters, which will be located near the town’s Tourist Information Center on Mill Street. This encampment will be open to visitors who can view demonstrations on the firearms and weaponry used during the war.

Town merchants will also offer discounts and specials for those who attend the special re-enactment.

Town Demands Oaks III Developer Fix Watershed Problems

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. –– Occoquan officials have made their next move to slow construction of an office building just outside their town limits.

The Occoquan Town Council on Tuesday passed a resolution stating Ken Thompson, the developer of the much debated Oaks III office building to be located at the intersection of Old Bridge and Tanyard Hill roads in Lake Ridge, must first repair the water run-off issues at his adjacent Oaks II office development.

Thompson last month petitioned the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to rezone an 18-acre parcel of undeveloped land that will accommodate the planned 32,500 square foot, low-rise Oaks III office building. The rezoning passed despite outcries from Occoquan residents and members of the Prince William Board, clearing the way for the building’s construction.

According to Prince William County documents, Thompson promised to leave just over 13 acres of the property untouched as a conservation area. But Occoquan’s resolution comes as documents show that the National Rifle Association, not Thompson, owns the land.

Thompson did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

Occoquan officials point to water runoff from the Oaks II property as one of the major culprits that contributed to a flood of the Ballywhack Creek that inundated the town last fall.

The town has compiled a list of possible fixes for the flooding – one of the proposed solutions costing nearly $23,000.

Thompson offered to do these repairs in the course of developing the site of Oaks III, but did not proffer a reasonable time estimate, town officials said. Instead, he stating that market conditions would dictate the timing of the repairs, officials said.

The resolution would the developer accountable for fixing the run-off and erosion issues, stating, “…the developer, Ken Thompson, to promptly and with all possible speed, perform the run-off and stream remediation steps proffered under the rezoning, without regard to the timing of the construction of the Oaks III project.”

Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta also weighed in on the matter Thursday night and said if the erosion is not fixed, “the result will be continued deterioration of the watershed and even higher future costs to the taxpayer.”

Occoquan to Assess Legal Options in Oaks III Fight

Mill Street in Occoquan. (Mary Davidson/

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. — Occoquan officials on Tuesday are expected to weigh their legal options in the fight against a development slated to be built just outside town limits.

Mayor Earnie Porta in an email stated that he, Town Council members, and legal counsel, will meet behind closed doors at Town Hall to discuss what options, if any, they have when trying to bar a the “Oaks III” office building that will be built alongside a single-family home at the busy intersection of Old Bridge and Tanyard Hill roads.

The closed-door session will take place at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Town Council.

A majority of Occoquan residents spoke out last month at a Prince William Board of Supervisors meeting against the development, which will be built in Lake Ridge. After listening to their testimony, Prince William officials ultimately voted to rezone the property that Oaks III will be located on, clearing the way for construction.

The property has been cited as a potential flooding and traffic issue for the town, leading to their opposition for the development. Town residents also said the developer failed to meet with them to hear their concerns on how the anticipated increased traffic levels that would be brought by the development would impact their hometown.

Once the closed session is complete Tuesday, there will be more information about the town of Occoquan and their plans on dealing with Oaks III, said Porta.

Another hot-button issue for the Town Council will be a watershed study proposal, which would allow the county to evaluate the flooding and water drainage issues occurring in the area. This issue will be discussed during the open session of the public meeting.

Many remember the flooding that took place in Occoquan last year, and this has drawn more effort and attention to solving the flooding issue, with this watershed study becoming one of the first steps toward a resolution.

The Town Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, at 314 Mill Street in Occoquan.

Business Recycling Reports Due Feb. 15

The seal of Prince William County, Va.

All Prince William County businesses are asked to complete the annual recycling report by Feb. 15, 2012. The 15-question report can be accessed by clicking here. The report can be completed in 5-10 minutes preferably by the property manager or the person most familiar with trash and recycling services for the property. The Department of Public Works is conducting the annual program to gather information on recycling activities from all businesses and non-residential properties, a requirement of the Prince William County Code and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Recycling is mandatory for everyone in PrinceWilliamCounty.

