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Smart Beginnings supports starting children off strong


Many people can remember the days of working on reading skills in school and the wonderful adventures that opened as a result. But that’s not every child’s experience, because not every child is ready for Kindergarten. And it’s often not just about age or maturity. The fact is, children who enter Kindergarten healthy and ready to learn have better success educationally and as adults.

Kendra Kielbasa, Director of Smart Beginnings of Greater Prince William (SBGPW), knows this and wants to make sure every child is prepared for a quality education. To do this, parents, caregivers, and educators need to start early.

Crucial Needs of Children Ages 0-5

According to Kielbasa, 90 percent of a child’s brain has formed by age five.

“We need to get the word out and raise community awareness of the importance of early childhood,” said Kielbasa. “This is the time in which the foundation is laid for future learning.”

A loving, secure environment where children are engaged and social-emotional bonds are formed with parents and caregivers has a profound effect on a child’s future, said Kielbasa. Unfortunately, underserved children in the community are found to have a 3-million-word gap compared to children that have access to strong social-emotional supports and quality early learning environments. This gap can mean the difference between successful learning and an environment that a child finds frustrating and inaccessible. Parents and caregivers should talk, sing, and read to young children every day.

Kielbasa said that children in the literacy gap may need remedial care in other ways, too. Social-emotional bonding affects kids ages 0-5 and may be lacking for many reasons, putting children in a position to perform poorly in an educational environment.

“Children that are consistently behind are often unable to catch up by grade three,” she said. “This inability to close the gap can lead to grade repetition, leading to higher incidences of expulsion, dropout or late graduation. Other social problems, such as health issues and criminal behavior, also are tied to the literacy gap.”

Using the Tools

SBGPW encourages routine screenings that address both developmental milestones and behavioral skills at key developmental increments. The sooner a delay is identified, the greater the opportunity for support and optimal outcome for the child, Kielbasa said.

SBGPW encourages the use of these screening tools in childcare centers and health centers. They also partner with GMU MAPs clinic at Manassas Park Community center to provide screening to all children under age five.

Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) is a tool used to aid in finding literacy gaps. PALS is given to children at the start of Kindergarten to gauge which children have reading deficiencies, including number and letter recognition. The assessment is not about reading levels, but more about recognition issues that may lead to reading problems.

Closing the Literacy Gap

SBGPW has set three priorities to support kindergarten readiness: pre-literacy; high-quality childcare/early learning programs; and initiatives or programs that support health and well-being.

Strong pre-literacy tools help children to be ready for school, and reading to children beginning at birth supports healthy brain development. That’s why SBGPW has distributed over 4,000 first books through the Books 4 Babies program at Novant Health UVA Prince William Medical Center and Greater Prince William Community Health Center. It’s also the reason they support and partner with other literacy projects such as the Prince William Public Library System’s 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program.

SBGPW is also supporting early childhood professionals who want to focus on continuous quality improvement for the children and families they serve. They provide critical professional development training in conjunction with NOVA-Manassas. They also offer an ongoing Director’s Forum for early childhood directors to collaborate, learn and obtain resources for their staff, families, and centers.

Organizations interested in becoming a community partner should email Kendra Kielbasa at More information can be found at

The Town of Dumfries is Hiring

Town Seal_Color-w. borderJoin a Great Team – The Town of Dumfries is presently accepting applications for the following positions:

— Building Official

— Chief of Police

— Code Compliance Officer

— Community Development Director

— Director of Public Works

— Information Technology Manager

— Police Officer

— Sergeant

The staff at the Town of Dumfries do what they love and love what they do. While each person has a particular role, the staff also works together to support each other and the Town as a whole. You can find further information and details on how to apply on the Town’s website at

‘Prince William County’s Critical Home Repair program’

  • Habitat for Humanity Prince William County
  • Address: 10159 Hastings Dr Manassas, Virginia
  • Phone: (703) 369-6708

Through Habitat for Humanity Prince William County’s Critical Home Repair program, critical systems that impact health and safety are repaired, replaced or built for families who could not otherwise afford to accomplish these tasks. Please visit to learn more!

Honor vets and active duty military at the Clubs at Quantico

Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security John C. Harvey, Jr.

On Tuesday, January 24 the Prince William Chamber of Commerce will host their annual Salute to the Armed Forces Luncheon at the Clubs at Quantico & Crossroads Event Center, located on Marine Corps Base Quantico.  

Presented by the Chamber’s Veterans Council, the luncheon features status reports from Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander, Colonel Angie Holbrook and Colonel Joseph Murray, Base Commander at Quantico. Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, John Harvey will be the Keynote Speaker. PenFed Credit Union is the Presenting Sponsor. All interested Prince William County and Manassas area residents and business leaders are encouraged to attend.

No one who lives or works in Northern Virginia can be unaware that the region is packed with veterans and military personnel, making it somewhat easy for residents to take for granted the safety and security we enjoy. Chamber staff agree, and said they believe that is why the Salute to the Armed Forces has become a favorite among the membership.

“The event is so very moving and that effect has not worn off, even after six years,” said Director of Marketing and Communications Andrea Short.

This will be the first year that the event will take place on the Marine Corps Base. Each year the Chamber utilizes this program to honor active-duty service members and Veterans from across the region.

The 2017 event will be no exception. From the moment guests walk through the doors they will recognize that this event is different from any other business luncheon or awards program. Veterans are given a badge so that fellow attendees know they have served.

Conversations around the lunch tables to the remarks from the podium; the room hums with moving accounts of personal connections to the U.S. military. Even the Marine Corps and Army Commanders carry the theme by honoring outstanding soldiers and Marines from their command.

In 2016, a young Marine who had almost single-handedly run the Toys for Tots program was honored by her Commander.   

This year the Chamber’s Salute to the Armed Forces Keynote Speaker, John Harvey, will share what is being done by Governor Terry McAuliffe’s administration in terms of veterans-related issues and the ways in which the Commonwealth is working to ensure the maintenance of a productive relationship with military services and the federal Department of Defense.

The program will also feature remarks by World War II Navy Veteran Chilton Raiford who lived through two Kamikaze attacks and rescued fellow servicemen from a burning staircase.

The program concludes when retired Marine and Chamber member Harry Horning plays TAPS on his trumpet, honoring those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice.

