By Drew Costley
New Web Site Set To Help Enjoyment Of Many Events.
The weather forecast is for brisk but no precipitation this New Year’s Eve in Falls Church for Watch Night, the free New Years’ Eve festival held in downtown Falls Church. Everyone bundling up should not not be deterred from having a really good time. The evening’s festivities will kick off around 7 and culminate with a count-down to the New Year at, you guessed it, midnight.
With so much going on beginning shortly after the 100 block of W. Broad is closed off to traffic at 6 p.m. New Year’s Eve, next Tuesday night, it is a big plus this year that Watch Night now has a new standalone website to direct festival-goers to a night of food, fun and music.
The center of the event is what goes on in the middle of that 100 block of W. Broad, and in the restaurants, parking lot areas, entertainment venues and churches surrounding it. All the restaurants in that block and nearby will be open to take reservations for New Year’s Eve dining.
The volunteer-powered Watch Night event, now in its 16th year, previously had a virtual space attached to the Falls Church City’s government website.
Barbara Cram, volunteer coordinator for Watch Night, said the website was recently launched to help guide festival attendees to the different venues and attractions throughout the celebration.
“It’s meant to be a mobile guide and it’s been constructed so it has responsive design,” Cram said. “And so no matter whether you’re looking at it on your iPad, desktop or a mobile device while you are at the festivities, you can read it from where you are. You could be sitting on the bus and looking at where the next stop is for the shuttle bus.”
The website has a map listing the different stops for a shuttle bus that will take people to and from the East Falls Church metro and also stop at places around the city. There is another map listing the different restaurants surrounding the festival.
One of the restaurants contributing to the event is Dogwood Tavern. Jeremiah Mahoney, general manager of the restaurant, said Watch Night is a “cool” event because it gets people to come out into the community.
“I work every year for it and it looks fun,” Mahoney said. “I would bring my kids if I had the opportunity.”
According to Cram, Dogwood Tavern will be serving hot dogs, chili, mulled wine and hot cider from their new patio area near Grand Fun Alley, a section of the festival in parking lot between Park Avenue and the 100 block of West Broad Street.
Ireland’s Four Provinces will be offering hot chocolate and a special recipe potato soup near the main entrance of their restaurant, with party favors accompanying the full meals that will be served inside.
According to Cram, other food vendors include Mary O’Donnell, who will be selling Carnitas Taquitos, and Bonita Woods’ food truck, Cram said.
Musical entertainment will be available at several venues around the festival, including at the Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS) base at the Falls Church Presbyterian Church. Free caricature drawings, face painters, balloon artists and snacks, along with live performances by Cowboy Hay and the Northern Lights Big Band Orchestra will be held in the Fellowship Hall of the church.
Another church lending its building to the Watch Night effort is Falls Church Episcopal Church, who will be hosting a performance by Andrew Acosta and The New Old Time String Band. Acosta’s band features Speedy Tolliver on fiddle, John Kaparakis on guitars and vocals, Bill Taylor on bass, Harold Richmond on vocals and Rosser Clark on guitar. They will share the stage with The Stewart Sisters, Sherry and Valeria, and violinist Marcy Cochran at different points in the night. The Historic Church is offering special tours at 7 and 8 p.m.
Along with providing volunteers to work at the Presbyterian church, VPIS is providing financial support to Watch Night. Michael Connelly, president of the VPIS, said the Watch Night volunteers who work at the VPIS site return several years in a row to help out because they enjoy the festival.
“It’s important because it’s a great demarcation of one year to the other,” Connelly said. “But it’s also a great event for the City of Falls Church to put its stamp on the map of the region.”
Dr. Gordon Theisz, another Watch Night volunteer, said that an event like Watch Night differentiates Falls Church from surrounding communities by offering an alternative way to celebrate the New Year. There are always an abundance of events in the area that are geared toward older people who can drink and profit-making, or fund-raising events like First Night Alexandria, he said.
“And then you have Falls Church and its community spirit which you see all year around in numerous ways,” Theisz said. “Whether its planting trees or doing the city clean up or things like that and here we are at New Year’s Eve and we find a way to have a place for our families to go.”
Theisz and Dr. Paul Cannon are offering up the Family Medicine of Falls Church and Falls Church Foot and Ankle medical complex, right next to the intersection of Broad and Washington Streets, to host several attractions from 7 to 9 p.m. There will be a scavenger hunt for youth in the medical facility, a moon bounce in the parking lot of the complex and a performance by the ’80s cover band Judo Chop(ped) on the balcony of the building.
“I’d like to say that we promote our business this way. That’s the goal of a business person, right?” Theisz said. “But the truth is I don’t think we get a lot of patients that come to see us because of this…as a local citizens having an opportunity to participate and having the space right in the right place in downtown where we can participate, that’s really important to Dr. Cannon and me.”
Along with the scavenger hunt, there will be also puppet shows for the children to attend at the Weight Watchers location at George Mason Square next the Welcome Tent from 7:45 to 9:15 p.m. The Volunteer Fire Department will have a fire truck out as an attraction for festival-goers as well.
The Unity Club will have a lot of volunteers helping out with the various Watch Night events and will open their facility for a dance party featuring DJ Dr. Paul. Clay Café Studios will offer free studio time and prizes at the door.
On the Main Stage in the middle of the 100 W. Broad block, emcee Jeffrey Garofalo will introduce performances will include Lu and the Blues Crew, Justin Trawick and the Common Good and two high school bands, Greater Effects and Fourth in Line, made up of students from McLean and George Mason High Schools. Trawick and the Common Good, sponsored by Tori McKinney, will be the final act and will sing in the New Year as the Historic Star, which used to shine atop the historic water tower that used to dominate the City’s downtown skyline, drops with their rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
“Watch Night is a great community event because it is put on by the community,” Cram said. “That is why it is free, we are celebrating community and inviting people to our party – the only event in the downtown of Falls Church. We open our City for free, fun, family friendly entertainment because we can, and it reflects the sentiments of the people who live here.”
Major sponsors include The City of Falls Church, The Falls Church Economic Development Authority, The Little City C.A.T.C.H. Foundation – City of Arts, Theatre, Culture and History, The Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, The Village Preservation and Improvement Society, The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and the Falls Church News-Press.
The Watch Night Event relies heavily on the City services provided by the City Departments of Public Works, The Department of Recreation and Parks, The City Police Department, The Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department and the Department of Planning as well as volunteers from the various businesses, community groups, churches, and many generous citizens who support Watch Night with monetary and in-kind donations.
Free Parking is available at The Falls Church Presbyterian Church lot on N. Fairfax and E. Broad Street and The Falls Church Episcopal on E. Broad and the third level of Kaiser Permanente on the 100 block of Park Avenue off of North Washington Street and on street parking areas where legal.