Annually, about 58% of the County’s waste gets disposed each year at the Prince William County Landfill and the County encourages residents and businesses to do more to reduce, reuse, and recycle their waste so that we can conserve natural resources and landfill capacity for future generations.

Home-based businesses and businesses located within the cities of Manassas and ManassasPark or the incorporated towns of Dumfries, Haymarket, Occoquan, or Quantico are exempt from filing this report. The recycling information is needed in order for the County to comply with recycling reporting requirements established by the Commonwealth of Virginia under Code of Virginia, Section 10.1-1411 and 15.1 – 11.5.2. For more information on the annual non-residential recycling report or to learn more about ways that you can reduce, reuse and recycle in PrinceWilliamCounty, please visit or call the Solid Waste Division at (703) 792-4670.

-Press release 

New Fire Chiefs Promoted

Pictured in the photo left to right: Assistant Chief Matt Smolsky, Operations Section Assistant Chief Lance McClintock, Community Safety Section Assistant Chief Tim Keen, Systems Support Section. (Submitted)

Woodbridge, Va. — Prince William County has three new assistant fire chiefs.

Each was promoted last night at a ceremony at C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge.

Assistant Chief Matt Smolsky will work in the operations section of the department, Assistant Chief Lance McClintock will work in the community safety section, and Assistant Chief Tim Keen will work in systems support, said Prince William Fire and Rescue Department spokeswoman Kim Hylander.

The promotions come after long-time Assistant Chief Hadden Culp retired from the department late last year.

Redesigned Website Focuses on Occoquan

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. — A new website has dedicated itself to providing information about Occoquan. has recently gone through a redesign, with an aesthetic update and even more content about everything you need to know about what’s going on in Occoquan. offers information on what is happening in the town, a complete history of the town, the town’s political past and present, development projects currently on tap, and information about transportation in the town.

Residents will find information about the best places to dine, as Occoquan has more than 100 restaurants and shops. Boating and real estate information is also listed on the site.

Occoquan Spring Craft Fair Dates Announced

Mill Street in Occoquan. (Mary Davidson/

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. –– If you’re a fan of, great music, and fun, and craft shows, get ready for Occoquan’s annual Spring Craft Fair.

This year, craft fair will be held on June 2 and 3, and has been a fixture in the town for the past 25 years. This rain or shine event is expected to bring more than 25,000 people into the town nestled along the Occoquan River just north of Woodbridge. The fair is also expected to draw 200 to 300 local vendors selling their craft items.

In addition to crafters, local merchants who work in Occoquan, food vendors and entertainment will be on hand.

The Director of the Occoquan Craft Fairs, Pat Bowen, looks forward to the interactions with locals and merchants at this year’s craft fair.

“We all love the atmosphere and friendships that is made through the years with the crafters returning year after year – and always a new face every show. It is a chance for the merchants to gain new business with the amount of people that pass through town each show,” Bowen said.

The craft fair can also bring the community together.

“I look forward to the shows each year as do most of the merchants. I also think it is a good thing to see the towns people come together all working [they all volunteer] for the same cause,” said Bowen.

This year, the craft fair will be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. All of the visitors will be guided to park at nearby commuter lots specifically designated for fair parking. From there, shuttle buses into taking visitors in and out of the town will also be available.

Occoquan Reacts to Oaks III Rezoning

The seal of Prince William County, Va.

By Stephanie Tipple

Lake Ridge, Va. — Occoquan residents and the town’s mayor have reacted to Prince William officials’ decision to allow construction of an office building just outside the town limits.

Mayor Earnie Porta and many town residents opposed the rezoning approved on Jan. 10 by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. The ruling will allow construction of the three-story Oaks III office building and a single family home at the corner of Old Bridge and Tanyard Hill roads.