In addition to PenFed Credit Union, Salute to the Armed Forces 2017 is sponsored by First Command Financial Planning, NOVEC, Prince William Living, Zeiders Enterprises, The Prince William Times and Dominion Virginia Power, among others. Tickets to the luncheon are $45 for members of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, or $60 for non-members. Registration is available online at Questions? Contact the Prince William Chamber of Commerce at 703-368-6600 or email

Want More Prince William County?

Prince William County has established itself as an important part of the economic landscape of the Greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area and Northern Virginia.  The County’s contributions to the Northern Virginia economy has resulted in the region singularly accounting for roughly 45 percent of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s total economic activity and 37 percent of all employment, as recently reported in the 2016 State of the Commonwealth Report.  

As Virginia’s second-largest and fourth-fastest growing County, Prince William County has grown consistently and continues to expand and diversify.  Last year, Site Selection, cited one of Prince William County’s Department of Economic Development projects as “…the top project in capital investment [in Virginia] for 2016, to date, is a $350 million Iron Mountain data center going into Manassas.”  SmartAssets also named Prince William County among the state’s top 5 investment locations.

In the last five calendar years [2011-2015], projects closed by the Prince William County Department of Economic Development alone intend to invest a record $2.7 billion and to create 2,900 jobs.  2015 was the fifth year in the Department’s history that it logged over half of a billion dollars in capital investment, with $660 million and more than 600 new jobs. 

“Twenty years ago Prince William County recognized the importance of Economic Development and dedicated a new Department to work on defining a roadmap to its future,” said Corey A. Stewart, Chairman, Prince William Board of County Supervisors. “Today, we are realizing the benefit of laying the foundation for a prosperous economy and continue in our dedication to raise the bar higher for our business community and citizens by delivering on increased capital investment and high-paying, highly-skilled jobs.”

“By concentrating in life sciences and information technology we are creating growth opportunities that are opening up new markets and new types of business opportunities, influencing other technology sectors and the region, as a whole,” said Jeff Kaczmarek, Executive Director, Department of Economic Development, Prince William County.  “The County’s growth is owed in part to its strategic location and excellent competitive edge, such as a ready supply of highly-educated young professionals, affordable and available land and competitive labor costs, all of which result in a strong value proposition.”

Throughout its growth, Prince William County has distinguished itself as a premier business destination, that has made significant strides in its new role as a thriving science and technology hub.  There has also been a notable increase in employment opportunities within Prince William County.  As of 2015, the County provided job opportunities for over 122,000 persons.  In fact, over the period 2010-2015, job growth in Prince William County convincingly outpaced that of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area at 18% compared to 6%; as well as that of the state of Virginia which also saw a 6% increase.  Similarly, the number of businesses in Prince William County increased by 20% over the same period compared to 11% growth in the Washington D.C. metro area and 12% growth for all of Virginia. 

By all indications, Prince William County’s ability to generate job opportunities within its boundaries is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, based on the latest round of estimates released by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.  According to those projections, job growth in Prince William County is expected to outpace that of any of the other observed localities in the metro area.  Over the 30-year period, 2015-2045, the County is expected to add an additional 114,000 jobs – an almost 80% increase. 

Want more Prince William County?  Check out our latest video, sign-up for newsletters or visit us at: or @PWCDED.

Competitive Edge gives girls in sports an edge

  • Competitive Edge Athletic Performance Center
  • Address: 14849 Persistence Dr. – Featherstone Industrial Park Woodbridge, VA 22191
  • Phone: 571-398-2813
  • Website:

Laila Jewett may only be an 8th grader, but she has big plans. Jewett wants to be a professional basketball player in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

Jewett’s hard work and dedication has landed her on Christ Chapel Academy’s high school varsity team. In addition, Jewett plays for an AAU travel basketball team that competes locally and nationally. These teams are incredibly competitive, with college scouts watching the progress of these players. Jewett recently played in the Next Sports Phenom’s She Got Game Middle School Classic and received the “Most Outstanding Player Award.” Jewett said “You always have to play your best.” She does exactly that, with help from her training sessions at Competitive Edge Athletic Performance Center.

Sports Performance Training

Jewett has been a member of Competitive Edge for approximately 11 months. Competitive Edge believes in developing the complete athlete. Their mission is to encourage youth to keep their edge strong in both athletics and academics. Competitive Edge athletes see benefits in enhanced speed, strength, increased endurance, as well as improved flexibility and coordination.

Jewett takes part in their Sports Performance Training program. She works on perfecting fluidity in her movements through drills developed specifically for her age and skill level. Sessions can include agility ladder footwork, speed endurance drills and working with resistance bands to build strength and explosiveness, i.e Vertimax jump training. Jewett also attends Competitive Edge’s Sports Flex sessions, which is their version of Yoga where they encourage the athletes to partake in to increase flexibility and injury prevention.

The training sessions consist of both boys and girls. The performance trainers demonstrate drills for the groups, showing them the correct form to use. Once the athletes begin their work out, the trainers encourage them to complete all the drills.

“You can start again if you make mistakes,” Jewett said. “The coaches are really nice. They make sure I’m doing the moves right so I don’t injure myself, even if that means going slow.” When Jewett was asked about working out in a mixed group, she said, “I don’t think there’s much difference between boys and girls in sports, except boys are more physical. They are faster and stronger.” Jewett gives girls in sports simple advice. “Be in the gym as much as you possibly can, because that’s how you get better.”

Girls and Sports

Competitive Edge creates a supportive environment in which young women can be in training and work on their sports goals next to young men. In 1972, Title IX was enacted, changing the landscape of women’s sports, especially in high schools and universities, throughout the United States.

Mother Jones reported in 2012 that at the time Title IX was enacted, just under 295,000 girls participated in high school sports. In 40 years, this number has increased dramatically, to nearly 3.2 million. Yet the opportunities afforded boys for sports still top the number of girl’s opportunities. also reports that, despite this, there are more women playing collegiate sports than ever before. NCAA schools have increased female sports participation from less than 30,000 to over 193,000 since 1972.

Girls with big sports goals like Lailah Jewett are reaping the benefits. She is growing up with boys and girls being equal in sports, making it, as she said, “no big deal.” Competitive Edge knows it is a big deal. They know that providing training that benefits the success of both boys and girls can help build positive attitudes and other life habits that are essential to the development of youth athletes, such as fostering new friendships and encouraging academic success and improved self-esteem.

