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Ghosts, Jack-O-Lanterns Adorn Store Windows in Falls Church

FALLS CHURCH RESIDENT ANNIKA NICHEN paints a jack-o-lantern on one of the windows of Ireland’s Four Provinces on Saturday, Oct. 17, the last official day of the 8th Annual Halloween Store Window Painting project. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)
FALLS CHURCH RESIDENT ANNIKA NICHEN paints a jack-o-lantern on one of the windows of Ireland’s Four Provinces on Saturday, Oct. 17, the last official day of the 8th Annual Halloween Store Window Painting project. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)

Ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, skeletons and Frankenstein have been inhabiting Falls Church recently. Fortunately, they aren’t real.

Instead, they are decorating the windows of local businesses after local residents, organizations and sports teams adorned the city over the past month as part of the 8th Annual Halloween Store Window Painting project.

Nostalgia is one of the things that inspired Falls Church resident Marty Behr to start the Halloween Store Window Painting project in 2008.

“I grew up in New Jersey and we painted in my town and I thought about bringing it to Falls Church, but I usually remembered in November,” Behr said.

“And then one year, I thought about it in the summer and I thought we could try this year because we have this little downtown area between Brown’s and the [Falls Church Antique Center] that would be suitable for painting.”

After deciding to try to start the window painting project, Behr jumped on the Internet and searched for how to get something like this started.

Through her search she connected with a man who works for the Parks Department in Lawrence, Kan. who gave her a guide to doing it, which brought Behr to the second reason why she started the Halloween Store Window Painting project.

GHOST BRUSHERS Alex Dunie (right) and Rebecca Horovitz take a short break after painting their Halloween window creations outside Argia’s Italian Restaurant. (Photo: Courtesy of Bruce Horovitz)
GHOST BRUSHERS Alex Dunie (right) and Rebecca Horovitz take a short break after painting their Halloween window creations outside Argia’s Italian Restaurant. (Photo: Courtesy of Bruce Horovitz)

She wanted to create something that would bring together the community and bring people to the community.

“I would like to think that people might drive through Falls Church and look at it,” Behr said. “It might make it a destination. I might bring people that come and eat dinner here….I know people who don’t live in the City anymore who make it a point to bring their grandchildren to come and see what’s going on.”

The way that she went about enlisting painters and merchants was truly grassroots.

She advertised at all of the local schools and went to each of the storefronts in Downtown Falls Church to pitch the window painting concept to merchants using photos she had of the store window painting in Kansas.

In the first year she enlisted the help of members of her family and friends, among other volunteers, to paint windows at businesses like Brown’s Hardware and Argia’s Italian Restaurant. That first year, there were 60 painters and 15 stores and restaurants participating in the project.

This year, there were 153 painters who painted 133 windows around Falls Church. Organizations like girl scout troops, 4-H clubs and the Wildcatz soccer team are among those that painted windows.

And the project has spread geographically past the main strip on Broad Street – Don Beyer Volvo near Haycock Road, Applebee’s on E. Broad Street, Body Dynamics on S. Maple Avenue and One More Page Books on Westmoreland Street in Arlington are all participants this year.

One of the perennial participants in the Halloween Store Window Painting project is Argia’s, which is decorated by a ghost, bats backlit by a moon and a jack-o-lantern among other figures.

Salina Rana, one of the owner’s of Argia’s, said that the restaurant agreed to have its windows painted to support the community and bring the Halloween festivities to customers.

“All the customers who come in love it,” Rana said. “I think that it makes our restaurant look very festive also.”

The Horovitz family – Evelyne, Bruce and their daughters Rachel and Rebecca – has been painting Argia’s every year since the Halloween Store Window Painting project started in 2008.

Evelyne Horovitz, a paraprofessional at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, said doing the project every year is a way to bring family and friends together.

“We thought that it would be a great way to get out and be with the community, to do something in the community, for the community and have a really fun family project,” Evelyne said. “The family can be out together and do this to share with others.”

Bruce Horovitz, a former reporter for USA Today, said that it’s not just a family activity, but a “cosmic” calling for the family and their friends to paint Argia’s every year. He said that every painted window in the City “stands out in its own way.”

“Every window is a point of light to the [group] that’s doing it and I think that’s really important….What it means to the kid who paints a window and drives by it and they can point to it and say ‘There it is,’ that’s huge,” Bruce said.

“And whether it’s Argia’s or any other window it’s like a really big deal, particularly to the kids involved.”