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40 Reasons We Love NoVA

Discover the NoVA you love, with little known facts to love it even more.

Discover the NoVA you love, with little known facts to love it even more.
By Colin Daileda, Lorin Drinkard, Natalie Kaar, Lynn Norusis, Clara Ritger and Alexandra Scarfone

 

Because We Can Poke Fun at Ourselves

 

Courtesy of Goremy.com
Remy Munasifi (Courtesy of Goremy.com)

Remy Munasifi, Northern Virginia’s own YouTube-rapping, guitar-playing, hummus-loving comedian, is one funny dude. Although he claims to have grown up more “class punching bag” than class clown, it’s clear that Remy and comedy are as natural and expected as brown flip flops and Clarendon. 

Welcome to A-town and the Starbucks and the Starbucks and the Starbucks . . . 

This month marks a whopping five years since Remy hit the YouTube scene. After posting his first humorous video in 2006 and following up with viral smash hit “Arlington: The Rap” in 2009, the satirical rap songs—and millions of views—just keep coming. “It’s one of the things I like about living in Arlington,” says Remy, who currently buys his Whole Foods puffed Kashi in the Clizzledizzle. “There’s a sense of community … people are really supportive of things that are from the area.” Remy still receives fan emails about the A-town video from all over. “Nobody from Virginia Square, though. I’m not 100-percent sure that place exists.”

Falaffel, tabouleh and hummus, oh my!

“The first time I tried to do comedy was my senior year of college,” says Remy, who performed in alma mater Wheeling Jesuit University’s talent show and won. He’s come a long way since then—from driving to Pittsburgh, Pa., for open mic nights to signing with Comedy Central Records and performing in the Middle East as his alter ego, Habib Abdul Habib, “Baghdad’s worst comedian.” “You’re just uploading this onto your laptop … and people far away are seeing it,” says Remy, a self-confessed foodie whose Internet rapsheet includes how he likes his eggs (“Eggs Over Easy: The Rap”) and side effects of Taco Bell (“Thunder Rolls: The Taco Bell Version”). “It’s a really cool thing to be able to do.” 

Calling all Virginia Squarians …

Remy, who enjoys dining at Five Guys and taking trips to the mall, can’t imagine a life without comedy. “My mind can’t even process [people who aren’t into funny],” says Remy. “… they may be the people that live in Virginia Square. They’ve evolved due to Vitamin D deficiency and are lacking humor.” As for future plans, Remy’s still got plenty of videos up his, er, sleeves. Perhaps even “Remy: The Rap Musical” will take the Internet by storm. Someday.  —LD

 

Because there’s always enough time to stay in shape.

There are more than 20 5Ks, 10Ks, triathlons or duathlons that take place in NoVA in the fall alone, not to mention the dozens upon dozens of community Turkey Trots. If the thought of running one of these sends shivers down your spine, no worries. There is help. 

seeMOMMYrun.com

Fairfax resident Andrea Vincent saw the need for a forum where women could seek out running partners that could adapt to the hectic schedule of having kids. She began seeMOMMYrun in 2004 not only to get back on the trails after her first child; she also used it to foster friendships since she had just moved to the area. Now seeMOMMYrun has almost 56,000 members in all 50 states. Women, with or without children, can join and find running groups, start their own, or simply connect with other women. —CD

 

Because we offer the best for businesses. —LD

Global Impact
Alexandria 
United Way
Alexandria 
Volunteers of America
Alexandria
Media Research Center
Alexandria
BAE Systems
Arlington
CACI
Arlington
Rosetta Stone
Arlington
General Dynamics
Fairfax
SRA International
Fairfax
Gannett Company
McLean
Hilton Worldwide
McLean 
Freddie Mac
McLean
Booz Allen Hamilton
McLean 
SAIC
McLean
Rolls-Royce North Americana
Reston
Capital One
McLean & Tysons Corner

 

Because without some of our natives, entertainment would have a very different effect.

Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com  (graham, bullock); Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com (couric); jonathan timmes (blanco)
Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com (graham, bullock); Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com (couric); jonathan timmes (blanco)

Imagine how underused our funny bones would be without America’s Sweetheart Sandra Bullock, originally from Arlington. And just where would women in news be without Arlington native and trailblazer Katie Couric? Imagine the hit shows “Gilmore Girls” or “Parenthood” without Lauren Graham, who honed her acting skills as a teen at McLean’s Langley School. And imagine today’s Top 40 charts without Reston-native producer Benjamin Levin, “Benny Blanco,” frequent collaborator with Usher, Ke$ha, Britney Spears and Katy Perry among other chart-topping stars. NoVA is the training ground for entertainment greatness. –—NK

 

The Nation trusts us with their secrets.

NROChantilly

FBIQuantico

CIAMcLean

PENTAGONArlington

 

Because if it weren’t for some of our residents, our nation would not be what it is today.

George Mason

Born in Fairfax County, he was one of the nation’s Founding Fathers and drafted the Bill of Rights, along with James Madison

John Marshall

Born in Fauquier County, he was the longest-serving Chief Justice of the U.S., with a major role in making our legal system what it is today. His opinions laid the foundation to give the Supreme Court the power to overturn Congress.

George Washington 

If you don’t know who he is, then you are not American. And Virginia is happy to call GW a native resident. Not only was he born in Westmoreland County but he laid roots for his family in Alexandria at Mount Vernon.

George Marshall

Residing in Leesburg at Dodona Manor, Marshall was an integral part of the World War II victory as U.S. Army Chief of Staff and President Franklin Roosevelt’s chief military advisor—also won the Nobel Peace Prize. —AS

 

Because the only tall buildings we have blocking our view are national monuments.

Courtesy of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District/photo by Steve Uzzell
Courtesy of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District/photo by Steve Uzzell

Manhattan on the Potomac. Rosslyn offers landmark views and the best location in the region—a vibrant, centrally located hub of business and government activity—with convenient access to the best of Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument stands at 555 feet. Although there are no building height restrictions in NoVA, height restrictions in D.C. state that a building may be no more than 20 feet taller than the width of the street it faces, which keeps skyscrapers out of the city. Lucky for us, we’re able to look in and enjoy the view!—CR


 

Because Local residents take their fight (whether we agree with them or not) to the nation, not just soapboxes.

Last fall, local Ashburn resident Brian Sodergren started a small website that gained national attention. His website, www.optoutday.com, was sparked by TSA’s newly announced full-body scanners for airport passenger screenings, which many considered invasive and over-the-top.

“I wanted to give people a voice and let them know they can do something about their frustration,” he says. “It became sort of an educational campaign to keep people informed.”

Sodergren says he had no idea what the reaction would be, but he wanted people to be able to do more than just comment. We love that he took his 1st amendment right to a national forum.  —AS

 

Because it costs more in gas to get to the museum than it actually does to get in.

Strength Test, Spring Grip Dumbells
Courtesy Invent Now Inc.

There are over 50 free museums and national historic sites in Northern Virginia. Here’s a listing of some of our favorites. 

George Washington Masonic Memorial
101 Callahan Drive, Alexandria; Open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Except Major Holidays)
The George Washington Masonic Memorial is more than a colossal memorial and museum for Freemasons. It is a tourist attraction and destination; research center and library; community center; performing arts center and concert hall; banquet and celebration site; and meeting site for local and countless visiting Masonic lodges and organizations.

The Lyceum
201 S. Washington St., Alexandria; Monday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday: 1 to 5 p.m. Closed: New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas
In 1985, The Lyceum became Alexandria’s History Museum, providing exhibitions, school programs, lectures and concerts, volunteer opportunities and space for rental functions for the community.

Drug Enforcement Administration Museum
700 Army Navy Drive in Arlington; Open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The DEA Museum & Visitors Center is committed to educating the American public on the history of the Drug Enforcement Administration and on the impact of drug addiction from past to present.