The rezoned property is owned by Ken Thompson, developer of the adjacent Oaks I and II properties. Thompson did not return repeated requests for comment for this story.

“Obviously, everyone on the Town Council is disappointed with the BOCS vote, but we are also very appreciative of Supervisor May’s steadfast and able support of the town and the surrounding community on the issue, and for Supervisor Principi’s and Supervisor Nohe’s considered and principled votes,” said Porta in an email.

Prince William Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May, whose magisterial district lies outside the town of Occoquan, and Prince William Supervisors Frank Principi and Marty Nohe supported Porta in opposing the rezoning, which ultimately passed the Prince William Board by a five to three vote.

Porta thanked Occoquan residents for their support in opposing the development.

“Of course, we are especially grateful to all the town residents, business owners, and friends from the surrounding community who wrote emails and attended the BOCS hearing to make their views known,” said Porta.

The mayor still expresses his concerns for the potential issues that may be brought about or exacerbated by the development.

“In addition to the traffic impacts the town will experience from this project, and the missed opportunity to address existing storm water problems to which the developer is currently contributing, it is especially unfortunate that a majority of the BOCS chose to reward developer behavior that should be strongly and actively discouraged in the county. The Town Council, residents, and businesses will, of course, be investigating all feasible options and paying very close attention to the project’s progress,” said Porta.

Porta, and Acting President of the Occoquan Society James Phelps, said Thompson could have done a better job at addressing town residents’ concerns about the development.

“He met once with the Town of Occoquan, to fulfill the requirement to offer a courtesy review of the plan, after he had been approved at the [Prince William County] Planning Commission. He made it clear at that meeting that he was there to explain the plan, not to alter it in any way. To this day, he has never appeared to explain the plan to the Occoquan Town Council, nor has he met with the adjacent land owners, or with any of the other communities affected by the development,” said Phelps.

The Jan. 10 Board meeting was attended by more than residents who opposed the rezoning.

Unpopular Oaks III Plan Approved

Lake Ridge, Va. – Despite overwhelming opposition, officials Tuesday night approved a land rezoning that will lead to the construction of an office building in Lake Ridge.

In a five to three vote, a portion of the three-acre parcel of land at the busy intersection of Old Bridge Road and Tanyard Hill Road – a commuter cut through route and an entrance to the Town of Occoquan – was rezoned from agricultural land to office use. The decision gives way to plans to build a 32,500 square foot office building on the site.

While the rezoning passed, more than 100 people came to the Prince William County Government Center to oppose the plan, and ultimately the office building that will be called Oaks III. They cited traffic concerns on the already busy Tanyard Hill Road and the overburdened commuter thoroughfare, Old Bridge Road, and cited concerns for storm water runoff from a creek that bisects the property – fears amplified by recent flooding.

“Since 1972 we’ve dealing with water coming down the Ballywhack Creek regularly, and flooding us out regularly…we’ve simply reached a tipping point in Occoquan: There’s nowhere else for any more water to go, there nowhere else for even one more car to go,” said Town of Occoquan Preservation Society Acting President James Phelps.

A sticking point with residents, Occoquan officials, and for some Prince William County Supervisors in whose county this land is located, were claims the developer did not work with area residents to hear and address their concerns for the project. Prince William Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May fought hard against the rezoning and drafted a failed resolution to oppose the action. Supervisors Principi and Nohe supported May in voting against rezoning.

Chairman Corey Stewart, At-large, supported the ultimate plan to build office space, and said for too long Prince William has lost out to neighboring Stafford County which has been successful in attracting federal contractors to their workforce. He noted the value of the land in Lake Ridge and that its proximity to Interstate 95 makes it attractive to potential employers who will be looking for more office space once the job market rebounds.

“Proposals to develop this piece of property will come back. They came in the past, they’re coming today, and they will come in the future unless we make a decision today,” said Stewart. “Folks, doing nothing does not preserve this property.”

