Photo: courtesy of INWEGO

INWEGO Brings City Experiences At Reasonable Price

The District has much to offer from its historical monuments, the Smithsonians, its defending champion baseball team, performances at The Kennedy Center and larger than life festivals that take place around the city. INWEGO, a newly created subscription-based app has hit the market to give Washingtonians the opportunity to experience the city life at its finest with a acceptable price tag. 

On Tap sat down with General Manager of INWEGO Chris LeCraw, to get the inside scoop on the game-changing app that can turn your mundane weekend into a memorable practice. 

On Tap: What sparked the initial idea for INWEGO?
Chris LeCraw: We saw a trend in the consumer marketplace to subscriptions in general, such as Netflix and Spotify, and over the last five or six years you start to see everything from clothing to food to kids toys, and subscriptions are becoming a newer and engaging way to deliver services and goods. We saw a gap in the events subscription, and by bringing a lot of different needs together in one place we thought we could deliver a one-stop-shop new discovery experience for people to find things to do in their city. 

OT: If you could pin-point one main purpose for INWEGO, what would it be?
CL: Feeding off the one-stop-shop mentality, we want it to be the best way for people to both discover and attend the fun things in their city. 

OT: What is the benefit of using INWEGO?
CL: We find that people get a lot of value from attending things for the first time [that] they may not have otherwise experienced, that’s one of the primary values. On top of that, just the way you can link your tickets with friends and invite guests, and if your plans change it [INWEGO] gives you the opportunity to let go of your tickets. I think all of that social flexibility is something that we try to do really well. 

OT: What’s next for INWEGO? Are there any plans or changes we can see happening in the coming months?
CL: It’s good timing because we actually just released a pretty big new feature that we’re excited about, our Plus One plan. We heard feedback from customers and now have the ability for the user to essentially have two memberships at once so that way there is more flexibility to take different people. In the coming months we’re going to try to continue to expand on that, and we’ll get feedback and find ways to make it work as best as we can while still trying to focus on getting that out. Spring is right around the corner, so in a market like DC for example there’s tons of outdoor festivals and events, so we’re just trying to get to another round of fun and exciting stuff. 

OT: What would you like to see from INWEGO by the end of the year?
CL: We would love to see this new Plus One feature really impact a lot of people in a positive way, so we’d love to see a lot of new people on the app. 

OT: What are your personal favorite events to attend, search for?
CL: Personally, I’m a big foodie and I like to be outside, so I love the experiences that bring people together, so something like a craft beer, barbecue or an oyster festival. I personally like the food and drink things the best. I’d say second to that, I enjoy concerts at smaller venues that are more intimate places. 

OT: What has been the most rewarding aspect about launching INWEGO?
CL: We love hearing from customers and we’re constantly trying to listen to them and interact with them through social media and through our own line of communication. I think my favorite thing is when I hear someone tell us, “I’ve never been to a Nationals game before or I’ve never been to a Wizards game before, and now I want to go all the time,” I think connecting people to those experiences for the first time and watching those experiences stick with them and become a part of their fan energy, that’s the most rewarding thing from my perspective. 

OT: If you could give a pro tip to a first time user of INWEGO, what would it be?
CL: I would say, don’t be afraid to try something completely new. We love the newness of it. That’s pro tip 1.A, and pro tip 1.B is bring one of your friends with you. 

OT: Is there anything else you would like us to know?
CL: We love trying to find the best things in the city and sometimes the best way to do that is to hear directly from our members themselves. So if people know of things going on that are maybe not in the app or they themselves know someone in the event industry, we love getting direct ideas and direct matching from our members, because they’re the ones using the product in their city we’re very receptive to that type of feedback and always want to do our best to get those events in the app right away. 

For more information about INWEGO and its services, visit here. Use code DCFRAY to try INWEGO for FREE at the 3 events level, a $39 value.

Photo: courtesy of WRAIR

WRAIR’s Clinical Trials Helping To Cure the World

Clinical trials are necessary for discovering new treatments for diseases, as well as finding new ways to detect, diagnose and decrease the chance of developing a disease. 

The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), located in Silver Spring, Maryland, regularly studies what are often referred to as, “neglected tropical diseases,” or diseases that cause significant illness among the world’s poorest populations as well as pose a health threat for U.S. military members traveling overseas. These include malaria, dengue, yellow fever, Ebola, leishmaniasis, as well as certain types of viral hepatitis, infectious diarrheas and meningitis, among others.

