Friday, July 30, 2010

Dulles South Riding Wine Gets Social With Beer

Thanks to Rob and company at Winestyles in South Riding for yesterday's beer tasting event. That's right, an inaugural craft-brew tasting event at the local Wine store - promoted via local social media (found out about it via Winestyles Facebook Page).

loudoun wines and beer

The beers of Avery Brewing were highlighted: Belgian Witbier, Pale Ale, India Pale Ale and Brown Ale. While tasty, my purchase ended up including some titles not found anywhere else in the Dulles South region - Devil Dog and Alpha Dog Imperial IPAs from Laughing Dog Brewery (Pondery, ID) and Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA from Sonoma County Ales (Healdsburg, CA).

Laughing Dog's a particularly impressive set of Ales, given their heritage: "Out of frustration that there weren't enough hoppy beers in stores or pubs, Laughing Dog Brewing was born in 2005 in Ponderay, Idaho. Today, the brewery produces Ales, IPAs, Stouts, and many more, including the hoppiest beer you're going to find anywhere, Alpha Dog."

True to claim, Alpha Dog was an extremely hoppy, bitter offering, worth every swirl, sip and snark and swirl a craft brew connoisseur and member of the Dulles League of Craft Brew Appraisers (quietly rejoicing yet oddly stationed in a DC's Wine Country exurbian wine store) could muster.

Find more great Dulles South beers here at Winestyles, on tap at the South Riding restaurant Vintage 51 Brew Lounge, or at the annual set of Dulles area seasonal brewfests via the NOVA Brewfest crew.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Feel the Sting in the Pool

Too quickly the major activity of our summer is coming to a close – life with the South Riding Stingrays. This Summer swim team experience helps truly define the community as a whole, drawing in over 300 swimmers each year into three separate league competition series (ODSL, CSL, MiniRays) - yet operating and entertaining itself as one big family. Who needs summer camp? The swim team is a suburban and neighborhood institution that covers all basis of summer family fun and entertainment, plus many other benefits…it’s been this way for decades – I recall my own childhood Summers revolving around swim practice, meets and cookouts, along with the obligatory inner tube water polo, pool movie night, pot-lucks, tie-die night, float night, Swim-o-Ween costumes, pep rallies, midnight swim parties, relay carnivals, swim-a-thons and belly-flop contests (back when most pools had a high dive).

Today is no different – boys and girls 4-18 essentially compete and enjoy team-building activities all on the same team, from the end of school through August (with the best swimmers continuing on to Divisional and All Star meets). On the one hand, it’s a lot easier on parents of multiples; unlike the Fall and Spring soccer seasons, there’s no driving frantically among Ashburn, Sterling, Aldie and South Riding to catch age group games. The swim team is a single, co-ed team – older kids helping younger ones, and opportunities to compete and win ribbons for everyone. On the other hand, swim meets do require a lot of planning, volunteers and good hard work by the parents to succeed – everything from manning the “Mini Ray Café” to timing and judging the swimmers, to setup/breakdown of the pool area and organization of team events. All parents are expected to participate, and most of the older kids end up in volunteer or paid positions as coaching assistants – padding their resumes for college with community service, leadership and teaching experiences. It's an interesting mix on Wednesday nights - kids large and small, parents working and watching, and a steady stream of Clackers (you know them, Federal employees and contractors with ID badges around their necks) filling the pool deck as they escape their DC commutes to catch the early races.

This Summer burst of community participation and inter-age group camaraderie is multiplied across nearly every community in Northern Virginia – hundreds of thousands of children are busy every day practicing and learning new strokes, coming together on Wednesdays and Saturdays for donuts AND very exciting, well-orchestrated team competition. Many continue in year-round competitive swimming programs all over Northern Virginia. Why? Excelling at swimming isn’t simply a route to advanced competition, including high school and college sports participation – and possibly more than that (i.e. Olympics and other International competition).

From an exercise perspective, the non-impact, full body workout (in a cool pool!) the kids get with their friends every day of an otherwise lazy summer is pretty much the perfect diversion from TV and video games in the dark, cool basement at home. It’s also a life-saving and lifelong exercise skill that in my opinion, should be a required public education component. We frequently joke that our kids are on swim team mainly so they can rescue us when we “fall off the party boat” – built in lifeguards. Envision this test with your kids - they're sitting on a dock in a chair by themselves, fall over backwards into the water...are you reasonably confident that they'll surface and swim safely to get out?

South Riding Stingrays – “Eat our Bubbles, Feel our Sting!”.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Getting Social with

Today’s Loudoun Economic Development Commission, Membership and Business Retention Committee (MBRC) meeting officially earned Loudoun, its residents and businesses their “Gov 2.0 street cred” on the Internet. An official Department of Economic Development (DED) strategy, roles and supporting cast are in place, the SEO and website analytics are turned on, the chicklets are published, a “badge” is under development, and the Loudoun online SoMe scene is now fully engaged by its local government. What’s it mean, even down here in SoLoCo?

Some of the beginning goals, per the DED, are to “increase our engagement and influence with our target audiences (initially Loudoun’s existing business community) – to build credibility…to create more advocates for our efforts…tracking the sentiment of our interactions…as we intelligently execute..our organic foray into social media..beyond our traditional communications channels…” Some of the channels that are already reaping rewards include Loudoun’s LinkedIn and Facebook groups, Twitter accounts and YouTube channel – serving up content ranging from DC’s Wine Country productions to Public Information Office announcements and Loudoun Farms discussion. From this catalyst of Internet activity should emerge a much more integrated, collaborative, helpful and ultimately rewarding community network of online Loudoun business stakeholders, driving the ideas, conversations and eventually investment into Loudoun’s shared economic recovery engine.

It’s interesting that “Phase 1” of the LCDED SoMe initiative was launched this April, at about the same time that an equally appealing approach to regional, yet hyperlocal journalism put up its first blog entry, over at This collaborative online news effort under the Albritton flag is harnessing the community reach and brainpower of nearly 100 blogs and a team of SoMe-savvy journalists and community managers who are, as they say, “determined to report news that’s important to our community; determined to develop a prosperous business model; determined to engage the community in our stories..”

So, there’s quite the perfect storm developing for local businesses, organizations and residents, for successfully leveraging their energy, assets or simply tax dollars into real-time ROI that matters. How might it work? Let’s say you’re a growing Dulles South area business, like the mainstay family restaurant in South Riding, the local Insurance Representative or Spas and Game Tables merchant in Chantilly, or a favorite Roofing Contractor, HVAC services provider in Sterling or Ashburn handyman. You want not only to promote your business online, but find new customers and get more involved in the local community – benefiting both your business and the residents nearby. Contribute something interesting, useful into the SoMe community, and it’ll spread quickly, with both intended and unintended benefit. Tell a story – for example, your last expert job or special event was particularly satisfying and well-received, with testimonials, and “it just so happens that this success will soon be parlayed into expansion plans in terms of community support, new employees or enhanced products and services”…it’s called “contextual advertising”.

The important part is to self-publish into these developing and synergistic “nodes” of the government-business-media network, through comments, wall postings, tweets, whatever – your YouTube posting link and Visit Loudoun Facebook comment may get retweeted by @loudoun, discussed by members of the Loudoun EDC LinkedIn group and noticed by a future supplier, employee or alert hyperlocal journalist. The result? More credible word-of-mouth referrals, actual business and overall positive sentiment about a Loudoun-centric, socially-active business and its clientele. Maybe the Donald could live-tweet a golf round at his newly-designed Loudoun golf course.

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