Arlington Historical Museum
1805 S. Arlington Ridge Road, Arlington; Open Saturdays and Sundays 1 to 4 p.m.
The two-story brick structure was built in 1891 as the Hume School, named for Frank Hume who gave some of the property for the school. It is the oldest school building in Arlington County.

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
George Washington Memorial Parkway, Turkey Run Park, McLean; Open daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., except Christmas and New Year’s Day
Arlington House was the home of Robert E. Lee and his family for 30 years and is uniquely associated with the Washington and Custis families. It is now preserved as a memorial to General Lee, who gained the respect of Americans in both the North and the South.

Athenaeum
201 Prince St., Alexandria; Thursday, Friday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m., Closed all Major Holidays
Historic, beautiful, intimate, and inviting, the Athenaeum is home to the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association (NVFAA). The NVFAA strives to establish premier arts programs that enrich the cultural life of Northern Virginia and beyond.

Freedom House Museum
1315 Duke St., Alexandria; Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This museum focuses on preserving the stories of those who passed through the house in an effort to escape the bondage of the South.

Haymarket Museum
Corner of  Washington and Fayette Streets, Haymarket; Open Sundays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Haymarket Museum chronicles the story of a small, 19th-century town and its surrounding agricultural community. Haymarket was established in 1799 and was well known for the Red House Tavern, built along the historic Old Carolina Road, as well as the Jockey Club, an organization that sponsored horse races at the town’s track.

USGS Visitors Center
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston; Open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The USGS Learning Program is designed to acquaint visitors with the USGS and its multi-faceted activities and responsibilities. Visitors to the Learning Center will be actively engaged in learning about natural science through guided tours, hands-on experiences, and a fascinating array of natural science products.

National Inventors Hall of Fame
600 Dulany, Madison Building, Alexandria; Open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m.
Their goal is to foster the inventive spirit in visitors. —CR

 

Our athletes are more than just sports figures; they’re part of the community.

Sports figures are often chastised for seeming out of touch with their fans. They squabble over making more millions and whine about their jobs even though they play sports for a living. They seem, in a word, elitist.

Not in Northern Virginia.

Athletes here are down-to-earth. They’re especially involved in communities and they enjoy giving back to fans that cheer them on, dutifully dressed in some shade of red.

Two of those fans, Mary Ann Wangemann and her daughter, found themselves in need of a little giving back after they got a flat tire while driving home from a Caps game. Soon after, a familiar figure pulled over to assist.

Capitals wingman Brooks Laich walked up to the women, asked if they had a spare, and went to work. Mind you, the game that had just ended was the last of the season, a game seven playoff series loss.

Laich’s act was chivalrous. Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley’s act was … artful.

Cooley studied art at Utah State University before being drafted by the Redskins, and decided to put his degree to good use by opening an art gallery in Leesburg last year. —CD

We have unabashed loyalty to our local pro teams, no matter how their seasons finish.

On Forbes Magazine’s 2010 list of “World’s Most Valuable Sports Teams” the Washington Redskins ranked No. 4 with a value of $1.55 billion, over $345 million in revenue and an average operating income of $77 million over the past five seasons—the highest AOI in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Redskins’ record over the past five regular seasons:  32 wins, 58 losses.—NK

 

We take a risk, foraying into unknown territory in the media.

Patch.com, which is headquartered here in Dulles, is one of several news sources that have been deemed “new media.” The idea behind the site is to provide current and immediate news for any and every town or city, no matter how big or small.

Warren Webster, the president of patch.com, says he believes this is where media is headed.

“I think generally the media has become more real-time and more interactive,” he says. “Traditional media is trying to find ways to change their model to adapt.”

Webster says he noticed many traditional media outlets pulling out of smaller communities and neighborhoods, which led to the idea behind patch.com. He hopes that ultimately every community throughout the country will have a service like Patch, where that community can get or share information at all times.

The company took a risk in trying to adapt to the changing media scene, and although Webster says he is happy with the progress Patch has made, he added that the job is never really done.