Like all clinical research in the U.S., studies at the WRAIR are conducted on human volunteers under very strict safety regulations to test if new drugs, vaccines or devices are safe and effective – and everything is first tested extensively in labs and preclinical safety testing, before testing is ever allowed on people. 

Lt. Col. Melinda Hamer, MD, an emergency medical doctor by training, serves as director of WRAIR’s Clinical Trials Center (CTC) and has spent a significant portion of her career researching infectious diseases.

After stints with Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, she was asked to join the WRAIR CTC in 2017.

“This is a unique place to be and there are really few places like it in the world,” she says. “In addition to discovering and manufacturing new vaccines and drugs, we are able to conduct clinical research to assess candidates that have the potential to combat some of the world’s most deadly pathogens. We like to say we address diseases from Anthrax to Zika.”

Although the U.S. Army and the WRAIR have a long history of conducting clinical trials, the CTC was formally established in 1992 to conduct these highly-regulated clinical trials to evaluate the safety of the vaccine products and learn if they actually work to fight these diseases.

“Our center has been involved in a number  of different key milestones and breakthroughs in terms of new vaccines and new treatments,” Hamer says. “For example, there’s a disease called Japanese encephalitis virus, and our center did several significant clinical trials that helped pave the way for a product to be licensed to prevent this disease.”

That was important for U.S. soldiers who deploy to the Southeast Asia region, and the vaccine is also commercially available to help prevent the disease for those who live in areas where the virus is endemic – particularly children, who are more susceptible to death or permanent neurological problems from malaria.  

Other examples include helping with several anti-malaria drugs, and all of the different ones used by U.S. soldiers today were touched in some way by researchers at WRAIR.

“More recently, with the Ebola outbreak in 2014-15, we were selected as the first site in the world to test the Ebola vaccine and that is now being used to stem the tide of the current outbreak,” Hamer says. “It’s the one that is being used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and it appears to prevent folks from getting Ebola and spreading this terrible disease.”

In her role as director, Hamer is responsible for the safety of everyone who receives test vaccines and ensuring they are appropriate for participating in the clinical trials, as well as doing safety assessments during the trial. She leads a team of about two dozen clinical research professionals including three doctors and eight research coordinators, and she notes that success is really a team effort. 

Hamer emphasizes that there is a tremendous amount of planning that goes on just to start a clinical trial.

“We are constantly having meetings with study sponsors and all the different people on staff who are participating in the trial – different clinical coordinators, experts making sure we are adhering to all the regulations, and then plotting out what phases we should focus on and what grant or funding proposals we should apply for next,” she says. “It’s really cool work and I’m here with a lot of really amazing scientists.”

Once a study is over, the data needs to be reported to the FDA and study findings published. It takes a lot of research and several different studies in human beings for a new vaccine or drug to be approved by the FDA and licensed. It can often take 10 years or more.

At any one time, 5-10 studies are being worked on at the WRAIR Clinical Trials Center, and some new ones are in the works for 2020. The CTC plans to be recruiting for these studies soon.

“For those interested, they should know that although there is always some risk associated with testing new products, each study is vetted thoroughly to see how we can make the study as safe as possible. There are quite a few essential safety studies in the laboratory, and in non-clinical safety evaluations that go on before any of these products are even thought about for testing in human beings,” Hamer says. “There are very strict regulations and product review that both the Army and the FDA require.” 

The CTC is housed in what looks like a typical doctor’s office. There’s a waiting room, three exam rooms and labs where things are being studied. 

For those who volunteer, Hamer explains the initial visit or “screening” visit will have study personnel collecting information about a volunteer’s medical history and any medications or specific criteria that will determine if one is eligible to participate in a particular study. Typically a brief physical exam is also involved. If volunteers are eligible for the study, a vaccination or medication dosing visit will generally be the first official study visit.  At that visit volunteers will be briefly checked by a doctor to make sure they are doing ok and are healthy and to confirm their continued willingness to participate, and if so, they will get the first shot or dose of medication. After they receive the dose, someone will watch them for thirty to sixty minutes, and then they will be reassessed before allowed to leave. 