For more information on Competitive Edge, visit

Five ways Manassas Park Parks and Recreation staff stay motivated to workout

To many of us, the new year is an excuse to finally get motivated to work out and lose weight. Working out regularly is easier said than done because, for so many of us, it’s incredibly difficult to get, and then keep, the motivation to continue working out.

Here are some helpful hints from the Department of Parks and Recreation staff at the Manassas Park Community Center in regards to getting past the intimidation of working out, finding the motivation to work out, and keeping that motivation!

1. Set a goal to inspire you and keep you motivated

Whether you’re trying to advance professionally or looking to start working out, having clear goals help you stay focused and motivated especially during periods where you feel like you’ve plateaued. Operations/Aquatics Supervisor Sarah Barnett says even though she began working out as a student, she finds it harder and harder to stay motivated as a mom with a full-time job.

“I attended college on a running scholarship and felt like I was sort of getting paid to run,” she shares, “But now I find the best way to stay motivated is to sign up for a race or a marathon, and that forces me to stay motivated.”

Stay on task by setting clear goals using the SMART system; goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Getting ready for your first 5K easily follows the SMART system and can help propel you to setting more SMART goals.

2. Find someone to keep you accountable

Having a friend or hiring a personal trainer can really help you get the most out of your workouts. They can help ensure you’re using proper form, inspire you to try a new exercise, and help motivate you to steadily and safely push yourself to get you closer to your goal. One of the most important advantages of working out with somebody is that they can help keep you focused.

“I need an accountability partner as a motivator so I work out with a trainer,” says Jacqueline Tyre-Perry, Recreation Specialist for School Age Programs. Tyre-Perry knows she will be tempted to take shortcuts if she does not have that extra person tracking her progress. “Seeing results also motivates me, but the best motivator for me is definitely a trainer. When they say, ‘Give me five more reps!’ you know they’re pushing you while cheering you on.”

3. Work out in a group setting to motivate you to keep coming back

Working out with friends isn’t only great for accountability, but it makes the gym and working out fun instead of a chore. Park Manager AJ Tibbs says he began working out a couple of years ago because he wanted to get healthier, but now he likes going to the gym because he has tons of friends there.

“Now, working out has become a hobby for me,” Tibbs says, Life is too short, you really got to have fun while you can. I love going to the gym because I like to socialize there while I work out with weights.”

Marketing Manager Jason Shriner says he never worked out when he was younger. A former baker, he remembers watching a video by one of his food idols Michael Pollan where Pollan suggested to eat what you want, but make it yourself. Following this rule will keep you from overindulging (french fries take a lot of effort to make!) but you will also know exactly what you are eating.

However, he realized that eating healthy isn’t enough to have a healthy lifestyle. He remembers hearing a story on the radio where a 30-year-old nurse had a heart attack. “When I heard that story, I was about two years from turning 30, and I thought to myself, ‘If a nurse has a heart attack, what chance does a baker have?’” Shriner recalls. 

He started working out on his own at a gym, but he really started to love working out when he took boot camp at the Community Center – his first group exercise class. 

“I like working out in a group setting like boot camp because you never feel alone. Everybody is giving their all right next to you! Honestly, some of my favorite times are when the instructor does the craziest exercise, and we all just start laughing because we think it’s impossible – but then we try it together and succeed!”

4. Use working out as a chance to recharge your mind

Study after study has shown that exercise can help improve your mood as well as provides a myriad of mental benefits. When you’ve had a really stressful day, it can be really satisfying to channel that frustration in a healthy way by lifting weights.

When I work out, I like to be alone so I can just think,” says Jay Swisher, City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks recreation director. Swisher began working out as a school athlete to compete on the field, to be more competitive, and to enhance his sports abilities. “This led to a real interest in fitness and nutrition, which I studied in college. My interest in working out began as physical, but as I have grown older, my interest has become more mental as I use working out as my excuse to decompress and de-stress.”

To get the most mental benefit out of your workout, find a routine and a setting that works for you. Try jogging through a park, such as Signal Hill Park, to take in all the beautiful green scenery and sunshine. Once you find that perfect mix of scenery, routine, and music, you’ll naturally be drawn to working out.

5. Track your workout to measure your progress and use technology to help keep you accountable

When you start working out over several months, it’s easy to lose track of how much weight you’ve been lifting or how long you’ve been running three miles. Using a notetaking or fitness app on your smartphone can help keep you on target with your fitness goals. When you notice you haven’t increased your weights in three weeks, it could motivate you to add an extra five pounds.

Speaking of technology, if you prefer working out on your own getting a fitness device can also help you stay motivated. 

“My Apple watch was a Christmas gift from 2015, and it came with an app to help you track your workouts,” says Amelia Powell, Customer Service Supervisor. “The watch buzzed everyday reminding me to exercise. All those buzzes finally took their toll, and finally, on February 8th, I began running,” she said.

Reminders aren’t the only feature you can expect from fitness devices. Apps can also help you keep track of health metrics such as heart rate, exercise frequency, and calories consumed. Plus, the app can make sure you achieve your daily goals. 

“The app gives you completed circles each day you complete your workout. I have met my current fitness goal, but I still like seeing those completed circles on my watch. In fact, those completed circles keep me motivated to continue working out,” Powell explained.

Once you begin working out, you will find your own reasons to stay motivated just as the some of the staff members at Parks and Recreation have. We wish you much success with your fitness goals, and remember the Manassas Park Community Center offers group exercise classes such as Zumba or boot camp as well as qualified and certified personal fitness trainers to help you meet all of your fitness needs. Here’s to a healthy 2017!

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 or call at 703-335-8872.

Grand Marshal, Woman of the Year honored at Manassas Christmas Parade


This year. the 71st Annual Manassas Christmas Parade on December 2 featured two outstanding citizens as its Parade Grand Marshal and Woman of the Year. John O. Gregory, veteran, accomplished businessman and pillar of the community, will serve as the parade’s Grand Marshal. Robin Perkins, who served as treasurer for the City of Manassas for over 18 years is this year’s Woman of the Year. Both are longtime Manassas residents who are passionate about giving back to their communities.

Grand Marshal John O. Gregory

Lifelong Manassas resident John O. Gregory has dedicated himself to his community and his country well over his lifetime. He served in both the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy and is a veteran of World War II. He also served as Commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars for 6 terms.

