It's Monday again... but Christmas week is officially here. And even though some of the big holiday events have already wrapped up, there's still a lot happening this week in the Historic Triangle and surrounding region. Be sure to check out the events section at the end of the newsletter if you're looking for things to do.
I attended the final Grand Illumination on Saturday, and as usual, the event was spectacular. You can see my video of the fireworks here.
The temperature dipped quite dramatically overnight from Saturday into Sunday, and we can expect more of that chillier weather throughout the week, with overnight lows dropping into the 20s and 30s midweek. It looks like Christmas Day will be quite lovely, though, with temperatures getting up into the 60s.
If you're looking for something fun and free to do during the evenings this week, check out Williamsburg Families' "Spectacular Lights Tour" map. It covers Williamsburg, James City County, Yorktown and the surrounding areas and includes a list of home light displays and an interactive Google map, recently updated for the 2021 season.
News-wise, there's a lot to get to, from an update on the proposed Hazelwood Farms development in Toano to a "shopping cart killer" in Virginia to the omicron variant that's dominating the news cycle.
Let's get started.
The approval, which came down to a 3-2 vote at the Dec. 14 Board meeting, means a new shopping center could be developed at Hazelwood Farms in Toano.
The land has been long-owned by the Hazelwood family and is currently zoned for business, according to The Virginia Gazette. The Hazelwood family worked with a legal team and engineers to develop a master plan to include a 510,000-square foot transformation into commercial use buildings.
The master plan proposes a mix of entertainment, business and retail space, which could include restaurants, a bank, a grocery store, a hotel, offices and more. At a recent board meeting, Larry Hazelwood said the family's goal is to prepare the land for the next generation and "position this property for higher and better use."
Nonetheless, many community members and several of the supervisors are opposed to the master plan. Most who take issue with the development say they're concerned it could interfere with the rural nature of the area. Some also point to the fact that numerous other shopping centers in the county are already vacant and struggling to maintain occupancy.
One Toano resident who attended the meeting pointed to the 2019 JCC Comprehensive Plan Survey, which found that 85.2% of residents ranked "efforts to protect and preserve the County's rural character" as "very important." 78.5% also said they believe it's more important to preserve farmland than to have additional development in the county, and more than half are willing to pay more in taxes to prevent more development.
The event, held at Anderson Park in Newport News, was organized by John Eley, a board member of Newport News Public Schools. The crowd consisted of school and city leaders, parents and students, community activists and members of the Newport News Police Department, 13NewsNow reports. Marchers chanted "save our children!" and "our children matter!" while holding signs urging for an end to the violence.
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew, who also marched in the demonstration, said more must be done on the community level to put a stop to the violence. “I think what everybody is looking for is some action," Drew said. "What doors are going to open up and allow some of our youth to have activities to do? We need our parents to get involved."
The march follows the shooting death of 17-year-old Justice Dunham, a Woodside High School student and athlete who was beloved by family, friends and classmates. While details surrounding the incident are still being investigated, police say Dunham was killed by an 18-year-old after some sort of fight broke out. Dunham's father said his son did not own any weapons, and it is currently unclear who owned the gun that killed the teen.
Police say an alleged serial killer may be responsible for killing at least four women in Virginia. The suspect, 35-year-old Anthony Robinson of Washington, D.C, is said to have used a shopping cart to transport victims' bodies after meeting them on dating sites, according to CBS News.
The female victims range in age from 29 to 54 years old, WTKR reports. Fairfax County Police said at a press conference Friday that human remains were discovered on Wednesday, tucked away in an isolated, woody area. Police also warned there could be other victims throughout the state and law enforcement partners are actively working to figure out who else the suspect has been in contact with.
"After he inflicts trauma to his victims and kills them, he transports their bodies to their final resting place literally in a shopping cart— and there's video to that effect," said Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis.
Authorities are asking anyone with information on the case to contact the Major Crimes Bureau at the Fairfax County. Anonymous tips can also be submitted by calling 1-866-411-TIPS.
After months of ongoing negotiations with the White House, Sen. Joe Manchin - a moderate Democrat from West Virginia - announced on "Fox News Sunday" that he will not be supporting President Joe Biden's signature agenda.
The unexpected declaration has drawn fury from progressives. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Sunday that Manchin's comments "represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position a breach of his commitments to the president and the senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate."
After the appearance, Manchin offered up harsh words for other members of his own party and signaled that his decision was partially based on concerns about rising inflation and public safety. "My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face. I cannot take that risk," Manchin said in a statement Sunday. "My concerns have only increased as the pandemic surges on, inflation rises and geopolitical uncertainty increases around the world."