Not all of the land on the property will be used for the office building, as more than 13 of the nearly 18 acres will remain zoned agricultural, and the land will then be placed into a conservation easement where it will remain untouched forever, said Stewart.

In addition to Occoquan, the land sits near two other office buildings with similar names, Oaks I and Oaks II, as well as the Thousand Oaks residential neighborhood.

Public Will Speak Tonight on Contentious Development

Prince William County documents show the proposed Oaks III development at the corner of Old Bridge and Tanyard Hill roads in Lake Ridge, outside Occoquan.

By Stephanie Tipple

Lake Ridge, Va. — Prince William Supervisors tonight will hear from the public about a developer’s contentious plan to construct an office building at a busy intersection in Lake Ridge.

Supervisors ultimately will decide whether or not to rezone a property at Tanyard Hill and Old Bridge roads, outside Occoquan, to make way for a 32,500 square foot office building. This proposed commercial rezoning has met with opposition from elected officials on the Occoquan Town Council who do not support the project.

Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta has expressed two main concerns: the negative impact the project will have on storm water drainage which leads into the town, and the increased traffic the development will bring to the already congested area.

Town officials also said the development will impede their attempt provide economic growth opportunities to residents, and that by approving of these development project, the county will be “rewarding a developer for just the kind of behavior the county should be discouraging,” according to a resolution drafted by town officials denouncing the project.

But the Oaks III developer, Ken Thompson, a Virginia resident and longtime Lake Ridge community environmentalist, said the development on his piece of property will in fact provide many benefits to the community. As per the most current rezoning request, 76 percent of the property owned by Thompson will be left untouched, instead being placed into a conservation easement.

Thompson also said all of the studies and assessments of the property that have been done in preparation for this rezoning request, addressing the concerns that the town of Occoquan has thus far expressed.

A public hearing will be held tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Prince William County Government Center on Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge.

The proposed building
Plans call for the buildings to look similar to nearby Oaks office buildings previously built by Thompson in the past. It will be three stories, like the older buildings, with the addition of six windows on either side of the building, three more than the older buildings. There are also plans to plant several trees on the site, to tuck the office building away and preserve the natural aspect of the area.

Flood concerns
The Ballywhack Creek which runs through the middle of the parcel and into the small Occoquan town flooded recently causing damage to the buildings in the small village. The town fears developing the land would lead to more flooding from the creek.

But a study conducted on the safety of the stream rezoning request was being developed found the expansion would have low impact development techniques like cisterns and infiltrated ditches that they will have the ability to make the run off of the parcel even less than the flooding that the land is currently experiencing, according to Thompson.

Traffic concerns
There was also a traffic impact analysis completed in this planning period, and this was done in conjunction with the county’s transportation department and the Virginia Department of Transportation, which would not be heavily impacted. This study is on file and was submitted to the county and accepted. “We feel like we have an excellent application,” Thompson said of the recent rezoning request.

Neutral Board of Supervisors
On the whole, the members of the Board of County Supervisors remain neutral on the plans defined in the rezoning request, waiting until tonight’s meeting to hear both sides. Prince William Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May, who does not represent the Town of Occoquan but rather a magisterial district in Prince William County by the same name, has expressed some concerns that mirror those of the town’s. May said the entrance of the development and modifications that have been discussed, but said he will remain neutral at the present time.

Santa Shows in Occoquan, Again

Sophia, 4, and Lillian, 2, took a minute from shopping in Occoquan to let Santa know what they would like for Christmas. (Mary Davidson/

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. — Santa decided to make one more appearance in Occoquan this weekend before heading back to the North Pole to get ready for his annual Christmas Eve ride.

Santa visited children during the boat rides held Saturday Sunday onboard of the Miss Rivershore. There were boat rides from 10 p.m. to 1 p.m., where children had the opportunity to experience some Christmas magic with Santa during this fun and festive half hour boat rides.