“We continue to look at what we do that works and doesn’t work, and what others out there are doing to get better and better,” he says. “Eventually, I think media will need to have a 360-degree distribution.” —AS

 

Because we live different lifestyles and can all appreciate NoVA.

Loudoun paints the perfect picture of rural lifestyles. It has the small-town vibe with antique stores, bed and breakfasts, and an abundance of grassy hills. But then there’s downtown Arlington, or the bubbling Tysons Corner, with plenty of restaurants and nightlife without the hassle of dodging cabbies. Of course, we’ve got our suburbias, where we invite the neighbors over for a nightcap, or run across the street to borrow a cup of sugar. It’s NoVA, and it’s home! —CR

 

Because the economy tanked, but our work ethic continued to soar.

Check out NoVA’s unemployment numbers. Compared to the nationwide average of 9.2%; Virginia’s average is 6%. —LN

4.2%
Alexandria City

3.7%
Arlington County

4.3%
Fairfax County

5%
Fairfax City

5.9%
Falls Church City

4.6%
Fauquier County

4.1%
Loudoun County

4.7%
Manassas Park City

5.9%
Manassas City

5.1%
Prince William County

 

Because we set the trend for family, community living.

When Robert E. Simon founded Reston on April 20, 1964 (his 50th birthday) as the first post-war planned community, he strove to have a place where families of all backgrounds could live, work and play—truly settle and not spend all of their lives behind the wheel—while preserving the area’s precious natural resources. Then considered “the boonies,” a home for many cows and few people, he established a new town, blazing trail after trail. For instance, he built urban-inspired townhouses in suburbia—unheard-of at the time. His goal being the opposite of sprawl and bedroom communities, instead to have virtually everything a family desires from day to day located within walking distance, was lofty; however, it was realized. Still today, nearly 50 years later, the community—with its mecca of retail, business, educational and cultural centers intermixed with 55 peaceful pathways—continues to be regarded as golden for families of all ages, income levels and races. And it continues to inspire other communities, the world over, to mimic its ideals.

While Reston’s future is unknown, the community and now 97-year-old Simon will always have a place in the history books; and we expect diehard Restonites will continue fighting to keep Reston’s heritage intact. —NK

 

Because we border the ocean yet have no beaches.

We may not have an oceanfront beach close by, but we’ve got other topography to our name. More than 18 lakes and waterways scatter our region, and we’ve got mountains and forestry where we can take our tents and hiking boots for a weekend getaway. Sandy, lake- and riverfront beaches can be found on the shores of Lake Anna in Fredericksburg and Leesylvania Park in Woodbridge.—CR

 

Because our teachers are always enlightening.

James "Jim" Percoco
Courtesy of Self (Percoco)

James “Jim” Percoco, history teacher at West Springfield High School, has won numerous awards for his teaching and was recently inducted into the National Teacher Hall of Fame.

“Twenty years ago I created a course called applied history,” Percoco says. “It is the only class of its kind offered in the country.” Percoco uses his proximity to Washington, D.C. as a way for students to connect their classroom learning to real events. “Monuments fascinate me. Why do we honor certain people at certain times in history?”

Percoco asks those questions to his students and has them take Individualized Field Trips to different museums and monuments to answer them. “I want to challenge my students. I think their learning is more than just history. It’s about leadership, and what qualities it takes to be a leader.”

His commitment to his students has led to a number of them pursuing degrees in history, teaching or both after high school. Former student and now teacher Jennifer Shearin, class of 1989, says, “Jim is unique among high school teachers in that he always gets his students to see beyond the textbook and the classroom.”

Percoco says, “I’m invested in them, and it’s empowering.”—CR

 

Because we are a leading social media force.

At the outset of Men’s Health Magazine researching which American cities were “most socially networked,” all bets were on Palo Alto. Their data, however—looking at the number of Facebook and LinkedIn users per capita, overall Twitter usage, traffic generated by other social media sites, and blog/chat room participation—put Washington, D.C. at No. 1. —NK

 

Because We continue to be a melting pot for people

—LN

 

Because we follow the toot of our own horn.