Manchin's rejection of the bill also means an end to the monthly direct payments going out to parents, according to Newsweek. Under Biden's American Rescue Plan, passed in the spring, American parents have been receiving $300 direct monthly payments for each child under age 6 and $250 for children 6 to 17.
Extension of the payments to parents is currently tied to the Build Back Better Act, and so far, there is no indication that the Democrats are considering putting forth a stand-alone vote on the child tax credit checks.
Omicron cases are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in areas dealing with community spread of the virus, Reuters reports. The variant is spreading quickly in countries that have a high degree of population immunity, but the WHO says more data is needed "to understand the severity profile and how severity is impacted by vaccination and pre-existing immunity."
Cancellations and closures reminiscent of 2020 were announced in recent days throughout the nation as a UK study revealed the omicron variant may, in fact, be no less severe than delta. The NBA rescheduled five more games over the weekend, Radio City Music Hall canceled the remainder of the Rockettes' Christmas shows and many companies have chosen to forgo holiday and year-end parties, Axios reports. Some schools throughout the nation, including in Maryland, Washington DC and New York, have also begun to return to virtual learning. Elite colleges including Harvard, Stanford, Yale and Cornell have announced they will transition back to remote classes.
Preliminary evidence suggests most of the world's vaccines likely won't prevent infection from omicron, The New York Times reported Sunday. Moderna announced Monday morning that a booster shot of its vaccine appears to be effective in reducing severe disease from omicron. The results of that study are based on laboratory tests, however, and have not yet been reviewed by independent experts. Moderna also said that without a booster, its vaccine was found to be far less effective against omicron. As a result, the company will continue to develop an omicron-specific vaccine.
"Given the long-term threat demonstrated by Omicron’s immune escape, Moderna will also continue to develop an Omicron-specific variant vaccine (mRNA-1273.529) that it expects to advance into clinical trials in early 2022 and will evaluate including Omicron in its multivalent booster program," Moderna said in a statement.
President Joe Biden is set to address the nation Tuesday in regards to the evolving situation surrounding the pandemic.
Community transmission in Virginia and throughout the Peninsula is currently high, according to the CDC Covid-19 data tracker.
New cases🌡️: An additional 19,321 cases of Covid-19 were reported in Virginia over the past week, bringing the state's total number of cases to 1,013,390, according to VDH. That amounts to 1,851 more cases than the state saw last week.
In Hampton Roads, the highest number of new cases were reported in Virginia Beach (751), Chesapeake (398), Norfolk (292) and Newport News (236), according to WTVR.
Hospitalizations and Deaths 🚑: There are 1,418 patients currently hospitalized for Covid-19 in Virginia (+142 from last week), according to VHHA data. There have been an additional 188 deaths (+46 from last week).
Vaccinations 💉: 67% of all Virginians are now fully vaccinated.
The annual toy distribution took place on Wednesday, Dec. 15. Over 500 families - including more than 1,000 children - and over 100 seniors from Williamsburg, York County and James City County received gifts through the program.
Recipients filled the distribution center to collect gifts for their children, with many expressing gratitude for the program and its volunteers, according to The Virginia Gazette. Most of the children were given winter clothing items along with another gift, and seniors received gifts like blankets or cooking items.
“What you see here is boxes filled with dreams,” said Capt. Julio Da Silva, commanding officer for the Salvation Army of Greater Williamsburg. “It shows that Williamsburg still believes; it shows that they still love and care."
Live Holiday Music in Merchants Square - Thursday, Dec. 23, Friday, Dec. 24 and Saturday, Dec. 26. 3:00 - 5:00 pm. Strolling musicians, carolers and fife & drum performers will fill Merchants Square with music.
Williamsburg Christmas Market - Held at the parking lot at the corner of S. Boundary & Francis St. across from Berrets Seafood Restaurant. Dec. 20 - Dec. 23. 11:00 am - 8:00 pm Mon. - Sat.; 11:00 am - 6:00 pm Sun. Outdoor European market featuring over 60 vendors, live holiday music, treats from The Bake Shop and Culture Cafe, fire pits and more. Free.
Talk of the Town: Christmastide Tour - Daily through Jan. 1, 2022 at 10:00 am - Colonial Williamsburg. Featuring a guided tour throughout Colonial Williamsburg with an emphasis on the spirit of the Christmastide season. Ticket + Good Neighbor Pass or CW Admission required. See website for details.