Throughout the study, volunteers may be asked to come in for evaluations including blood tests so researchers can look at the volunteer’s immune response, or antibodies, to make sure they are producing the right response to potential infection, and to ensure there are no abnormalities are going on. Antibodies, as many may know, are Y-shaped proteins in the blood to help stop intruders – such as bacteria and viruses – from harming the body. Other safety checks, such as regular blood tests and questions about any doctor visits or medication changes, are also performed at the study visits to ensure that volunteers have had no problems or concerns associated with any of the research products.

Volunteers are compensated since it requires a  commitment to participate, and those who want to become part of it also need to be serious about their involvement. Although volunteers have the right to leave a study at any time, Hamer says it’s a little bit like a job in that people will have scheduled times they need to come in and they may have other obligations associated with it.

Studies can last anywhere from 2-3 months to 18 months or longer, but the majority fall in the 10-month to a year range. A recent study involved eight total visits by participants, but some require more. 

“We get a lot of repeat volunteers. Once they understand what it is and what we do, many will come back and even invite family and friends to participate,” Hamer says. “We see people in our clinic starting at 6 a.m., so a lot of folks will just come before work and we can accommodate work schedules.”

Hamer is proud of her work and believes that the research is extremely important, and is thankful for all the scientists and volunteers who are involved. 

“It’s incredible to think about that we’re coming up with potential solutions for some of the world’s most challenging and terrible diseases,” she says.  

For more information on current studies or upcoming ones seeing volunteers, visit here.

Best of 2019: Our Staff’s Favorite Music, Memes, Sports Moments and More

2019 was a long year. So many things happened. TOO many things happened, if you ask me. Let’s all slow down in 2020. With new memes taking over the Twittersphere every day, history-making sports moments, and more binge watchable shows than ever, it can be hard to round up your year in retrospect. To help jog our collective memories, On Tap and Fray staff reflected on their favorite things that happened this year, so you can come with us on this journey of reflection on this wild ride of a year.


Monica Alford, Managing Editor

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
I like old things.

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
See above.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
There’s too many to name but at this moment, the two that stand out are Bloc Party at The Anthem (nostalgic vibes and adorable concertgoers) and Beck // Cage The Elephant at Merriweather (high production value, insane amount of talent onstage, epic thunderstorm).

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Favorite 2019 sports moment?
I don’t know much about sport ball but I was very proud of the USWNT win.

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Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Thamee and Kith/Kin for incredible meals // experiences (Thamee for authentic cuisine and mom-and-pop feel, Kith/Kin for insanely good flavors and the personal touch of Chef Kwame chatting with and checking on his guests).

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Too many to name but off of the top of my head, Mrs. Fletcher (mini-series) on HBO was phenomenal.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Jojo Rabbit because it was surprising, delightful and so tastefully done.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
The OT team joining the Fray family and continuing to kick ass in media and across departments.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Being acquired by and becoming part of the Fray family (weird = fantastic in this instance!)

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Anything M.K. sends me (help me, I’m old!)

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
The new look and vibe of our print and digital media, coming in hot in 2020 and continuing to kick ass!


Maggie Awad, Marketing Director

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Freaking Out,” by ARIZONA and then every remix since, including Matoma.

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?

IDK, I definitely didn’t have a big music year in 2019.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?

ARIZONA at 9:30 Club, while the venue is always perfect, the band just gave the performance of their life. They went hard in the paint and it was hands down the best gig of 2019 for me.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?

Nationals winning the World Series!

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Ugh, I’m hesitant to share this gem, but then also feel obligated to support this business. I love Benitos Place in Shaw. It’s not new, it’s not fancy, but damn is it good. It’s a little Honduran spot with the best pupusas, tacos and carne asada platter. In the summer, you can sit outside on their picnic table and sip margs in cactus glasses. CACTUS GLASSES. Need I say more?

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What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Schitt’s Creek or Kim’s Convenience – those Canadians kill it.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Does every Lifetime, Hulu, Netflix, Hallmark Christmas movie count?

Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
I MET KANYE WEST AND NEVER GONNA FAIL! I also joined the Fray team AND I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc!

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Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Can’t think of anything weird, but would like to shout out the best book of 2019 for me was a tie between Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl and American Royals by Katharine McGee. Entirely different genres and love them for different reasons.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Nancy Pelosi clapping, Ok Boomer, I don’t know who needs to hear this but, I’m gonna tell my kids, Kombucha Girl.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
More traveling, more reading, more of everything. Oh and The Killers on tour again with a new album.


