Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: And Another Thing That Makes F.C. Different

Who is responsible for events in the City? Most of the City-wide events are sponsored by the City and run by the City Department of Recreation and Parks – for instance, Memorial Day Festival and Parade, Fourth of July Fireworks, Fall Festival and Taste of Falls Church, Farm Day, Easter Egg Hunt, The Falls Church Farmer’s Market are some of the long standing favorites. But there are other large, long-term events that are also iconic to the City of Falls Church such as Concerts in the Park (cosponsored with VPIS and The City) and The Tinner Hill Blues Festival (a three day event). The only other large, long-term event is Watch Night, the NYE Big Night in The Little City, now in its 17th year. Watch Night is also different in many ways.

Watch Night is unique because unlike First Night it is a community event that is free (not ticketed) and open to all, and it is put on completely by volunteers from various non-profit organizations, civic groups, businesses, churches, and citizens who make it all come together. The local businesses, organizations, and civic groups donate funds. The in-kind donations range from loaning venue locations to delivery and installation of stone fireplaces and firepits complete with firewood for the entire evening. Irish Potato Soup and Hot Chocolate are handed out during the evening on the patio in front of Ireland’s Four Provinces, The Local Market has hot cider and cookies, and the Unity Club volunteers pop and bag the free popcorn that is given away throughout the evening until the supply runs out. The Historic Falls Church, Drs. Gordon Theisz of Family Medicine in Falls Church and Paul Cannon of Falls Church Foot and Ankle give out snacks and free hot chocolate besides providing lots of good music – Big Tow Band. The Falls Church Presbyterian has lots of cookies and hot cider to satisfy their visitors.

You don’t find this sort of event anywhere else in this area, because it is filled with lots of volunteers who make it happen – a lot of them volunteering year after year. It is the pride and commitment they have in their organization and the role that their organization plays in our City that draws our volunteers to participate so energetically. Here is a review that appeared in Northern Virginia Magazine:
“This is not your typical New Year’s Eve bash – it’s better! Happening for the 17th year in a row, the City of Falls Church will host their Watch Night New Year’s Eve Celebration.” Named as the “coolest New Year’s Eve event” for families in the D.C. metro area by the Washington Post Express, this event is sure to be a hit for everyone of all ages.

“Enjoy nine live bands, including a 20-piece orchestra, dancing, karaoke, swing dancing, caricaturist, puppet shows, scavenger hunt, face painters, balloon artists, a Velcro wall, three obstacle courses, a bungee run, Castle Slide combo, 66’ Dragon and a Tiger Belly moonbounce.

“Snack on some free popcorn, hot chocolate and soup while cozying up near multiple fire pits for warmth (check out the schedule for a complete list of the times of each event). Because this street party is so huge, many of the activities are scattered at indoor and outdoor locations along Broad Street.”
Part of Watch Night’s success is the infectious enthusiasm of these volunteers. They have grown this event from year to year – reflecting the strong spirit of volunteerism that has been a trademark of our City for many decades.

Are we losing this spirit of community involvement? I sure hope not. Ask anyone listed below why they volunteer:

The Tartt family, Mike Volpe, Keith Thurston, Barry Buschow, Chuck and Young Hobbie, Clay and Gail Warner, Gordon and Sally Storr, Bill and Fran Darrow, Rosemary Ziskind, Michael Connelly, Tom Elliot and John Craig from the Village Preservation and Improvement Society. Sam and Darby Colwell, Sue Perlin, Gus Knapp, Midge Want, Charlotte Needham and Libby Dasbach from The Victorian Society at Falls Church. John Maier and Manuela Costescu from Falls Church Arts. Dr. Gordon Theisz and Dr. Paul Cannon, Melissa Teates, Heather Cannon, Delaney Theisz, Ciara Theisz of Family Medicine in Falls Church, and Falls Church Foot and Ankle Center. Anonymous Unity Club volunteers give unselfishly year after year. The WN Coordinating Committee, Gary LaPorta, Jeffrey Garafalo, Tori McKinney, and Melissa Morse. Dan Sevier, David Divecha, and others who help set up the Main Stage.

Boy Scout Troop 895 provides and installs luminares for walkways at The Falls Church Presbyterian and Drs. Theisz and Cannon’s venue. Karin Magness coordinates volunteers for The Falls Church Episcopal.

Volunteer and give what time you can. There are many City non-profit organizations that are seeking new members and/or volunteers. For further information on volunteer opportunities, visit  www.TheLittleCity.org.


Barbara Cram is the volunteer coordinator for F.C.’s Watch Night celebration.