Gregory literally helped build the community in Manassas as founder of Gregory Construction Company, a design-build firm. He designed and built over 2000 community projects, including elementary and high schools, churches and religious buildings. He was one of the founders of Prince William Hospital and served on its Board of Directors for many years. He also co-founded and served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for a local bank, Security Bank, which is now part of BB&T Banking System.

Former President George H.W. Bush invited Gregory to the White House in 1988 and remarked, “You are the perfect example of the “1000 Points of Light” for your volunteer service.” Gregory has supported many volunteer causes through the Lions Clubs International, including serving as International Director for Lions Clubs for 3 years. He was recognized for his good works when he received the Melvin Jones Award for Service and the Ambassador of Good Will.

Gregory also raised his family in Manassas and now has two granddaughters and one grandson. His grandchildren frequently accompany him to his lifelong church, Bethel Lutheran Church in Manassas.

Woman of the Year Robin Perkins

Robin Perkins has made a career of giving back. She started as a volunteer for the Treasurer’s Office a few days a week. She was first elected treasurer for the City of Manassas back in 1997 when tax records were kept on a binary card system. Perkins helped create the original tax database for residents. Her career was spent handling the City of Manassas’ investment portfolio, collecting taxes and paying invoices. She was a public servant for over 35 years, having been re-elected 4 times before retiring.

A Manassas local, Perkins raised her family here after graduating from Osbourn High School. Although her career as a civil servant came to a close, she’s not done being active in her community. This mom of two and grandmother of three enjoys giving back to her community as a scout leader, youth bowling director, volunteer for Manassas City Schools and scouting cookie mom. She also serves on the board of the Manassas Rotary Club.

For more information on the parade, visit

Manassas office vacancy rates fall below 5-year average


FY 2016 3rd Quarter Commercial Report

Office Market

Office vacancy rates across the region remain high, but Manassas has fallen to a low of 7.5 percent. This is significantly below the 5-year average of 10.6 percent. Rental rates fell during the quarter to $18.80 but are expected to rebound; the average over the last five years has been $19.68.



Retail Market

The retail market remains strong as development and relocation interest grows from prospective developers and businesses. At the close of the 3rd quarter, rates hit a 2016 high of $22.80 while vacancy was just over 5 percent.

retail Q32016


Industrial/Flex Market

The 4.5 percent vacancy rate in the City is consistent with neighboring communities. With average rental rates of $9.38, and new product entering the market, the City will be at a competitive advantage-offering new, Class A Flex space at a lower price than others.

industrial Q32016

The Economic Development Office maintains an inventory of available commercial space which can be found on the City webpage at or call 703-257-8881.

Ignoring small plumbing issues causes buckets of trouble


If you wait until an emergency to contact a plumber, you could be left shivering in the shower or cleaning up a flooded room. Call a plumber at the first sign of a plumbing problem to avoid costly consequences.

5 signs you need a plumber

1. A funny smell: A musty smell or the odor of mildew points to water damage somewhere in the home.

2. Ceiling or wall stains: Yellow, brown or copper stains come from leaky pipes in the wall. These telltale blemishes, paired with a sagging ceiling, is a recipe for disaster.

3. Rust: Look for signs of rust around pipes, fuse boxes or appliances.

4. Damaged floors: Pay attention to the floors, especially in the bathroom and kitchen, to make sure there isn’t any water damage. Signs of water damage include spongy, stained or buckling floors.

5. Dripping faucet: A slow drip might not seem like a huge deal, but can be a drain on your wallet when the water bill arrives.

Risks of DIY plumbing

You may be tempted to fix the plumbing problem yourself, especially since the internet is overflowing with DIY plumbing tutorials, but be mindful of your experience level. A bad DIY plumbing job could be catastrophic. Before getting started, ask yourself the following questions:

— Do I have the right tools for the job?

— Have I done anything like this project before?

— Do I have the time to do this project right even if there are unforeseen complications? (Consider whether you’re taking your kitchen or only bathroom out of commission.)

If you decide to DIY a plumbing job, then follow this key advice from Ben Kelley, director of residential operations for CroppMetcalfe.

“Always shut off the main water supply valve before getting started, or if your home allows, you can isolate certain areas,” Kelley says. “Watching videos online helps, too, so you know how it’s done prior to trying.”

If you get in over your head and find yourself in hot water, put down the tools and pick up the phone. CroppMetcalfe has serviced the Washington, D.C., metro area since 1979. You’ll be plumb pleased with the service provided by our 5-star plumbing technicians.

Open House: 182 Washington Street, Occoquan, Va.

Occoquan 1
Occoquan 12
Occoquan 13
Occoquan 4
Occoquan 15
Occoquan 21

182 Washington Street, Occoquan, Va. 22125
Neighborhood: Historic Occoquan
Listing Price: $495,000
Open Sunday, December 11th from 2 -4 p.m.

This beautiful townhouse is steps from HISTORIC OCCOQUAN, across the street from Mom’s Apple Pies, and three blocks from Mill Street and the Occoquan River.

This home has a brand new two-zone HVAC and cedar roof. Currently configured as three-bedroom home, the basement bedroom can be easily restored to a 4th bedroom, and is currently used as music/media room.

Beautiful kitchen with family room and private deck nearby for amazing entertaining. The garage is workman’s paradise. Six miles to Lorton VRE Station. Home warranty provided.


For more information, please contact Lawrence Rondon at Better Homes and Garden RE, Premier at 703-596-4446 or visit online at

Earn a Degree or Certificate in Less time with NOVA Weekend College @ the Woodbridge Campus


Beginning in the spring 2017 semester, Northern Virginia Community College students can finish a semester’s worth of classes in only 14 weeks through the NOVA Weekend College @ the Woodbridge Campus.

NOVA Weekend College @ The Woodbridge Campus enables students to take an entire semester of classes in only two days. Adult learners who are busy balancing full-time jobs and family responsibilities can enroll in a 12-credit schedule of Friday and Saturday morning classes, with an option of selecting from a wide variety of classes needed to earn a degree or certification.

This new, innovative approach to accommodate those with busy schedules offers flexible, hybrid (half classroom & half online) courses that meet at 9 a.m. and/or 11 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with classes ending at 12:30 p.m. The rest of the work and class interaction is done at home using the internet.