The chorus of a Northern Virginia afternoon is of muttered curses, screeching brakes and blasting horns as traffic inches onward. Oh, and a tuba.

Fifty-five-year-old Jay Converse, better known simply as Tuba Guy, has taken to the streets by Braddock Road with his instrument as others bustle about their day, and he’s garnered local fame in the process.

He tries to wave to everyone who waves at him, but admits that when people talk to him in places like Safeway and ask if he’s Tuba Guy, he’s not sure how to respond.

“I say ‘oh yeah, you were the person in that minivan, right?’”

But despite becoming a local celebrity of sorts, he insists he’s doing it all for practice on the tuba, which, unless you want to drown out everything in the house, you can’t practice indoors.

“I did it just for my own gratification. I like it. I enjoy playing.”

And he plans to keep on enjoying it, with no desire to up his fame.

“Somebody said, when the [Washington]Post article hit, ‘Next stop, Letterman!’ No. Come on. I have no plans to be the next Rebecca Black.”

He does, however, have plans to play a marathon.

Although he doesn’t want to enter an official marathon, he’s marked out 26.2 miles on Google Maps, from Washington, D.C. to home, and plans to play the whole way later this year.

After that, who knows? All that’s certain is Tuba Guy isn’t about to stop.

“I’m just going to continue … why not? —CD

 

For a major metropolitan area, we keep the masses in check.

Fairfax County’s over 1 million residents enjoy one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Last year, according to “Crime in Virginia 2010,” the commonwealth’s annual round-up of statewide crime, only 17,453 crimes were reported in the highly populated county. NK

 

We still take time to relish in the treats of the past.

Carl’s Frozen Custard
Located in Fredericksburg, Carl’s still makes its custard with 1940s Electro-Freeze machines. 

Kline’s Freeze
The Manassas shop opened in 1965 and is still making delicious chocolate, vanilla and strawberry soft-serve.

 

Because our artists take pride in their work, and so does the nation.

Laura Nichols
Courtesy of Al Reitan

Great Falls is known for many things: its beautiful scenery, quaint suburban life and waterfalls. It’s time to add another descriptor to the list: talented artists.  “The community is dotted with artists,” says Jonathan Fisher, a woodworker and board member for the Great Fall Studio, an organization started in 2003 to support and encourage local artists in their work and to promote arts throughout the community. Today there are 100 members of Great Falls Studio, and their annual studio-to-studio tour has attracted over 10,000 visitors.

Take Cindy Grisdela, for example, a fiber artist who hand-stitches brightly woven quilts. In 2010, she won the Juror’s Choice Award at the Brush Gallery in Lowell, Mass., and has been written up in The Professional Quilter. Or Great Falls founder and President Laura Nichols, who has been a potter for 40 years. A former ceramic artist in Connecticut, a trained Anthropological Linguist, a pottery teacher by night, Nichols runs The Pig Pen Pottery and has work on display in locations throughout Virginia.

Or lithographer and printmaker Will Tuthill. He draws impossibly small images onto a stone and proceeds to etch, ink and print each of the images in the same, methodical way. He has been awarded with the Pacific States Biennial National Print Exhibition in 2010 and the Hawaii State Foundation for Culture and the Arts Purchase Award in 2011. Along with 97 other artists, they represent the creative talent and artist ability overflowing in the Great Falls community. Revel in their amazing abilities at this year’s 2011 Annual Great Falls Studio Tour on Oct. 15 and 16. It’ll make you proud to be from NoVA —LD

 

The bustle of everyday life.

We live just outside the capital of the free world, but enjoy a picnic along the Potomac in Alexandria as planes soar directly over your head and the nation’s most treasured monuments, take a hike in Great Falls, dine alfresco on the docks of historic Occoquan, go antiquing in Lovettsville, kick back with some local vino in Leesburg, stay in a tranquil B&B in Middleburg or gather friends for twilight polo in The Plains, and time seems to stand still. —NK

 

Because the real “Patch” Adams is from here.