Christmas Decorations Walking Tour - Colonial Williamsburg, Dec. 20, 22, 24 & 25. Featuring a guided tour of Colonial Williamsburg's buildings and streets, beautifully decorated for the holidays. Select days at 10:30 am; see website for details. Tickets $15.
Photos with Santa - Daily through Dec. 23 from 12:00 pm - 8:00 pm at the Memorie Group Real Estate Office, 439 Prince George St. in Williamsburg. Photos with Santa can be taken with children, families or pets. Pre-registration is required; only 1-2 families will be allowed in the studio at a time due to Covid-19 precautions. All proceeds benefit local nonprofits participating in the event. $50. Digital copies of photos are included. Pre-register here.
Busch Gardens Christmas Town - Williamsburg. Daily through Jan. 2, 2022. Hours and ticket prices vary; see website for details.
Celebration in Lights - Newport News Park. Features over a million lights displayed throughout a two-mile stretch amongst the woods in the park. New this year are magical trees, candy-themed displays and more. 5:30-10:00 pm nightly through New Year's Day. $12 per car Monday-Thursday; $15 per car Friday-Sunday.
The Magic of Christmas - The Hennage Auditorium at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Wednesdays, Dec. 22 and 29 at 7:00 pm. Exciting new show featuring a stage magician, William the Conjuror, and a live band of strings, brass, reeds and drums playing the sounds of the season. Program tickets ($20 for adults, $15 for children) required in addition to Good Neighbor Pass or CW admission.
Christmas Trees and Museum Treasures - Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Wednesdays, Dec. 22 and Dec. 29 from 6:00 - 9:00 pm. This new program features a Trail of Trees with themed trees and an illustrated guide to hunt for art objects related to the Twelve Days of Christmas. A 16-foot Folk Art Tree decorated with more than 2,000 handcrafted ornaments is also featured in the museum, and holiday cookies and hot cocoa are available for sale in the Museum Cafe. Free with Good Neighbor Pass or CW admission.
Annual Colonial Williamsburg Holiday Pie & Bake Sale - Taste Studio next to the Williamsburg Inn. Monday-Thursday, Dec. 20-23. 9:00 am - 5:00 pm daily.
Virginia Living Museum Nature Nights Holiday Lights - Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. Thursday - Sunday Nights through Dec. 30. 5:30 - 8:30 pm. Featuring an outdoor trail adorned with lights and the holiday spirit. $9 for VLM members, $12 for non-members; free for children 2 and under.
Christmastide in Virginia - Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Dec. 18-31. Offers a glimpse into 17th and 18th-century holiday festivities, music and traditions. Admission is free for residents of York County, James City County and Williamsburg. See website for additional details.
Water Fowl Watch - York River State Park 10:00 am - 12:00 pm. Bring binoculars, cameras and/or other viewing devices to watch the ducks on the river. Free with $5 parking per vehicle.
A Fugitive Christmas - Hennage Auditorium at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. 11:00 am - 12:00 pm. This theatrical performance features two fugitive soldiers celebrating Christmastide in 1776 as they recover from their battle wounds. As enemy forces close in, the men must find a way to fight for freedom. Admission to the Art Museum plus a $5 ticket fee is required.
Teen Winter Chill - Williamsburg Library at 515 Scotland St. 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm. Features a screening of the Netflix movie Klaus and fun winter crafts. For teens 13+.
Rum and Holiday Tales - Hennage Auditorium at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Master storytellers Donna Wolf and Shel Browder will share tales told by 18th century Highlanders. 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm. Requires art museum admission + a $5 program ticket.
Christmas and the Constitution - 11:00 - 11:45 am. Hennage Auditorium at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. This theatrical performance highlights the battle between James Madison and Alexander Hamilton over the writing of the Federalist Papers during the Christmas season of 1787. Requires art museums admission + $5 event ticket.
12 Days and Night Before Christmas - 10:30 - 11:30 am. The Hennage Auditorium at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. This special presentation highlights the spirit of Christmas by bringing two classic Christmas stories to life. Requires museum admission + $5 event ticket for adults (children are free).
Holiday Magic Show at the Planetarium - Virginia Living Museum. 1:30 - 2:15 pm. A celebration of the holiday season for the whole family, featuring classic and modern holiday songs. Requires a museum admission ticket + $4 event ticket for non-members (free for members).
A 19th-Century Williamsburg Christmas - The Hennage Auditorium at Colonial Williamsburg. 2:30 - 3:30 pm and 4:30 - 5:30 pm. The Colonial Singers will perform in the living room of the famous Tucker family home. Young children will also be able to decorate the Tucker family Christmas tree. Admission, membership or good neighbor pass + $10 ticket.