Sandrika Berthias, Event Manager

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Sexy Tropicale” by Claudio Capeo. I discovered this new artist from a podcast and I really love his style.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Mana at Eagle Bank Arena. Always a great show, great songs, great ambiance.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
U.S. won the women’s soccer World Cup.

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What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Money Heist.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
I need to catch up on the movies but I went to see Abominable with my son. It was a very cute movie [for] kids and adults. We both cried.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Climbed Acatenango Volcano in Guatemala, its elevation is 13,045 feet.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Realizing I am an empath. I physically feel people’s emotions. Not easy, but the realization of it changed my life.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Make sure to be 100 percent present with my family and friends. Continue my personal and professional development to be the best person I can be.


Rhiannon Bunek, Permit Administrator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Tebrikler” by Merve Özbey

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Manga by Mayra Andrade – Chill and unique vibe that’s perfect for the work day.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
David Helfgott at Hagia Irene in Istanbul. The venue is an ancient Byzantine Church with amazing acoustics and lighting. The whole atmosphere was both spiritual and eerie.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
A February match between Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş (our rival), where we were behind but rallied in the last half to tie the score.

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Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Nothing beats fresh figs in the summer in Turkey!

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Jack Ryan

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Defiance (not new, but watched it on Netflix this year). It’s based on an incredible true story that I had never heard of before.

Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Moving half-way across the world and getting settled in DC!

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
A toss-up between finding a small scorpion in my kitchen and witnessing burger restaurants giving their customers black gloves to wear while they eat. Weird.

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Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Baby Yoda.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Exploring DC!


Carter Hering, Operations Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“7 Rings” by Ariana Grande. Made me want to become more of a boss ass bitch.

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend. It hit all the notes for me. So great to listen to.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
CJ Chenier at City Winery. Amazing New Orleans jazz and it was so fun all around.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Nats winning the WORLD SERIES

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Proper Burger at Dukes Grocery was the best burger I had all year. Holy cow was it good. The frozen rum and coke at Tiki TNT. We all are aware of my love for Thrasher’s Rum. The spiced rum is just so good. Atlas Brewing Oktoberfest beer. Bad boy was so crisp and yummy.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Mindhunter was crazy good. Love the influence of David Fincher.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
I mean Avengers: Endgame was just a freakin’ blast. Going to the theater on my off day and watching it at a 10 a.m. showing was great. Rocketman was/is better than Bohemian Rhapsody.

Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Moving twice [and] getting a job here, then getting a promotion here at Fray.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Zion broke his shoe.

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Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
“What it do babyyy,” 30-50 feral hogs.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Going on a vacation to Scandinavia, getting in shape, finding out who Mr. Sandman truly is, trying new beers, possibly going to a concert with M.K.


Erin Hessler, Senior Marketing Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Rollercoaster” by Jonas Brothers

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Heard It In A Past Life by Maggie Rogers. I saw her at All Things Go in 2018 and since then it’s been so fun watching her take the world by storm. I even bought it on cassette tape because I drive a really old car that can still play it!

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Kacey Musgraves’ Oh What A World tour. I saw it THREE times. First, at The Anthem in January, then at Red Rocks Amphitheater when I was on vacation in Colorado this summer, and finally at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for the final night because Maggie Rogers was there with her for one night only. Golden Hour was the Grammy Album at the Year, I don’t feel like I need to explain much more.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Washington Nationals winning the World Series!

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
The Medium Rare sandwich at Nationals Park. The sauce!

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What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
The Good Place or Love Island UK.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Captain Marvel. I watch most of the new movies I see on airplanes and I think that one was my favorite one I remember seeing.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
I decided a few years ago to travel to at least one new country every year and this year I went to two! Mexico and Iceland. I also got to return to Canada.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Seeing the Washington Nationals win the World Series.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
The sentences that started with “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…”

photo: knowyourmeme.com


Julia Goldberg, Graphic Designer

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“I Don’t Care” by Ed Sheeran and Justin Beiber.

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell!. The album provided comfort at the end of a long day. Also enjoy listening to it when i’m in the art zone // sketching and whatnot.

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Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Beck, at Merriweather was pretty exciting. First off, I grew up listening, so it was a real treat to see him live. Also, it was the dead middle of summer and there was a torrential downpour, so everyone was just toughing it out in the storm as Beck performed. It was awesome.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
I’m not a big sports person but the women’s soccer team winning the world cup was pretty exciting. Right up there with the Nats winning the World Series.