In 1998, Robin Williams starred in the movie “Patch Adams,” a story about one man’s efforts to bring humor into hospitals as a way to cure patients. The Academy Award-nominated movie put the spotlight on the real Hunter “Patch” Adams, a former resident of Northern Virginia whose clinic in Arlington spawned his Gesundheit! Institute and the opening of other centers nationwide.

At a time when health care rests on the mind of the nation, Dr. Adams’ efforts remind us that there is more care to be done in the world of medicine. According to the Gesundheit! Institute website, he believes that the system is elitist and expensive, and that the healing process should involve laughter, joy and creativity. His institute supports a personalized medical experience, where patients are treated as friends, and the health of the physicians is as important as the health of the patients.

Today, Dr. Adams travels around the nation as a speaker on the subjects of wellness, laughter and humor. In an interview with Renaissance Universal, Dr. Adams says, “It’s the job of the clown and the doctor to walk towards suffering and not be afraid to speak up. As soon as you stop being part of peace and justice and care, you’re going to be lonely, and your life isn’t going to have meaning.” He’s given meaning to thousands of patients, starting in NoVA. —CR

 

Because we may make a lot of money, 

Average Income
U.S. — $49,777 NoVA — $59,082

and we know how to spend it —CD

Average Donation
U.S. — $934.47 NoVA — $2726.54

Because we don’t need cable TV to entertain us.

Channel 10 is Northern Virginia’s personal television station, which formed about 30 years ago and currently broadcasts to about 1 million people per week. John Monsul, the creator and producer of one of the station’s popular programs, “Communication Today,” is one of around 50 producers who work on a variety of TV shows that cover “everything from A-Z.”

The studio is located in Fairfax and broadcasts exclusively to Northern Virginians.

“We don’t air in any other states or even the southern half of Virginia,” says Monsul. “Northern Virginia is what we are all about.”

The station airs shows about topics ranging from animals to cooking to politics; it also airs several children’s programs and talk shows.

In the past, Channel 10 has featured famous Northern Virginians such as George Allen, a former governor and senator of Virginia, and son of the former Redskins’ football coach George Allen, Sr. The station has also had on nonprofit organizations such as the American Heart Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Fairfax Hospital.

“We try to do as much as we can for the welfare of our community,” says Monsul. —AS

Because we are a giving bunch.

There are nearly 300 nonprofit groups based in Fairfax County and around 70 nonprofits headquartered in Alexandria alone —AS

ALIVE!  
Alexandria

Rebuilding Together
Alexandria 

CrisisLink
Arlington

American College of Radiology
Reston

National Wildlife Association
Reston 

Hispanic Committee of Virginia
Arlington 

Women’s Business Center of NoVA
Falls Church

National Automobile Dealers Association
Mclean

 

Because our state politicians are making a name for Virginia on the national level. 

Eric Cantor
Courtesy of Self (Cantor)

Eric Cantor
quickly rose in the ranks taking some of the top seats in the Republican Party, House Minority Whip (2009-2011) and House Majority Leader (present).

Tim Kaine
former gov. (2006-2010) was tapped to head up the DNC (2009-2011), he was eyed as a running mate to the POTUS (2008), and is now up for a Senate seat in November.

Bob McDonnell
is the new chair of the Republican Governors association, and has been mentioned when it comes to a VP nod in the 2012 elections.

Mark Warner
Former Gov. (2002-2006) headed up The Gang of Six for the United States public debt ceiling negotiations.—LN

 

At a young age we make dreams possible. 

Most kids like to dream about what they’ll be one day when they grow up. For 16-year-old smartphone app developer Steven Kappler and 18-year-old D.C. United midfielder Andy Najar, that day is now.

Steven Kappler, a junior at Madison High School, is a self-taught success story. After studying online tutorials for a year, Kappler developed his first smartphone app—Gizmodo, a tech news update app that reached No. 5 for most downloads for paid iTunes apps in 2010. “I test apps on my phone before submitting them to Apple to make sure they get the same results,” says Kappler, 16, proud owner of six or so iPhones. “My apps aren’t that extensive—the simpler the better.”