“NOVA Weekend College @ the Woodbridge Campus offers a flexible schedule for busy working adults to take a full course load in only two mornings per week,” said Provost of the Woodbridge Campus, Dr. Sam Hill. “This new initiative provides an amazing opportunity for busy people in our region to earn a degree or certificate at a much faster pace, to advance and to become an expert in their chosen profession.”

Visit NVCC.EDU/WOODBRIDGEWEEKEND for more information. Online registration is open 24 hours a day at

Your guide to Christmas festivities in Manassas


The Christmas spirit is alive and well in Manassas, as the town gears up for its annual festivities to be held this weekend, starting Friday, December 2nd. From the lighting of the community tree, to the parade, to Santa and Mrs. Claus, to merchant open houses, you won’t want to miss a moment.

“Merry Old Town” Christmas tree lighting

Enjoy some good, old-fashioned celebrating on the Manassas Museum Lawn with a Christmas tree lighting December 2. Hear holiday music from Jason Paul Curtis on the lawn from 5:15 to 6 p.m. Santa will arrive at the VRE station just after 6 p.m. He and Mrs. Claus will light the tree. Also, enjoy entertainment from local high school students in Osbourn Park Madrigals and Osbourn High School’s Center Stage. This event is sponsored by InsideNova Prince William.

71st Annual Greater Manassas Christmas Parade

Bring the whole family out for the second day of celebration in historic downtown Manassas. The parade will start on December 3 at 10 a.m., with marching bands, floats and Santa’s sleigh, which will be pulled by a Miller Toyota vehicle this year. General Manager of parade sponsor Miller Toyota, Ken Shepard, is excited to be a part of the event. He says, “Christmas brings out the little kid in all of us. Just to see the civic groups, the bands…it’s a great way to kick off what should be a family friendly month.”

This year’s parade is also sponsored by Stanley Martin, a local builder who enjoys supporting the community they helped build. Truett Young, VP of Land at Stanley Martin has lived in Manassas for over 18 years and has fond memories of bringing his own children to the Manassas Christmas Parade. “Old Town Manassas is a wonderful experience,” said Young. “Definitely bring your kids. It’s a great family event.”

This year, Santa will collect toys for needy children in the Manassas area prior to the parade. Bring a new, unopened toy to donate, and brighten up a child’s Christmas.

Free carriage rides downtown

You can tour historic downtown in a horse-drawn carriage from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, December 4. Carriage rides are free and will leave from the Manassas Train Depot. Get in the holiday spirit as you take in the sounds and sights of the season. Historic downtown will be fully decorated for Christmas. Carriage rides are sponsored by Historic Manassas, Inc., a nonprofit playing a leadership role in the community and helping to revitalize historic downtown Manassas.

Merchants’ Open House

Sunday December 4 at noon, many of the merchants downtown will open their doors with refreshments and specials. Joanne Wunderly, owner of The Things I Love, will open her doors a bit earlier at 11 a.m. with lots of refreshments and live musical entertainment. “I will have 21 themed Christmas trees, each depicting Christmas across the globe, such as New York, Russia, New Orleans, Norway, etc.,Wunderly says.

It is a really nice weekend, with so much going on. People of all ages can find something to enjoy, and it definitely is not like your cookie cutter, mall-type Christmas events at all. It is my favorite weekend of the year in Old Town, and sometimes I find it very emotional.”

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

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

When Assistant Chief Dawn Harman was growing up in Prince William County, she imagined a very different career path. Harman majored in veterinary science in college and was once with the Animal Control Unit of the Prince William County Police Department. Now Harman’s days are filled with duties that help keep the Prince William County Police Department a well-oiled machine.

All in a Day

Harman’s day may start with a series of meetings or just a clearing of ongoing matters on the desk in her office. She may also be called to Roll Call to speak on issues affecting the department.

Currently, this means fielding concerns about the heightened dangers of police work.

“People never call us when they are having their best day,” explained Harman. “The only difference between a cop and someone else is they [the perpetrators] have made a bad decision or had something bad happen to them.”

Harman wants those that are considering law enforcement as a career to know that public perception is hyped by media.

“People have always been fascinated with law enforcement,” she said, noting that officers are scrutinized every day by people with cell phone cameras, written about on blogs, and featured on social media. It is important to keep a sense of balance, remembering that the people they serve are no different than they are.

Up in the Ranks

From hiring to patrol to promotion, there is a sense of dedication, thoroughness, and fraternity, Harman said. While some also call the career a passion or a calling, Harman noted, “I think this is like any other job. You need skills.” Academy for new recruits is held in January and July. Harman said that through that process you can see who has skills and who will make the cut.

Also needed is the ability to take on opportunity. There are always job openings in different units, leading to some great opportunities. Harman knows this firsthand. Starting as an animal control officer, she moved up through different positions and ranks while juggling family and career, working in crime prevention and as Western District Commander while with the department.

Meeting the challenges of the job can definitely mean promotion. Others pay attention to rank, and Harman can remember considering it a big deal. Promotions are completely elective and based on consideration of skills as well.

“We try to balance everything the best we can,” Harman said about the promotion process, noting that they work with several different evaluation styles adjusting for issues, such as test anxiety.

When asked about rank, Harman called sergeant the toughest. The sergeant is no longer just ‘one of the troops,’ and a friendly detachment becomes necessary.

“It’s not the same relationship. You have to hold people accountable now,” she said. “You have to be straight forward. Some people aren’t comfortable with it.”

Sacrifice, Communication

There are sacrifices, too. Officers work set shifts, but family events and holidays may be missed because there’s a need in the department. Many people forgo certain positions or promotions because of the demands of both family and career. Harman shared that, while she has a great support system, she chose not to work in Criminal Investigations so she was not on call in the evenings.

“Challenges had to coincide with where I was with my family at the time,” she said.

Communication was big on Harman’s list of skills for which the department seeks. Good listening skills and the ability to ask constructive questions are important. The goal is to serve the community well. A successful encounter with the public includes the feeling that everyone is treated as a human being.

“You absolutely have to be an effective communicator, or you’re part of the problem,” she said.
Harman pointed out that some people want to be in Law Enforcement for power. “We
don’t want that.”

In the Community

Harman said that the people of Prince William County are very supportive of their police department, some even bringing food to officers earlier in the year after a fatal shooting of an officer.

“It’s a little morale boost,” she said.

This positive relationship may be directly related to the professional attitude that is widespread through the Prince William County Police Department, including by Harman, who has found the career to be very rewarding.