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Hm, this is a tough one. There is a local wine restaurant by me in Arlington called Verre Wine that my best friend and I tried after the movies. Hands down, best bruschetta I’ve had in my life. We almost ordered every kind on the menu, and there are a lot.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Big Little Lies.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
I don’t really see movies, but I have a lot of catching up to do. Pretty sure I saw two movies this year in theaters, Hustlers and Ford vs. Ferrari. Both were pretty good, and based on true stories.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Probably moving out and living on my own. Jumping out of a plane was pretty cool too.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Cannot think of anything so I guess that means if something weird happened, it probably wasn’t that weird or I have a terrible memory…or I just live a very normal non-weird life.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
I’m gonna tell my kids…

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Something weird to happen.


Joe Jasper, Events Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
Tones & I – “Dance Monkey”

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Wasteland, Baby! by Hozier, because I waited five years for this album and it didn’t disappoint at all, every single song is amazing. A whole mood.

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Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Brockhampton at The Anthem. The crowd was amazing, it was not stop jumping from the second they came on until the second they left.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Nats winning the World Series!!! Or Manchester United beating Tottenham and Manchester City in the same week.

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Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Some delicious wines at the DC Wine Walk!!!

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Sex Education or Russian Doll, both were amazing.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Avengers: Endgame was everything it had been hyped up to be for years, I also really enjoyed Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, because I was sitting on the edge of my seat for the whole movie and there was so much build for such an amazing climax, it was awesome.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Graduating college or starting to work at Fray!

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Someone climbed in through my window while I was sleeping, that was weird.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
The meme about how Gen Z’s love stupid memes or “Oh God he’s wearing airpods”

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Getting older, wiser, and making new memories! Also a Kendrick Lamar album 🤞🤞🤞


Trent Johnson, Assistant Editor

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
I don’t know…F**k it, “Old Town Road.”

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Favorite: Atlanta Millionaires Club by Faye Webster // Least Favorite: Jesus Is King by Kanye West

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
My favorite teams are generally disappointing from a championship perspective. That being said, probably James Harden’s streak of 35+ point games, because all the haters on Twitter cried about it for months.

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Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Kith/Kin at the Wharf. It was amazing because it tasted great; I’m not a food critic.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
The answer is probably still Game of Thrones, but the last season was trash. Justice for Dany and justice for Jon actually having speaking lines beyond a few phrases. A real shame for all parties involved.

Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
I mean it’s Avengers: Endgame. I’m not sure any other movie has been that hyped or anticipated since Star Wars: Force Awakens in 2015. The build up was crazy, the payoff was crazy and it’s a three hour finale of one of the longest serialized stories in movie history. Not to mention the memes like Daddy Thanos and I Love You 3000.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
I hate questions like this because I don’t structure things in a yearly way, but I guess interviewing Kwame Onwuachi was a cool experience because it felt like he blew up on a national level like two months after we spoke. Also, talking to Julia Shapiro of Chastity Belt fun for me because I love their moody music.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Probably talking about the universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
I really like saying “twenty-twenty,” so probably that. Saying “twenty-nineteen” was a real hassle IMO.


M.K. Koszycki, Editorial Assistant

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“True Blue” by Mark Ronson feat. Angel Olsen. Sad music you can still dance to is kind of my thing.

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Sharon Van Etten’s Remind Me Tomorrow. She’s an incredible human and musician and this whole record was beautiful and hopeful and all the best things. In a close second and third would be I Am Easy to Find by The National and Reward by Cate Le Bon.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Beach House’s homecoming show at The Hippodrome in Baltimore. The venue was ornate and formal and such a cool place to have a visually stunning dream pop show. Also Bombay Bicycle Club’s first post-hiatus DC show, and The National at The Anthem.

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Favorite 2019 sports moment?
The US dominating at the Women’s World Cup, once again. On the subject of #girlpower, the Washington Mystics winning the title was cool to see. And how can I forget the Nats’ world series win? Still waiting on *someone* to get their curly W tattoo.