TechUpdate, Damn You Autocorrect and MacRumors are some of his other 99-cent downloads that help sponsor his dream car fund—his eyes are on a BMV M3 Convertible. So is he enjoying the ride thus far? “It feels pretty good,” says Kappler. “Makes me feel like I can make a lot more [money] when I’m older.”

The youngest member of Olsen’s Army is turning heads at RFK Stadium. After signing directly from United’s Academy last year, Andy Najar, now 18, started in 22 and played in 26 of 30 total matches. He was named the 2010 Major League Soccer’s Rookie of the Year and is the youngest league player to receive that award. “When they told me that I won Rookie of the Year, I was excited,” says Najar, who left his home in Honduras at age 13 and traveled on a 14-day journey to reach American soil.

Najar settled into life in Northern Virginia and joined Thomas A. Edison High School’s soccer team, where he played until D.C. United came calling. Now a paid professional athlete, his achievements continue—repeatedly named Man of the Match, over 1,200 minutes playing time just halfway into the season and steady improvement on the field. The key to his success? “Just work hard and do the thing you have to do,” says Najar. “It doesn’t matter the age you are; it’s how you play.” And he’s got the paychecks to prove it. —LD

 

Because we are the only identifiable American home to a Disney Princess.

Courtesy of Serrnovik/Shutterstock.com
Courtesy of Serrnovik/Shutterstock.com

We know that Mulan is from China, Jasmine is from Saudi Arabia, and Ariel is from the ocean (which is still up for debate). But Pocahontas has an American hometown, right in Northern Virginia.
Believe the “Jamestown” hype if you want, but Pocahontas was born in the Commonwealth of Virginia, speculated near Fairfax.—CR


Because we value education on all levels.

A study of 2008 Census data conducted by the Brookings Institute looked at the United States’ 100 largest metropolitan areas
and determined that the Metro-D.C. area has some of the brightest brains in the country.

Nearly 50 percent of area residents hold a bachelor’s degree,
and almost a quarter of them have graduate or professional degrees.

Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax Counties
rank as three of the top five most educated counties/cities in the U.S. We’re fans of home-grown ed, too—with 16 of the top 200 high schools. —CD

 

We hold a host of our nation’s most important artifacts. —LN

Courtesy of NASA
Courtesy of NASA

Enola Gay
The Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber was the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb, and did so on Aug. 6, 1945, on Hiroshima, Japan

Space Shuttle discovery
(NASA’s oldest and most traveled shuttle) coming soon to Udvar-Hazy

George Washington’s teeth
(Mount Vernon)

First-hand experiences (as close as they get) of military,
specifically Marine battles at the National Marine Corps Museum. Also see the Corps’ most important icon:
the flag raised on Mt. Suribachi
during World War II

Firearms of past and present,
From the pilgrims and presidents to foreign heads of state and Hollywood idols, at the National Firearms Museum.

 

Because we honor our soldiers.

The Rolling Thunder parade of motorcycles every Memorial Day has been a spectacle in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC for years now. But since 2002, another military veteran has attracted some attention on the same day, saluting the stream of veterans as they zoom by … for over three hours.

Retired Marine Staff Sergeant Tim Chambers has said he’s simply trying to give all these former soldiers the welcome home they never got. This past Memorial Day, with thousands watching both him and the motorcycle brigade, Chambers held the salute again, this time with a broken wrist.

Chambers found a new way to honor military service, and over at Fort Belvoir, former Sergeant John Burnham has plans well under way to honor a different kind of soldier: war dogs.

The plan, which has been in the works for years now, is to construct an open-air, 5,000-square-foot National War Dog Monument, made of granite and stone. The monument would be shrouded in shrubbery and also provide information on the role of war dogs.

Burnham hopes to collect $850,000, the projected cost of the monument, in time for it to be dedicated on Memorial Day, 2012. Replicas of the monument are sold on their website, www.jbmf.us.  —CD

 

We show ourselves in a good light.*

Mary Amons
who graced the small screen in last fall’s “Real Housewives of D.C.” showed the world how we Northern Virginians work—displaying great feats of balancing family (five children and husband Rich Amons) and charity (Labels for Love).

