Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Tradition plays a significant role in this weekend’s observances of Independence Day. Flags, fireworks, parades and picnics have been part of the celebration for decades, even centuries, since the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. In cities and small towns all across the nation, families, friends and neighbors most likely will gather for some sort of commemoration of the nation’s independence from the English crown.

Many cities and towns also celebrate with music in the town square, which might host a real covered bandstand or a less formal open space for folks to gather. Neither Fairfax County nor Mason District has a traditional town square, but they have public venues for the return of free summer concerts in the parks. And the music is coming! Beginning next Wednesday, July 7, the Mason District Park amphitheatre will host free summer concerts every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m. The concert on July 7 will feature Shenandoah Run (folk). The very popular Tom Paxton will perform on July 9 and Debi Smith will be on stage on July 11. Visit fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/performances for more information about all the free concerts at county facilities all summer long. Children’s concerts at Mason District Park will be held on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m., July 10 through Aug. 14. The park is located at 6621 Columbia Pike in Annandale. There is bench seating at Mason District Park, although many concert-goers prefer to bring their own lawn chairs.

An international series, “Cultural Heritage Nights,” will be held on Saturday nights, also at 7:30 p.m., at Ossian Hall Park, 7900 Heritage Drive in Annandale (from Heritage Drive, turn onto Four Year Run near Annandale High School for easy access). Ossian Hall Park has no formal seating but boasts a large lawn area that accommodates blankets and lawn chairs. The summer entertainment events at both parks follow current CDC, Governor’s and Health Department Covid-19 guidelines for events. Masks are recommended at all times and required when entering, leaving, and moving through the concert site and any time that social distancing cannot be maintained. Please follow seating spacing for your group as directed. I look forward to seeing you there!

When the Declaration of Independence was signed, the fledgling nation’s economy was built on agriculture. Fairfax County’s own George Washington was reputed to identify himself, not as a president or general, but simply as “farmer.” Farming continues today in Fairfax County, albeit on a much smaller scale. A public hearing about the future of farming activities, focusing on agritourism, drew nearly 20 speakers last week, as the Board of Supervisors considered rules and regulations to permit agritourism activities on a limited basis.

Much of the discussion centered on drinking water protection in the downzoned Occoquan area of western and southern Fairfax County. Stewardship of the land is paramount for most farmers, as water quantity and quality are imperative for agricultural production. Today’s small family farmers are conservationists at heart and the connection to the land is extraordinarily strong. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board adopted tiers addressing both acreage and attendees for agritourism activities, increased the minimum number of acres needed for actual agricultural production,and established standards limiting the size of parking areas. Other restrictions included no helicopter rides, flea markets, hot air balloons, spa services, commercial restaurants, or mechanized amusement park rides in connection with agritourism operations. George Washington never had to consider parking, restrictions on number of guests, or helicopter rides at Mount Vernon, but one would hope that he would support the continuation of successful agricultural activities in his home county. Happy Birthday, America!

 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.