2024-05-29 7:54 PM

By Brian Reach

The last time the big star dropped at the intersection of W Broad and Maple, ushering in the New Year at the City of Falls Church Watch Night event that had become a 22-year tradition, everybody cheered as January 1, 2020 arrived… not knowing a global pandemic, just over the horizon, would prevent the event’s return in 2020 and 2021. After nearly three years that inarguably (and to say the least) did not go as expected, the Watch Party’s return is a welcome one for a city that has missed it dearly. “That is what traditions are for,” says Keith Thurston, President of The CATCH Foundation and its Watch Night Falls Church program, “to provide a sense of ongoing stability, while New Year’s provides that sense of renewal and optimism.”

First held December 31, 1998, the year the Little City celebrated the 300th Anniversary of its founding, the Watch Party now returns for its 23rd year with exciting activities, entertainment, dancing, and (of course) the Big Star – to ring in 2023 Falls Church style while celebrating the return of this beloved tradition. “It feels good to resume the tradition and provide an outlet for people to come and enjoy themselves.” says Thurston. Those interested in volunteering for the event may contact Diana Bossa with the CATCH Foundation at dfbozza@gmail.com.

The City of Falls Church celebrates the Big Star lowering to ring in the New Year at a previous Watch Night. The star is a part of the long history of Falls Church, first illuminating Star Tavern at the intersection of Washington St and Broad St in the 1850s. (Photo: Gary Mester)

Missing from this year’s festivities will be Barb Cram, whose activism and volunteerism in the arts and throughout Falls Church life brought us the Watch Party. “Barb led Watch Night for years – and it was one of her favorite events on the calendar, setting a positive mood for the new year.” recalled Thurston. Barb passed away in June 2020 at the age of 73.

Local restaurants and pubs will remain open during the event, with several offering walk-away items for those who want to keep checking out the event. Though the forecast calls for temperatures roughly 20 degrees above average, those who get chilly can enjoy warming stations set up throughout the event (or support a local business while they warm up). Returning this year is Virginia Tourism’s “Loveworks” sign, which always provides a great photo opportunity.

The 100 block of W. Broad St. will be closed (between Washington St. and Maple Ave.) from 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Parking is available along Park Ave. (follow event signage). Via metro, take Orange/Silver to East Falls Church, take the WO&D bridge across N. Washington St, then head south on N. Washington St. to W. Broad.

Head to The Historic Falls Church (115 E. Fairfax St.) for guided historic church tours beginning at 7 p.m., followed by Andrew Acosta & The Electric Band performing at 8 p.m. Families with young children will want to stop by Falls Church Presbyterian (225 E. Broad St.), with activities starting at 7 p.m. including puppet shows, face painting, and Victorian-style dress-up photography (courtesy of the Victorian Society at Falls Church) – then listen or dance along to the Northern Light Dance Band Orchestra at 8 p.m. Head back to The Welcome Tent (100 W. Broad St., at Washington St.) to regroup, get information on the evening’s festivities, or thank volunteers! With W. Broad St. closed to vehicle traffic, the block is transformed into pedestrian-friendly Fun Alley (100-200 W. Broad St.), with activities ranging from a Rock Climbing Wall to Mechanical Baby Shark Rides (an all-ages take on the mechanical bull). Follow Fun Alley to Maple Ave to find the Main Stage (200 W. Broad St., at Maple Ave), with live music including Blue Ridge Sky Band starting at 7:30 p.m. on the Fairfax County Showmobile. At 11 p.m., everybody returns to the Main Stage for the pinnacle of the evening’s festivities, with Jeffrey Garofalo returning as Emcee for the countdown and big star lowering as the clock strikes midnight!

Watch Night has become a family-friendly staple of the community in and around the City of Falls Church. “Families see their friends and neighbors and are reminded of what a great place Falls Church is to live,” says Thurston, “and the event provides a welcoming charm for visitors being introduced to the City for the first time.”





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