Eric Patrick
was one of a few who put their life out there for the world to see on MTV’s “Real World” (New Orleans) and did not come across as petty or living with drama behind every syllable. This Arlingtonian actually played more of a mediator and father figure on the show, intervening in one too many housemate outbreaks.

*Well, maybe not … 

After thrusting themselves into the spotlight by crashing a White House dinner, then following up with a stint on “Real Housewives of D.C.,” Michaele and Tareq Salahi are now in even more hot water due to their business practices at Virginia Wine Tours. The couple was summoned to Loudoun County court in July for business fraud, yet did not appear. It is also rumored that the couple is being investigated for charity fraud by the state. —LN

 

Because we have our own sound.

Courtesy of  LeonardsPhotography.net (The Seldom Scene)
Courtesy of LeonardsPhotography.net (The Seldom Scene)

Bluegrass music has been around for decades and has always had a strong Northern Virginia presence. Even today, the sound has a place in the NoVA community.

Mike Auldridge, one of the founding members of the bluegrass group the Seldom Scene, which formed in 1971, says the music may be more present than ever in the D.C.-Metro area. ¶  Auldridge says the bluegrass sound really took root in the D.C. and NoVA area after WWII, when many people from the South migrated here and brought their music with them. After that, radio stations that played bluegrass, such as WARL in the ‘50s and WAMU in the ‘70s, really caused the music to grow in popularity. —AS

 

Because we fight for our own.

When word broke out in early March that Vienna’s beloved Norm’s Beer and Wine could lose its 13-year humble residence in Danor Plaza, the community jumped into gear. Over 1,780 people joined forces on the “Save Norm’s Beer & Wine” Facebook page in an effort to “Keep Vienna Hoppy” and to keep Goliath, or The Fresh Market, from crushing Norm’s in a non-compete clause battle. A Save Norm’s Beer and Wine website was started. Bumper stickers flanked vehicles throughout Northern Virginia. And letters were sent.

Jacquelyn Karpovich, a 29-year-old consultant from Vienna, is just one of many Norm’s longtime customers who penned their outrage, addressing complaints to “Attn: Customer Loyalty.” They asked Goliath to “provide answers to a growing chorus of local Vienna residents.”

Her family has frequented the local institution since it opened in 1998. “Norm’s keeps my Dad’s favorite beer, Genessee Light, an obscure (in this area) and terrible beer in the cooler for him,” says Karpovich. The Karpoviches and Norm’s other devoted customers weren’t going to let another NoVA establishment bite the dust. “That shopping center already lost Ketterman’s Jewelry, which was another family favorite,” says Karpovich. “Then, where does it stop? Would Cenan’s Bakery be next?”

By the end of May, owner Norman Yow announced that they had reached an understanding with The Fresh Market and would be keeping their Branch Road location. “We love Vienna. Vienna rocks,” says Yow. “From the customers to the average citizens to the folks at town hall, I’m overwhelmed with the support.” Just goes to show: don’t stand between Northern Virginians and their amazing, 400-plus beer and wine selection. —LD

 

We’re big on multi-tasking. 

Since 2003, Bike and Roll has given over 70,000 people the opportunity to combine history and health together with their on-the-go biking tours of historic Virginia and Washington D.C. hot spots. It’s not just for tourists either. “The locals … are generally surprised by how much they learn while ‘playing tourist’ in their own city!” says Catherine Pear, the marketing director for Bike and Roll Washington D.C. Strap on a helmet and cruise behind the tour guide for an up close and personal view of Historic Old Town, right at your handlebars. —LD

Old Town Alexandria, One Wales Alley [corner of Wales Alley & The Strand], Alexandria, VA 22314; 703-548-7655; www.bikethesites.com ; Summer Hours: Mon-Thurs: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat-Sun: 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Cost: $40 for three-hour tour 



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