Cool, Clear Forecast for F.C.’s New Year’s Eve ‘Watch Night’

THE DROPPING OF THE STAR, shown here during Falls Church’s 2014 Watch Night festivities, will be the highlight of this Sunday’s celebration. (Photo: Andrew Finein)

Boosted security measures, more attractions for children and a double-dose of anniversaries will make up the 20th annual Watch Night New Year’s Eve celebration in the City of Falls Church this Sunday night.

The yearly event is slated to take place throughout downtown Falls Church with other satellite locations stationed nearby the main stage. As per usual, all attractions at Watch Night are free to attendees.

In its 20th year, Watch Night has developed a far-reaching reputation. According to Falls Church Arts outreach director Shaun van Steyn, one of 100 volunteers who helps set up the event, the popularity has been a huge plus for Watch Night’s brand and the City of Falls Church itself but has also prompted added security concerns.

That’s why this year there will be extra security measures taken to protect the expectedly enlarged turnout from any unforeseen aggressors. Inspired by the recent terror attacks that have used cars as weapons against crowds, weighted barriers will line the perimeter of the public thoroughfare. Along with that, security cameras placed around the area will also be monitoring the night’s events.

Another added feature that benefits both Watch Night’s security and its aesthetic appeal is the addition of more lights to this year’s setting downtown. In year’s past the lights that were hung from trees on the main drag of West Broad St. only occupied the tree’s branches. This year, the lights have been artfully wrapped around the trunk of each tree to illuminate the surrounding area better. There is also the addition of searchlights that will be shone into the night sky, hopefully drawing more attention to event while compensating for the loss of fireworks.

“Without fireworks, the lowering of the Watch Night Star became drab,” van Steyn told the News-Press, citing more stringent constraints from the City government preventing the addition of fireworks. “So this year, there’s going to be a lot more lights.”

The added lights will also be a plus for the growing number of families that attend Watch Night and have made the event a family destination from Baltimore to Richmond. In response to the demographic shift, a rockwall, an inflatable obstacle course and moon bounce and a free-standing bungee jumping apparatus have all been included in this year’s festivities.

While most of the attention on this year’s Watch Night is directed toward the event’s 20th anniversary, there is also the lesser-known 10-year anniversary of the Watch Night Star, which drops at midnight to count the crowd down at the main stage. The star was originally placed every holiday season atop the City’s legendary water tower once located not far from the State Theatre in the center of town. It had disappeared until it was fished out of a storage unit with remnants of the old tower.

One final unique element of this year’s event has been the physical absence of Falls Church Arts president and principal driver behind Watch Night, Barb Cram. Cram still orchestrated the event while recovering from a broken leg she suffered in November, but her presence will be missed when the star drops this Sunday.

“[Cram] still knows everything that’s going on,” member of the Village Preservation and Improvement Society’s board of directors, Keith Thurston, said. “We’ve brought on some new arms and legs to help carry out what she usually does but otherwise the preparations are unchanged.”

Watch Night’s main stage events officially begin at 8 p.m. with performances from the Alpha Dog Blues Band (8 – 8:45 p.m.), the Eastern All-Star Jazz Quintet (9 – 10:15 p.m.) and Sudden M Pac (10:30 p.m. – midnight).

At the neighboring Falls Church Episcopal Church, the Stewart Sisters (8 – 9 p.m.) and the Andrew Acosta Band (9 – 10:30 p.m.) will be performing while the church will also be the launch site for Historic Tours of the City. At Falls Church Presbyterian Church, face painters, balloon sculptors and caricaturists will be available from 7 – 9 p.m. while a puppet show will start at 7:30 and then the Northern Lights Big Band Orchestra (8:30 – 10:30 p.m.) will follow after.

Other events as a part of Watch Night are a presentation by the Victorian Society of Falls Church at the Cherry Hill Farmhouse about life in 1907 in Falls Church, free studio time at Clay Café Studios from 6 – 11:30 p.m., free popcorn at Karl’s Kafe and free hot chocolate located at The Kensington all night.

West Broad St. will be blocked off starting at 5 p.m. this Sunday. Most guests can travel to the various spots in the event using shuttles, which will also be making trips to East Falls Church Metro station throughout the night.