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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Taste of Annandale is aimed at building community and engaging youths

Taste of Annandale Steering Committee Chair Rev. Clarence Brown (right) speaks at the 2015 festival. Also on the stage are (from the left): Rep. Gerry Connolly, state Sen. Dave Marsden, Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova, and Mason Supervisor Penny Gross. 
“The Taste of Annandale was created to bring neighbors together to meet and greet one another and to support the fabric of our community,” says Rev. Clarence Brown, senior pastor of Annandale United Methodist Church and chair of the Taste of Annandale Steering Committee.

The festival, on Oct. 1, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. along Tom Davis Drive, “will provide an opportunity to enjoy the sights, sounds, and foods of our brilliantly diverse community,” Brown says. “There will be music and acrobatics, a variety of cuisines, a chili cook-off between our fine police and fire departments, and a broad array of activities for children. All this will be preceded by a 5K run through the community.”

The core mission of the event is to raise funds to benefit Annandale youths. It will be up to the young people themselves to come up with an idea for a project, such as some sort of public art.

“It’s important to encourage youths to be involved in the civic life of the community,” says steering committee member Nancy Hall, a former member of the board of the ACCA Child Development Center.

“Many Annandale teens are busy with after-school jobs to help their families, so they’re not as engaged as they could be,” Hall says. “We understand that, but we’re not prepared to abandon them. We want them to be engaged.”

The other steering committee members are Bob Kahane, president of the Annandale Rotary Club; Annandale businessman Steve Lee; Kathleen O’Leary, public safety officer for the Mason Police District; Fran Tunick, the chief aide for Mason Supervisor Penny Gross; Peter Huyn, a chiropractor and owner of the Spinal Health Group; Ellie Ashford, editor of the Annandale Blog; Patricia Moreno, of Anthem Healthkeepers Plus; and Norma Lopez, of the Fairfax County Department of Community and Neighborhood Services (NCS).

Several other people have also been working on making the Taste of Annandale a success. Camilo Quila, a consultant, is the point of contact for sponsors and vendors. Britanny Burns, of NCS, is in charge of the entertainment line-up.

The Mason Police District is in charge of organizing the 5K Race, including designing the course, obtaining the VDOT permit, and recruiting runners, and is also handling security and traffic control at the Taste of Annandale.

Maria Isabel Ballivian, executive director of the ACCA Child Development Center, is in charge of organizing the children’s corner, a major component of the Taste of Annandale.

Rep. Gerry Connolly serves as the honorary chair of the Taste of Annandale and will make a brief appearance at the opening ceremony, along with former supervisor and congressman Tom Davis and several elected officials.

The idea for the Taste of Annandale evolved from the “Dialogues on Diversity,” a series of community forums at Annandale High School in 2010 and 2011 facilitated by NCS with support from the Fairfax County Police Department.

Those sessions sought to promote communication among long-time Annandale residents and newcomers from other countries who might not have the same understanding of community norms and values. Immigrants spoke about feelings of isolation, language barriers, and worries that their children will abandon their culture. People who’ve lived in Annandale for many years expressed concerns about property maintenance and other issues as well as the difficulty of reaching out to immigrants who often work long hours.

In 2012, a group of Annandale stakeholders, including representatives from the police, business community, and local organizations, decided to keep the conversation going through an informal group called the Annandale Roundtable.

That group explored ways to improve civic engagement and develop leadership among Annandale’s diverse population. They decided to focus on a youth initiative to be developed and implemented by students at Annandale High School.

It was from that idea that the Annandale Roundtable agreed to create a community festival to raise funds for the youth initiative.

During the first Taste of Annandale, in June 2015, Annandale High School students sold water and spirit items and some of them served as volunteers. That will happen again at the 2016 Taste of Annandale, and in addition, the school’s culinary students, under the direction of teacher Christine Gloninger (“Chef G”), are planning a cooking demonstration.

The proceeds from the 2015 Taste of Annandale will be combined with funds generated from the upcoming festival to support the youth initiative.

Lopez thanks the Annandale community for making the first Taste of Annandale a success and encourages everyone to come to this year’s event. “Annandale is a very special community,” she says.

“I vividly remember the joy of last year’s event,” Brown recalls. “There was great spirit, with people of all backgrounds sitting and eating together and getting to know one another. So come one, come all, and bring a neighbor with you. I look forward to seeing you at the 2016 Taste of Annandale.”


  1. I'm glad they moved it to a cooler time of the year!

  2. So glad Chef G's talents and that of her students are being showcased with a cooking demonstration!

  3. Is the county going to charge a meal tax at the event?

    1. There is no meals tax in Fairfax County. Residents will have an opportunity to vote yes or no on a meals tax on Nov. 8.

  4. Looking forward to it--last year was fun!

    Yea, Annandale!