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Festival to Move

Town Center's gain is Lake Anne's loss.

This summer, it will be "good-bye" Lake Anne, "hello" Reston Town Center.

For nearly 30 years, the Reston Festival has been synonymous with Lake Anne. Until now, the annual festival has been a summertime favorite for people looking for good music, good food and a good time along the banks of Reston's signature community.

But like Reston itself, the festival is expanding and shifting its focus away from historical Lake Anne to the community's new commercial hub, the Town Center.

The festival sponsored by the Reston Citizens Association (RCA), began in the late 1960s and continued for more than 20 years until it was discontinued, in part, because of complaints from Lake Anne merchants regarding rowdy behavior. The Reston Citizens Association, in concert with Reston Association and the Reston Community Center, re-opened the festival in 1998. The newest incarnation of the festival included more activities geared towards children.

Martha Green, president of the Lake Anne condominium association, said she was sorry to see the festival leave her backyard, but she understands the decision to do so. "We enjoyed having the festival here and we will happy to host it again in the future," Green said. "It has become a victim of its own success. They need a larger place and the folks over at the Town Center have deeper pockets."

The agreement, signed in January, will be effective immediately. "We asked them about availability for this July and they said, 'yes, come on down," said Jim Traylor, president of RCA. "It all happened so quickly, we really anticipated that [the move] wouldn't happen until next year. It was a nice surprise."

<b>THE SUCCESS</b> of the reinvigorated festival led to the move from Washington Plaza to Reston Town Center. "Lake Anne is obviously a beautiful setting and we will miss the water," said Traylor.

Like Traylor, Green will miss the usual locale, but she said she accepts the decision. "It's like having a child who grows up, moves out and goes to college. It's a good thing," the condo board president said. "They are sprouting their wings. They have done a remarkable job in bringing back the festival better than ever, but, yeah, there is a little nostalgia."

Not everyone, however, is excited about the venue change. Beverly Byer, merchant chairman for the Lake Anne merchant's association, said she was caught off guard by the move when she was notified by e-mail late last month. "As a merchant, it was a great opportunity for commercial visibility for all our stores," Byer, who owns the Bell, Book & Candle Shoppe there, said. "As far as I know, the organizers made this decision alone. It's too bad, because it has always been here."

Another Lake Anne merchant, Victoria Reid of the Reston Used Book Shop, has watched the festival grow right in front of her eyes. For 25 years, Reid's shop has graced the plaza at Lake Anne and she said she always looked forward to the yearly festival. "This is the first I am hearing of this news, so obviously it makes me sad because the festival really fostered a sense of community down here," she said.

Reid said she would miss the added business and new customers that the festival would send her way each year. "A lot of people don't know we are down here," the longtime Restonian said. "So the Reston Festival was always a good introduction for people to find out about us. I guess we will have to find a new way to make up for that loss. That's too bad."

<b>LAKE ANNE'S LOSS</b> is the Town Center's gain and Carrie Shearin, a spokesman, said the Town Center is extremely excited to welcome the Reston Festival into its fold. "This is a great way to bring the entire community together," Shearin said. "This is the center of Reston, so it makes sense to be celebrating Reston here. We can't wait."

For festival organizers, the space constraints and the added costs of hosting it on private property, including overtime and maintenance fees, were too much to bear. "Logistically, it just became more and more difficult to handle things like the traffic and parking," Traylor said. "We leave nothing behind but fond memories."

Traylor said he is very excited about the move to the Town Center. "Everyone over there has been very accommodating and we already have a great working relationship," said Traylor, a Lake Anne resident since 1971. "It's nice to be really wanted."

Because of the larger space at Reston Town Center, the festival will be able to handle larger crowds. In past years, upwards of 10,000 people have descended on Lake Anne during the two-day festival. Traylor says he expects that number to double this year when the gates open July 12. "We will also be able to keep the kids area closer to the main venue," Traylor said. "Because of the small space at Lake Anne, we had to really spread out and we fielded many comments from parents."