The day was perfect. Kids shrieked joyfully. The scent of cheeseburgers and bratwursts permeated the air. All day Saturday, McLean celebrated its hometown in a way that could only be described as McLean Day.
Expecting over 10,000 attendees, the McLean Community Center combined a carnival with a boardwalk and placed it right in the middle of Lewinsville Park where the games, the rides, and especially the food were a hit with residents of all ages.
“The smell of kabob is making it feel like a large carnival and the all these big rides remind me of something that would be usually much larger like the Fairfax Fair,” said Devon Jones, an '09 Langley graduate.
For decades, residents of McLean, who are often surrounded by the rigors of metro traffic and constantly diversifying neighborhoods, have come to the McLean Day Festival as a way for the community to come together, meet one another and enjoy the beginning of summer.
Games 2U from Huntington, MD once again provided a wide range of kid-friendly activities from laser tag to candy cannons.Other attractions included a rock climbing wall, face painting, pony rides, a particular activity called “Booger Wars” and carnival games.
For Little Langley student and long-time McLean Day attendee, Mitch Mendler, McLean Day’s games have “gotten better as I have gotten older” and his favorite game this year was “definitely archery tag!”
However, a large distinction was made between the kid zone areas for families and young children compared to the plethora of teenagers surrounding the larger carnival rides.
For small children and toddlers there were many small mechanical rides, bouncers, as well as a free train that gave McLean Day it’s very own little Disney World feel. The consensus of among many local high/middle school patrons was the “Ring of Fire”, an upside down roller coaster, was the best ride of the festival and “The Tilt”, a bright orange spinner, a close second.
“Being on the ride, Starship 3000, is like going to Mars,” Longfellow students Nico Salinas and Asher Altman agreed in unison.
In addition to the games and rides,live entertainment appeared on the main stage by the Lewinsville House. Observers crowded around as acts like the Mutts Gone Nuts Dog Show and performances done by local organizations wowed the viewers.
Food included the usual fair cuisine plus surprises like Suya-to-go, a Nigerian take on Kabob, and the Pepper Creek Shellfish farm, which served delicacies like oysters and deviled clams.
The owner of Brad’s Concessions, Brad Himelfarb, has been working McLean Day for 10 years since he was nine, selling snacks at the local McLean Hamlet pool. “I love McLean Day, it seems like I’ve been coming here for so long I know everyone…it’s too bad I end up giving out more free food then selling it but it’s all in good fun,” said Brad as he happily handed out his popular soft-serve ice cream and kettle popcorn.
“My favorite part has been the funnel cake, fair food is the best,” said Nikki Kong, a McLean resident.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, said the festival was “one of the most important community-building events held during the year and it allows for McLean residents to celebrate its small town lifestyle within such a large regional area.”
When proposed with how McLean Day should be done in the future, Supervisor Foust replied, “I hope to see McLean Day stay the way it is.”
McLean Day went well with no significant miscues or issues. Even with no parking available at Lewinsville Park, free shuttle services were efficient in helping residents return to their vehicles. This is in large part due to the nearly 60 volunteers that helped setup and run McLean Day without a hitch.
“Volunteers do it because they want to be a part of this community and ultimately they just want to give back,” said Catherine Nesbitt, the special projects manager for the MCC.
McLean Day was not only about fun and games either, the long held tradition of voting for the MCC’s governing board was also held during the event. Ellen Barial, the staff member managing elections, described how “interesting it is to see that there are more youth voters this year than there are adult voters.” Furthermore, this year’s ballot has asked voters whether online voting could be a welcomed possibility in future elections.
Former 2009-2010 MCC youth board member, Angela Wertz, who has been coming to McLean Day since she was in Kindergarten is happy that this year’s celebration was a success.
“McLean Day has always been an amazing time; even though I am getting older it still hasn’t become any less fun. I know if I continue to live in McLean, I will continue to attend and maybe even bring my kids one day! It definitely is a good tradition!”
"I wanted to come to see all the things they had to offer," said Carolyn Adler, of McLean surrounded by her family, husband Jeff and daughters Elise 4, and Nina, 1.
"We wanted to try different foods and walk around," said Adler. She said they've been coming for the past two or three years.
Mimi Weisberg and her family live next door to Lewinsville Park so they viewed the day from lawn chairs in their front yard.
"It make me feel like I have a lot of great neighbors and it helps to fee like a part of the community . . . we look forward to it," she said.
Husband Kerry Stackpole: "It's great to be able to see the community. You never see this many people anywhere in McLean. It has become part of the fabric of the community once a year."
Son Ethan: "It makes me very nostalgic. It's a great place and I see a lot of peope I know. It bring back fond memories," he said. Ethan is now a college student at Mary Washington University.
Twins Britt and Vivienne Holly both 5, loved the butterflies they had painted on their faces.
"It just reminds me of childhood. "It's a nice family environment and it's a lot of fun," said their mother Sandra Holly, of McLean.
First created in 1915 when World War I raged and McLean was a farming community, McLean Day remains about community. “McLean Day is really nice because it allows us to see our friends and is a good way to build community spirit,” said Radhika Kalidinei, as she and her daughter, Veda, searched for Cotton Candy.