And while we all know that Santa has quite an appetite, Occoquan residents got to see this firsthand, as Santa made an appearance at The Pink Bicycle Team Room at 303 Commerce Street in Occoquan, where he had breakfast with attendees.

Photos: Prince William Officials Sworn In

Prince William County, Va. — Prince William County on Monday night held a swearing-in ceremony for members of the county Board of Supervisors, Sheriff’s office, and other elected positions, at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas.


Prince William County Board of Supervisor Chairman At-large Corey A. Stewart is sworn in for his second term as At-large Supervisor. [Photo courtesy: Prince William County]



Prince William Sheriff Glen Hill is sworn in for his next term, a position he’s held since 2003. [Photo courtesy: Prince William County]



Prince William Neabsco District Supervisor John Jenkins, a member of the Board since 1982, is sworn in for his next four-year term. [Photo courtesy: Prince William County]


Prince William Commonwealth Attorney Paul Ebert is sworn in. [Photo courtesy: Prince William County]


Elected officials attend a swearing-in ceremony in Manassas on Monday night. [Photo courtesy: Prince William County]

$16 Million Radio Upgrade Proposed

The new public safety radio system eyed by officials in Prince William County would improve radio ability inside buildings, documents state. Areas in red indicate improved radio coverage with after a new radio system is implemented.

Prince William County, Va. — The communication system used by first responders in Prince William County could soon get an upgrade.

County officials want to replace the radio system used by county police, fire and rescue personnel, public schools, sheriff’s office and jail with a new system guaranteed to last 15 years. It comes with a $16 million contract price tag with nearly $6 million in incentives worked into the deal, according to county documents.

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors is expected to be briefed on the new system at their public meeting Tuesday.

In addition to agencies in Prince William County, Dumfries, Haymarket, Quantico and Occoquan will also use the system.

The new radio system, which could be implemented by the lower of two current bidding compaines, Motorola, will improve radio communication inside of buildings on the eastern and extreme western sides of the county, documents state. The new system would also include two new base towers to improve the radio system’s transmission abilities.

The county’s current radio system was installed in 1999 and was guaranteed a lifespan of 15 years. It will no longer be supported by its manufacturer in 2013, and county officials hope to have a new system in place by the end of its guaranteed lifespan.

County documents don’t address an option of encrypting the radio system to shield communications from public ears. If county officials do encrypt its radio frequencies, they will follow suit with neighboring Stafford Count which last year hushed police communications, preventing residents from monitoring the sheriff’s department’s actions and from getting up to the minute information about road closures over the public airwaves.

Artists Host Holiday Collection in Occoquan

(Gary Gannt)

(Jane Ernst)

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. —The Unwrap the Magic art collection is presents the images of all of the wonderful things that make up winter and the Christmas season.

The exhibit is located in the Artists’ Undertaking Gallery, located at 309 Mill Street in Occoquan. This art gallery has been a fixture in Occoquan since 1977, and is known for doing yearly art collections to commemorate the Christmas season.

All of the images are based off of the premise of the beauty of winter and the holidays.

“The collection is meant to unwrap the magic of our artistic people,” and Jane Ernst, a local artist who has been involved with the art gallery since 2000.

This group of local talent includes, Steve Myles, David Ernst, Bob Horowitz, Jack Dyer, Gerry Gantt, Marianne Cordyack and Ernst.

One of the most unique components of this art collection is all of the different mediums being used to express this holiday theme. On your trip to the gallery for Unwrap the Magic, expect to see encaustics, pastels, jewelry, acrylic, oil, fused glass, etchings and photographs represented.

The artists are anticipating a great turnout for Unwrap the Magic, and a reception will be hosted on Saturday Dec. 10, from 2 to 6 p.m., where patrons will be able to view the collection, and meet the artists as well.

For more information about the reception and the Unwrap the Magic exhibit, please check out their website.