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
The Bee’s Knees cocktail at Bresca. Served in an actual bee-shaped glass. The most Instagrammable drink at the most Instagrammable restaurant that’s delicious to boot. I will also always love the chicken wings at Cafe Saint Ex. They’re the best.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Fleabag, the second best show to ever be on TV. It’s only second-best because Twin Peaks exists. Also Russian Doll on Netflix and season two of Big Little Lies because of Laura Dern and Laura Dern ONLY.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Midsommar. Absolutely terrifying but still, in my opinion, has a happy ending. The first 15 minutes will be seared into my brain for the rest of my life. I also adored High Life and Honey Boy.

Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Covering SXSW. It’s always been a dream of mine to go but I never thought I’d be able to cover it, too.

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Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
I finally met a baby goat in person. I love baby goats.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
BABY YODA. And Monique saying “I would like to see it.” There are many things I’d like to see so I say it ALL the time. Also “ma’am, this is a Wendy’s.”

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
All the new music that will be released and all the shows I’ll go to. I don’t know what they are yet but I’m already excited.


Travis LeFlore, Senior Staffing Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Goodbyes” – Post Malone (Young Thug)

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy…Outstanding album, best lyrical album this year.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Justin Timberlake’s Man of Woods Tour. Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC. First time seeing Justin in person, heck of a show!

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Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Coaching my first NCAA National Champion.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Godfather of Harlem.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Moving to DC, starting a new career, making it through first year of marriage.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Met my coworkers, Carter and Julian lol.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Jordan crying face.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
More Life!


Julian Makarechi, Player Services Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“I Said Me” – 2 Chainz

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Rap or Go to the League

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Electric Forrect Music Festival, Rothbury, Michigan. First 5 day camping festival. Phenominal

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Double Doink

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Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Pupusas at Gloria’s Pupuseria in Columbia Heights. First time eating them, so tasty.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Atypical

Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Knives Out. It was simply a great mystery movie.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Got my first job! Yay!

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
My mom (lives in Philly) has her own travel agency (check it out: DiscoverMyItaly.com!) that hosts tours in different parts of Italy and creates individual itineraries. By chance Carter’s parents (live in NC) were on my mom’s tour in Italy. None of us had any idea until our parent’s were talking about their children and it came up that both of them have kids who work at DC Fray.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Peloton Girl.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Trip To Italy


Kayla Marsh, Digital & Advertising Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
All My Favorite People by Maren Morris (feat. Brothers Osborne)

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
GIRL by Maren Morris because it was so empowering and inspiring with a hint of fun and flirtiness! What I aim to be ;)

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Brothers Osborne at The Anthem! It felt like an epic rock concert but in such an intimate space, I really connected with the artists throughout the entire show! Also – Kenny Chesney at The Anthem because I actually got there early and had a great spot in the crowd to actually see Kenny perform up-close.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
2019 WORLD SERIES CHAMPS BABY

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
I visited Ramen by Uzu quite a few times this year in Union Market. All hail the miso ramen, the perfect rainy day comfort food.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Dead To Me! Brilliant acting by Christina Applegate (who got a Golden Globe nom for it) and overall great dark humor for the witchy soul.

Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Toy Story 4 – this year a beloved new animated character was born. “FORKY” This one, like the other three, really tugged on my heartstrings.

Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Getting approved for an AWESOME apartment in Alexandria that’s closer to work.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Got my car window smashed only for a thief to steal my whole makeup bag.

Favorite meme that ruled the internet this year?
All things Baby Yoda of course.

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Hitting the basketball courts with the Fray squad – it’s been a while!


Tom Roth, Senior Sales Executive

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“You need to Calm Down” – Taylor Swift

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Whatever Taylor Swift Album that came from.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Kenny Chesney at The Anthem b/c it was the only concert I went to.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Nats winning the World Series and there wasn’t a close second.

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What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Succession, an amazing show. My favorite by far. True Detective, Big Little Lies, Dead to Me were all okay but not great.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Keeping my kids alive and happy. Winning multiple adult basketball leagues.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Robert bought our company and brought us down [editor’s note: up?] to DC. But it’s all working out for the best.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
The ladies yelling at the cat thing.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Health, happiness, and lots of time with family and friends. And vacations to St. Johns, Cancun & Cape Cod.


Alison Schrank, JAX City Commissioner

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
Honestly my hype song for awhile was Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.”

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Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Lil Wayne and Blink 182 at Daily’s Amphitheater. Everyone was unsure if Lil Wayne was going to show up because he had missed several other shows on the tour and after like 10 mins of just his band playing, he finally came out and I was completely surprised. I typically don’t listen to much rap music, but I went to a Lil Wayne concert in college so there was some nostalgia along with it as well. We also were in the pit and made it up to the second row and the environment was just so fun down there.