“I’d encourage people to go into the profession.”

For more information on career opportunities with the Prince William County Police Department, visit

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’

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


Sponsors Believe in the Greater Manassas Christmas Parade


The first Saturday of December will be something special, as it has been for the past 70 years: Crowds will gather in Historic Old Town Manassas to enjoy colorful floats, marching bands and, of course, Santa Claus at the Greater Manassas Christmas Parade. It takes dedicated volunteers, many hours and amazing sponsors to bring this community event down the streets of Manassas.

This year, the parade has taken on the theme “Believe.The theme fits right in with the commitment of two of the parade’s sponsors that are showing they truly do believe in their community.

Stanley Martin

As a member of the Stanley Martin family, Truett Young, VP of Land, understands about supporting the community. For over 50 years, the company’s values of giving back and putting customers first have been a cornerstone of the Stanley Martin brand. So, they knew they had a good fit with the significant commitment they made to the Christmas Parade.

Even though December can be quite busy, Young said Stanley Martin was very interested in sponsoring the parade. They feel connected to Manassas, having developed communities in the area, including Heritage Crossing, which is made up of townhomes, and Bradly Square, a mix of townhomes and single-family detached homes.

Their newest community will be Manassas Gateway, a mix of townhomes and condos. Manassas Gateway is being built behind the DMV office off Godwin and Route 28. Models are open at the two existing communities, and model homes will be available in the new community fall of next year.

Young lived in Manassas for over 18 years and began bringing his own children when his oldest were only two or three.

“My kids have always enjoyed going to the parade to see the bands and horses and floats, and of course Santa Claus.” When asked about his favorite part of the parade, Young said it always varies because there is so much to see.

While the Young family, now full of teenagers and school-age kids, relocated to Haymarket, they still make it to the parade every year.

“Old Town Manassas is a wonderful experience,said Young.Definitely bring your kids. It’s a great family event.”

Miller Toyota

Over at Miller Toyota, the mood is festive. Employees are decorating a brand new Toyota Tacoma that will be towing Santa through downtown Manassas on parade day. Several employees plan to hand out candy to the crowd as well.

General Manager Ken Shepard said it’s the chilly December day that is part of the fun.

“Christmas brings out the little kid in all of us. Just to see the civic groups, the bands…it’s a great way to kick off what should be a family friendly month.”

With over 40 years of helping neighbors find the best vehicles in Manassas, Miller Toyota upgraded to a new facility next to the Prince William Medical Center about three years ago. Shepherd noted this was also when the dealership began to be able to do more in the community, such as supporting local education and area nonprofits.

As a local dealership we want to support the community. We’re trying to do more of these things,” said Shepherd.

As a member of the Manassas community, Shepherd was introduced to the Manassas parades through a Veteran’s Day parade. After finding out more about the Greater Manassas Christmas Parade, Shepherd was hooked.

“I said ‘We just need to be part of this. This is a great thing.’”

The Greater Manassas Christmas Parade will start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, December 3rd. More information and the parade route can be found at

Celebrate the Holidays here at the Manassas Park Community Center

The bright red, orange, and yellow leaves are falling off the trees, and the days are growing shorter and shorter. There is a chill in the air as fall decorations are taken down to be replaced by holiday decorations. Most of us have already seen holiday decorations in the stores.

You know, the holiday decorations you pretend you don’t see before Halloween, and well, before we know it, we will be in full holiday mode.

Instead of stressing about the holidays, why not plan to join us here at the Manassas Park Community Center (MPCC) for a variety of holiday events and programs.

The holiday fun begins here at the Community Center on Thursday, December 1, from 7 pm – 8:30 pm for the Dough Ornament Workshop.  Plan to be here to decorate and take home your own dough ornament. The staff at MPCC will supply all the materials; you supply all the creativity! Register for the workshop – it’s only $3 per ornament!

On Thursday, December 8th from 7 pm – 8:30 pm, the MPCC will be hosting our annual Gingerbread House Decorating Party. We will have fun building and decorating with lots of sweet treats. Families will need to pre-register at least three days in advance! The cost for this event is just $5 per gingerbread kit.

Then on Saturday, December 10th at 5:45 pm, we will have our annual Light Parade. This amazing display of lights on wheels will be sure to get you in the holiday spirit. Our annual parade of lights is a crowd favorite among residents living in Manassas Park and surrounding areas.

Residents decorate their cars with festive holiday themes, and as the sun sets, the lights on the cars glow and the parade begins. The cost to participate is only $10 per car. The parade starts at the Carondelet Drive intersection and ends at the Manassas Park Community Center. Participants are still needed; please contact Kaitlyn Collier if you would like to participate.

And, this year, we are announcing something new: It’s our first annual Tree Lighting and Holiday Celebration. It will immediately follow the Light Parade. At the Tree Lighting, there will be pictures with Santa, pictures with snow princesses, kid’s activities, and light refreshments for all who attend.

And the best part of this event is that it is absolutely FREE to attend. The MPCC staff is so excited to present this additional event and are hoping the weather cooperates! No ice or snow, please!

The following Saturday, December 17 from 9am-11am, bring the kids to the Community Center for Breakfast with Santa! There will be pancakes, photos, games, crafts, and lots of fun. Children of all ages are invited, and the cost is just $5 per person. Children under the age of 2 are included in their parent’s registration.

Later that same day (December 17) from 11:30 am-12:30 pm is Santa Paws where you can bring your puppy for pictures with Santa! It only costs $5 per pup!

You will have to enter through the patio located behind the Community Center. Don’t worry; there will be signs up directing you and your furry friends so that you won’t miss the fun.

With all of these fantastic holiday events scheduled here at the Manassas Park Community Center, let us handle the stress while you get into the holiday spirit. We’re looking forward to seeing you at Manassas Park Community Center throughout the month of December.

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 or call at 703-335-8872.

A personal trainer fights for her own wellness


Karlene Matthes leads an active life. A personal trainer and massage therapist, she teaches boxing, cardio kickboxing and is committed to a life focused on health and wellness.

If there’s a challenge, she’s up for it, and she wants to help others rise and overcome their challenges, too. She’s built a successful career out of it.

Life was going well for Karlene, so when she went for her regular gynecology checkup, she was shocked by what her doctor told her. Karlene was diagnosed with Stage III Triple-Negative Breast Cancer, a type of cancer which tends to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer, especially in the later stages.