Occoquan Blessed for Holidays

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. — Residents gathered Sunday night at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on the corner of Washington and Commerce streets in Occoquan to attend the annual Town Blessing. This blessing, held by the church’s Reverend Lundy, was a chance for residents to come together to ring in some Christmas cheer and give thanks.

The blessing service was held in the church, where the choir sang Christmas carols and Lundy gave his sermon on the story of Jesus at Christmastime. From there the group moved to a nearby gazebo , where town residents held candles in a circle around Lundy. The reverend then blessed the town and all those who are disadvantaged and in need of assistance this holiday season.

This long standing tradition has been a part of the community for many years, and is a way for community members to come together during the season of giving. Mayor Earnie Porta commented that this tradition of the Town Blessing started far before his time as mayor.

When the Town Blessing concluded, all of the residents moved to nearby Madigan’s Waterfront Restaurant for the annual Occoquan Town Party, with food, drinks and celebration of the Christmas season. Delegate Luke Torian (D-52, Dumfries, Occoquan, Woodbridge), as well as Occoquan Town Council members and town merchants were in attendance.

(Photo: Stephanie Tipple/

Occoquan’s Untrim-a-Tree Helps Needy

Sophia, 4, and Lillian, 2, took a minute from shopping in Occoquan to let Santa know what they would like for Christmas. (Mary Davidson/

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. — Now that the holiday season is in full swing for many, this time of year can be a major hardship for many families. With the economy still on rocky soil, many families cannot afford to purchase the basic amenities and all of the gifts for their children and family members , but Occoquan residents and merchants are working together to bring the holiday cheer to these disadvantaged families.

The Untrim a Tree project, sponsored by the Prince William County Volunteer Organization and the Occoquan Merchants Association, is a collaborative effort to provide families with gifts and items that they need this Christmas. If you take a stroll around Occoquan you’ll see the Christmas tree set up for this project, laden with tags, each containing items that local families truly need this Christmas.

Betsy Merklein, owner of Personally Yours in Occoquan has been a major part of this project for many years. Merklein is passionate about helping others, and says that these gifts are given to young mothers, the elderly, and other families who have a real need for some good Christmas cheer.

Each person who will be on the receiving end of this project is given two wishes, and these are up for grabs for Occoquan and Prince William County residents to fulfill. While many residents have graciously jumped in, excited to help, there are still tags that are available to be claimed.

You get to select which tags you’d like yourself, and you have the opportunity to make a big difference in a family’s Christmas this year. If you’re interested in taking a tag for the Untrim a Tree project, then please contact Merklein at 703-494-8683.

Occoquan Proposes New Signage Rules

Occoquan's historic district along Mill Street. (Mary Davidson/

Occoquan, Va. — It’s a sign of the times in Occoquan, literally. The Town Council has proposed changes to the rules that govern the types of signs businesses in the historic district can use.

Under the newly proposed rules, businesses can use up to four signs whether they be flags with logos or regular signs in any combination they choose. They’ll also be able to use up to two portable A-frame chalkboard signs outside their shops.

The proposed changes are a departure from the past when businesses weren’t even allowed to hang flags outside their businesses.

“I support the town council’s proposal on this, and I think they’ve come up with a more liberal proposal than what the Architectural Review Board had come up with,” said Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta.

When the frenzy over signage in the town erupted this spring, the review board partnered was commissioned and it partnered with members of the business community to come up with signage recommendations. Unlike the proposal put forth by the Town Council, the ARB recommendations limited businesses to either using a flag or a sign, and classified flags as decorative flags or logoed flags.

“In every community there is a group of people who are very opinionated, and I’m sure there is a group of people would like to see more regulations when it comes to signs but I think we have a plan that works here,” said Porta.

The hubbub about signs comes after the town welcomed more than 100 shoppers to Occoquan on Friday night for its annual holiday open house and Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Page 39 of 40« First...102030...3637383940