The forecast is for clear skies and temperatures in the 40s this Saturday night, when a huge turnout is expected in the center of the City of Falls Church, at its Broad and Washington intersection, its annual New Year’s Eve Watch Night festival. Like last year, the “new normal” economy is expected to keep more people closer to home attending more cost-effective revelries to bring in the New Year, and that means many from Falls Church and its immediate environs will enjoy the countdown to midnight, and the traditional dropping of the historic lighted star, right in the middle of the 100 block of W. Broad.
Many have already made reservations in local restaurants adjacent the Watch Night party site, and the fact that temperatures will be well above freezing, at about 40 degrees, will make access to the many free family-oriented outdoor activities all that much more inviting.
Organizers for this year’s event – which begins with the closing of the 100 block of W. Broad at 6 p.m. and the commencement of activities at 7 – have expressed delight for the support and assistance they have received from individuals and groups all over the City of Falls Church.
Barb Cram, who is leading the team preparing the event, said that she is inspired by the hard work done by so many people, not just in the last month but throughout the whole year.
“Preparations for the next year’s Watch Night celebration begin the day after each year’s event,” Cram said, adding that many acts commit to come back year after year to perform. “They have become a tradition. People come out to see bands like the 20-piece Northern Lights Orchestra, Andrew Acosta and the New Old-Time String Band, and Cowboy Hay playing antique instruments every year. Each of them has their own following who are very excited to see them.”
Cram said that this time, for the event’s 14th year, some of the performers are in different venues to provide a better fit for their performances, like Andrew Acosta. This year, Acosta and his band will be playing The Falls Church, a venue Cram says complements his music.
“He sounds really wonderful in there,” Cram said.
Acosta said that his New Old-Time String Band is happy to participate in the Watch Night Celebration.
“We love it,” Acosta said. “It is our favorite way to bring in the New Year.”
The band, which has been together since 2000, has included a few players with City ties, like City residents Rosser Clark and Pat MacCauley, and Acosta himself, who was raised in the City.
“I’m honored and delighted to have our music be a part of the active and exciting cultural community,” Acosta said.
The Big Band swing music of the Northern Lights Orchestra is also moving to another venue, the Falls Church Presbyterian Church hall, which has a big room with a larger dance floor. In the same building, there will be a Victorian parlor, with clothes from the Victorian age for people to try on to pose for a professional photographer.
Andre` Jackson has agreed to act again as master of ceremonies, as well as appearing with his Sudden M Pac Band featuring Unlimited Soul and playing Motown hits. Jackson, who works at the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks, will be back this year on the Main Stage of the outdoor event.
“Andre is a great MC,” Cram said. “When he came last year, they were a big hit. That was the first time we had so many people up and dancing.”
Cram volunteered to help run the Watch Night Celebrations in 2005. Cram, a long-standing local businesswoman, was on the city’s Tri-Centennial committee in 1995, then, on her retirement, agreed to use all her organizational and motivational skills to help the City prepare each year’s New Year’s Eve party. In recognition of her efforts, Cram has been dubbed the CEO, or chief entertainment officer, for Falls Church City’s Watch Night committee.
This year’s event will include recent favorites, including the dropping of the renovated 12-foot Falls Church Historic Star at midnight, a relic which was first displayed on the City water tower in 1948.
The Grand Fun Alley, on the 100 block of West Broad Street, will include the giant, bright orange inflatable dragon, which is 66 feet long and 12 feet wide and a big hit with children from elementary school age up. For older but still adventurous types, there will be attractions like the Adrenaline Rush obstacle course. Tiny tots will be able to enjoy the gentler moon bounce inflatables. Cram said that if the weather does turn colder, she has plans for a series of fire pits to provide warming areas.
A core crew of volunteers have been carrying out some of the major tasks.
“Ken Lasso, whose own band Rites of Ash will be playing, is a wonderful help and has been very important to the success of the event,” Cram said. “Every year, he works tirelessly to set up the sound system, now with help from Jon Hundley. Mary Lynn Hickey has been working with me for the last few years, coordinating with all the schools, and working with the main stage acts to make sure everyone is on the same page, and that events are being promoted through social media, including our new Watch Night Facebook page.”
Cram added that volunteers like Marybeth Connelly, the community outreach coordinator for Falls Church City Public Schools, Sally Cole, executive director of the Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, and several at the Village Preservation Society, Victorian Society, the Unity Club, and the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation have also provided assistance. Cram said that the wide range of ages and backgrounds of the volunteers is a huge asset.
“One thing that is so special about this event is the way that the whole community gathers together and works to make it happen,” Cram said. “People organize their own events, get their own volunteers, and then tell us what they need so we can provide additional help.
“We always have lots of people to help, from veterans to students at Thomas Jefferson coming along to do face painting to lots of people gathering at local churches to make decorations, provide refreshments and help organize the event. It is just like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with people coming from all over town to help out for everything from a couple of hours to several days straight to help us get everything done. We all pull together!”
The Watch Night celebration will be held Saturday, Dec. 31, from 7 p.m. – midnight at the intersection of Broad Street (Route7) and Washington Street (Route 29) in the City of Falls Church.