Her doctor referred her for a consultation with Dr. Negar Golesorkhi, a Sentara Medical Group surgeon with advanced training in breast surgical oncology. Dr. Golesorkhi helped Karlene understand her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment options. She recommended a combination of therapies including chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy.

“Everything started echoing,” said Karlene. “But I felt like Dr. Golesorkhi would have canceled the rest of her appointments if that’s what I needed to understand the challenge in front of me. She loves each of her patients.”

“I needed a week to just scream and be mad [at the cancer],” said Karlene. “I never felt like a victim. With Sentara, I felt like a member of my own healthcare team. They validated me and respected my wishes and knowledge.”

When Karlene went in for her next appointment, she was ready to begin chemotherapy.

In addition to the highly qualified, compassionate team at Sentara, Karlene had another secret weapon—her daughter, Rachel. An EMT/paramedic in Fairfax County, Rachel became her caretaker, champion, and trusted partner in the fight. And although chemotherapy can be exhausting, Karlene refused to be sidelined by it. Throughout her treatment, she maintained her active lifestyle; riding her red Harley Davidson, running, and continuing to work with her clients. Halfway through her treatment, she even indulged in a vacation to Aruba.

Karlene didn’t slow down, but she certainly had her share of challenges. She developed neuropathy, a common side effect of chemotherapy that is typically characterized by tingling, pain, and numbness in the hands and feet. Karlene also had touches of something commonly referred to as “chemo brain,” a mental fog causing temporary thinking and memory problems following cancer treatment.

Following eight rounds of chemotherapy, Karlene was scheduled for surgery. True to her passion for fitness and physical activity, the day before her surgery Karlene went on an 8-hour hike at Old Rag Mountain, a popular hiking destination in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to prepare herself mentally and emotionally.

Her surgery the next day at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center went exactly as planned. However, anticipating the final leg of her journey caused her to panic. Again, Dr. Golesorkhi’s
reassurance and patience gave Karlene time to prepare for radiation therapy. Karlene completed treatment and is happy to report that she has been in remission ever since.

“Cancer itself isn’t a blessing, but it comes with a lot of blessings,” said Karlene. “It was so reassuring to know I had Dr. Golesorkhi and the entire Sentara Healthcare team. Their compassion is overwhelming. It was so reassuring.”

Introducing corporate and non-profit rental packages at Manassas Park Community Center

As you begin planning for your corporate holiday party, you ask yourself several questions: Will there be a dress code? What kind of food will be served? Will there be a theme? It seems like the list is endless! After all, most businesses do not have professional party planners, so for the person who actually plans the holiday party, the task can feel daunting.

Luckily there is an easy solution – and it is conveniently located right in Manassas Park. The Manassas Park Community Center (MPCC) is ready to meet all of your special event needs with its spacious banquet hall and numerous meeting rooms available to rent.

Amelia Powell, Customer Service Supervisor at MPCC says she is the concierge for the venue of endless possibilities.

“We really make it easy to rent space here. From our clean facilities, to our knowledge of area vendors, we can help you make your corporate or non-profit holiday party or event the best one yet,” Powell said.

“We hope you notice the extra efforts we put forth to maintain a clean, safe, and professional atmosphere,” she added,In addition, one of my favorite features that sets us apart from other venues in the area, are our knowledgeable instructors who can help you develop teambuilding exercises as part of your event.

There are several banquet hall rental packages designed to complement your company’s specific needs.

“A few years ago, a sorority rented the facility and wanted a dance floor, so we worked with them to provide one, and now a dance floor is part of the packages offered here,” Powell said.

“One of the first things I tell people who are interested in renting space at MPCC is to make a timeline. The details will be the difference between a good event and a great event, and we will work with you to make sure you stay on top of the little details so that you have a great corporate event here,” she added.

There are three separate corporate and non-profit rental banquet hall packages at MPCC to maximize your company’s needs.

The first package is called The Formal Piece where your company would rent the full banquet hall for four hours. It’s the perfect package for holiday parties, training, and large luncheons. The banquet hall seats 230 people and includes the caterer’s kitchen and the pre-function area.

The second package is called Smart Casualand includes half the banquet hall, caterer’s kitchen, and pre-function area for six hours. Half the banquet hall provides seating for 115 people. You also get a wireless mic, projector, and a podium making this package perfect for half-day conferences, lunch-and-learns, or training.

This “Smart Casual” package is perfect for holiday parties and events where you want to announce or call attention to staff who have exceeded your expectations. “This is the package businesses use when they want to take advantage of our instructor’s team building exercises,” Powell further pointed out.

The third package is calledArgyle Style where you would rent the full banquet hall for four hours, and is great for holiday parties, celebrations, or casual events allowing for your company’s fun side.

“This plan includes a dance floor and activity tables and was added after the sorority’s event I mentioned earlier,” Powell stated.

The Argyle Style package is perfect for company parties where the employees’ spouses and families are invited, as it includes a 12’ X 12’ dance floor, seating for 230 people, caterer’s kitchen, and pre-function area.

The caterer’s kitchen, included in all three packages, is 1,082 square feet with a six-burner gas range, convection ovens, warming ovens, ice machines, and stainless steel tables. There are several add-ons available for each of the packages including additional hours, childcare for up to 30 children, alcohol onsite, and audio-visual amenities.

Drum roll please!

This year, MPCC is introducing a new Non-Profit Scholarship.

“There are so many excellent non-profit organizations in the area who do not have the budget for renting a large space, so we thought why not help those who help others by providing the rental space and offer a specific Non-Profit Scholarship to help pay for that space,” Powell said.

If you know of a non-profit looking for space for their annual gala or fundraiser, please let them know about this scholarship,” she added.

Renting banquet space at the Manassas Park Community Center is the best solution for area companies who are looking for that perfect venue for a fun corporate event where all of the people involved will mingle actively during the company’s holiday celebration. In addition to the banquet hall packages, there are also multi-purpose room and conference room options presenting affordable solutions for smaller organizations. If your company is looking for a one- or two-day retreat, there is also a package that takes advantage of the facility’s robust recreational amenities

“We have the perfect space to suit any company or corporate event you are planning,” Powell summarized. Call the Manassas Park Community Center today at 703-335-8872 and ask for Amelia Powell, your concierge for the venue with endless possibilities.

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 or call at 703-335-8872.