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Favorite 2019 sports moment?
USWNT winning the world cup!

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
I don’t know how to pick a best one. I love eating and drinking.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Game of Thrones, Shameless, Broad City, Schitt’s Creek

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Bought a house! Turned 30 (It was a big moment in my year haha)

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Honestly, how does one choose?

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
More vacations to new places!

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Kristen Sargent, Culture Contractor

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Higher Love”– Kygo, Whitney Houston. Cover of the 1986 classic, celebrated its 33rd anniversary in Jun 2019.

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
People still listen to whole albums? OMG, I’m the worst. I listen to whatever playlist Spotify recommends for me.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
The NightOwls at Icenhauers in Austin, TX. Local cover band, SUPER high energy. They play every Sunday afternoon. Cool back yard/ back porch vibe. Everyone drinks sangria from mason jars. If you’re ever visiting Austin on a weekend, you’ve got to celebrate on Sunday afternoon with them!

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Kona Ironman Triathlon – World Championship

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Stranger Things and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Free Solo, brought so much public awareness to vanlife and rock climbing, two things very much a part of my life. It’s cool to hear people say “oh you have a van like that guy in Free Solo?”…the movie gave people a window in to my world. So cool!

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Completing my well-being and career coaching certifications.

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Campervanning trips around Maui Hawaii and South Island New Zealand!

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Katie Seaman, Events and Promotions Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Movement” – Hozier

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
The Big Day – Chance the Rapper. SO many great collabs – Ben Gibbard? C’mon!

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Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
“Come Through” at the Kennedy Center with TU Dance and Bon Iver. So moving. The dance and the music together was seriously incredible. I had a steady stream of tears the entire time.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
WORLD SERIES WIN! Duh. It felt like my first time truly experiencing fandom.

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
LUCKY BUNS. Everything they introduce is incredible. I am such a huge fan and I never shut up about it. I can’t wait to see what they do in 2020. EXTRA PUMPED FOR THE UNION MARKET POP-UP!!!

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What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Schitt’s Creek!

Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Midsommar was so good! Also, I loved/ still love Bird Box.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Running into the DC Fray/ On Tap merger HEAD ON!

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Traumatic experience at an *unnamed* local venue.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Two words: Baby.Yoda. *sips bone broth*

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
SO excited for a new decade of growth and memories! Cheers y’all!


Anthony Towey, Head of Media Operations

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
Off the top of my head, I literally can’t name a song released this year besides “Baby Shark” (if that was even this year)

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
See above 🤷🏻‍♂️

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Eric Church…first time seeing him since he’s been famous and first time ever going to The Anthem!

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Mystics winning the title! Just kidding. Watching Lamar Jackson break the NFL every single game he plays.

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Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Harissa Carrots from Maydan. As someone who loves meat, it’s amazing how good these were. In the month long wait for our reservation, I never expected to walk out of dinner with a veggie being the most memorable thing I ate.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
I binge watch TV about as much as I listen to new music. The only show I binged watched this year was Succession, which came out in 2018 so maybe next year I’ll have a 2019 answer for you.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
The Irishman. Great cast, story and all-around film that actually lived up to the hype. Also the Lion King because it’s my all-time favorite Disney movie.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Getting engaged! Also winning my first ever tournaments on DraftKings and FanDuel.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
When we visited Madrid we unknowingly went on Day of Madrid (their Independence Day) so it was very cool being in the city for military parades and the other celebrations, but weird because it was completely unexpected by us and many of the local places we hoped to eat at were closed for the holiday.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
I’ll get back to you on memes as soon as I figure out my favorite song and TV show

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Very excited about my wedding in Cancun in December as well as continuing to up my game as a fantasy sports player!

Photo: www.kennedy-center.org

DC Winter Activities To Kick Off 2020

Winter in DC is always a gamble.  Some days you don’t need to wear a coat and others you’re chilled to the bone. In past years there’s been barely any snowfall and others we’ve got upwards of 20 inches at once. It can be easy to just stay snuggled in bed and let your social life slip by, but all the excitement doesn’t have to shut down for the winter. Check out some of the fun activities we’ve found to keep you out and about this season. 