Plan your Prince William historic holiday events with tours, seasonal music, cider, and Santa Claus

It is the time of year time to start thinking of plans for the holidays, scheduling family trips, booking airline tickets, and creating delicious menus for hungry guests. During the last few months of 2016, consider bringing family and friends to one or more of our historic sites to participate in our special and unique holiday programs.

After the Greater Manassas Christmas Parade, come by and enjoy Lunch with Santa Claus at the Old Manassas Courthouse! On Saturday, December 3, families may partake in a delicious lunch, have a chance to meet Santa Claus, and directly deliver your “wish list” to him.

Kids may make a historic holiday craft before or after their meeting with Santa. If possible, please participate in our efforts to support Toys for Tots by bringing a new, unwrapped toy for donation. Lunch with Santa runs from 1 – 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 3; admission is $20 for ages 6 and up, $10 for ages 5 and below. Call 703-792-4754 for reservations. (Reservations are required as space is limited). The event will take place at the Old Manassas Courthouse, 9248 Lee Avenue in Manassas.

Holidays through the Ages returns to Rippon Lodge Historic Site in December. The historic house’s interior spaces shall be dressed with holiday decorations from various time periods, with a special dedication to the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Visit each weekend for these holiday-only tours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, December 2 – 4, 9 – 11, and 16 – 18.

Tours begin on the hour on the front porch. Tour times are 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Fridays and Sundays); 1 p.m. – 8 p.m. (Saturdays); $5 per person, children under six are free. The Rippon Lodge Historic Site is located at 15520 Blackburn Road in Woodbridge. Call 703-499-9812 for more information.

On Saturday evenings (5 p.m.-8 p.m.) enjoy colorful outdoor lights and tree displays decorated for the season by local schools, art studios and organizations, live seasonal or period music by local schools and guitarists, and holiday songs sung by school choirs. Children’s crafts, light refreshments, a warm beverage, and shopping for unique Rippon Lodge merchandise round out a wonderful holiday tour.

Reservations strongly recommended for groups larger than four guests. 

If you love seasonal music, then join us on Saturday, December 10 for two special Holiday Concerts at Brentsville’s Historic Union Church. Enjoy classic, seasonal music performed by the Brentsville District High School. A nice cup of hot cider and cookies by a warm bonfire round out this special event.

Concerts are Free and open to the public from 5 p.m. -7 p.m. Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre, 12229 Bristow Road, Bristow. 703-365-7895.

You better watch out! You better not cry! The one and only Santa Claus comes to Rippon Lodge Historic Site on Saturday, December 10. This visit is for one afternoon only!

Be on your best behavior and keep your name on the “Nice” list. Parents will be given special “Things Santa Should Know” cards upon arrival. Bring your camera for pictures!

With large numbers of excited tots expected, we ask parents bring plenty of snacks and extra activities for young children. Admission is from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.; $2 per child. Rippon Lodge Historic Site, 15520 Blackburn Road, Woodbridge, 703-499-9812.

We look forward to your visit to one of our great historical locations during this holiday season! For more information about our programs, please call the sites or call 703-792-4754.

Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra Presents: How to ‘Handel’ the ‘Messiah’ sing-along without being disowned by your family

The rules are simple.

Handel’s inimitable Messiah Oratorio is just a few months short of its 275th birthday, and it continues to delight audiences around the world. Countless orchestras and vocalists have gathered to celebrate the season with this perennial favorite, often with a significant audience participation component. Will you be ready when sing along time comes? Just in case, we are pleased to provide you with this summation of centuries’ worth of rules for “Handeling” the time-honored tradition of the “Messiah” Sing-Along.

Rule 1: Do Your Vocal Warm-ups in the Car on the Way to the Performance

You can’t belt out “For unto Us a Child Is Born” with a tense larynx. On the other hand, repeating in the concert hall “fluffy floppy puppy” and “Sally saw Silvester stacking silver saucers side by side” might be alarming to your fellow concert-goers.

Your best bet is to warm up in the car using exercises like humming up and down a scale or singing “Don’t Stop Believin’” at the top of your lungs.

Rule 2: Pick the Right Performance

To get the most out of a “Messiah” Sing-Along, you need support and lots of it. You need a well-prepared orchestra, dynamite soloists, and a chorus of pros to help you negotiate those tricky passages.

Fortunately for you, that’s precisely the kind of support system you’ll find on Friday, December 16, 2016, 7:30 PM, at First Baptist Church, 13600 Minnieville Road, Woodbridge, and again on Saturday, December 17, 2016, 7:30 PM, at Grace United Methodist Church, 9750 Wellington Road, Manassas.

Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra and featured choruses from First Baptist, Grace UMC, All Saints Catholic Church, and New Dominion Choraliers will be there for you; you don’t have to go it alone. Admission is free, though donations will be accepted gratefully.

Rule 3: Sit Next to a Ringer

Watch for someone walking confidently into the concert. Likely, he or she will be wearing an artfully disheveled scarf and carrying a marked-up, dog-eared copy of the Messiah score.

This is how you will know that this is not his or her first rodeo. Follow that person into the audience. Befriend the singer. Imitate him or her fiercely.

Rule 4: When in Doubt, Mouth the Word “Watermelon”

No need to panic if you’ve lost your place in the score! Scientists are not sure why this is true, but mouthing “watermelon” is the perfect choral faking device. It also works well if intonation is not your forte.

Rule 5: Employ the Art of Misdirection

You may not be able to sing your way out of a paper bag, but that doesn’t have to be common knowledge.

Rock an obnoxious holiday sweater. If it’s loud enough, no one will notice that you are completely tone deaf. If your sweater game is weak, study up on puns, carefully dropping one at the end of each chorus.

Saying things like “That one was too hot to Handel” will result in the kind of groans that will erase any memory of what you just did to “And He Shall Purify.”

To address the younger audience members giving you side-eye about your not-quite-baritone baritone, try saying “The club can’t even Handel me right now.” That should shut them up.

Rule 6: Have Fun

An OBCO Sing Along is about the community coming together in song. It is impossible to leave without feeling joy, inspiration, and the fullness that comes from artistic satisfaction … and post-concert cider and cookies.

An OBCO Sing Along is about the community coming together in song. It is impossible to leave without feeling joy, inspiration, and the fullness that comes from artistic satisfaction … and post-concert cider and cookies.

For more information, visit or

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