Georgetown Glow

This free experience will have you viewing gorgeous Georgetown in a new way: glowing! With 11 light art installations, Georgetown Glow is able to fill your evening with fun. Check out a cloud swing, a live dance performance viewed through a peephole, and all sorts of neat lights hanging in the air.  You can even participate yourself and hop on a bike to beat your friends in a light battle. Hit up this activity sooner rather than later, as the lights only stay on through January 5.  

Winter Igloos at the Watergate 

Want to feel like you’re embracing the winter, but without the cold? The winter igloos at the Watergate may be for you. Fitting up to eight guests each, stay cozy in a heated igloo at the Next Whiskey Bar or Kingbird. Enjoy a specialty cocktail like the sweet, vodka based Jackie O. or opt for the O’Connor Tuxedo #3 for a little bit of whiskey and absinthe flavor. Note that there is a food and beverage fee and minimum. Call for reservations and more details. 

Ice Skating 

There are a variety of opportunities to hit the ice rink in the DC area. Head to Washington Harbor to experience DC’s largest at 11,800 square feet. Check out one of their weekly events, like College Skate Night, Cartoon Skate and Rock the Rink for a little themed fun. Head to The Wharf for another skating option, or if you’re in Virginia, check out Pentagon Row. If you’re heading to the Pentagon Row rink, make sure to come hungry, as you’ll be surrounded by delicious restaurants options like Thaiphoon and Siné’s Irish Pub. Don’t miss the Irish nachos a local favorite Siné’s.

Daybreaker

Daybreaker is a must try at any time of year, but check them out this winter for some early morning fitness! Each month they do a dance party before your workday begins.  From 6-7 a.m. you can partake in a yoga class lead by a local teacher and from 7-9 a.m. you get your groove on! You can also enjoy some free healthy snacks, kombucha and cold brew coffee. Following each month’s Daybreaker, they will announce the theme of the next month.  December’s theme was “Holidaybreaker,” which meant Christmas sweater time. Each month you’ll also be able to experience some other unique talents like musicians, professional bubble blowers, aerial performers and more. This is an event not to miss!

Nationals Winterfest

On January 11-12, head over to Nats Stadium to celebrate your team spirit! Meet the Nationals players and coaches and get some insider access to areas of the stadium that you normally can’t see.  You’ll get the opportunity for player autographs, photos with the World Series trophy and photos with the mascot. Keep that holiday spirit going as the stadium is turned into a winter wonderland with snow angel pictures and even a curling rink! Tickets are $35 a day for adult, $30 a day if you buy the two day pass. 

Cupid’s Undie Run

This may not be the best way to stay warm this winter, but it sure is a whole lot of fun. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and charity, don your best undies and run a mile in the freezing February weather.  Why would you do this, you ask? This “race” is to raise money for a cure for Neurofibromatosis. Get to fundraising and make a difference while having a little fun, and don’t worry, if wearing only your undies makes you uncomfortable, you are allowed to wear more clothing.  After the run, get your groove on with a rockin’ dance party! 

Chinese New Year Parade

Head to Chinatown on January 26 for a celebration of the Year of the Rat! This parade promises to be the biggest and most diverse held yet in DC. Don’t miss the traditional dragon and lion dances, Kung Fu demonstrations, live music and more. Make sure to wear red, which is meant to ward off evil spirits and bring in good fortune. Stick around to watch the firecrackers! 

REACH Winter Lanterns

Check out REACH at the Kennedy Center between January 22 and February 2 to see 100 hand-crafted lanterns made up of 10,000 colored LED lights in celebration of the Lunar New Year. Stick around for their winter lantern PLUS evenings for even more fun! Attend a Peking opera make-up demo, make your own lantern, or participate in Korean mask making, to name just a few of the awesome activities at REACH.  

There are endless fun activities to take part in, in DC this winter.  Let us know how you enjoyed these events…and also share with us the awesome events that you find! 

Photos: Courtesy of Symphony of Lights

Symphony Of Lights’ Spectacular Display

Merriweather Symphony of Light isn’t your regular old light display: 300,000 lightbulbs, a 65-foot tall Christmas tree and 3D animations are just a few of the features the holiday attraction uses to brighten your holiday spirit. On display through January 1, Symphony of Lights offers guests the chance to drive through a mile of elaborate decorations showcasing new lights and a refreshed course for the 2019 holiday season. Special walk-through nights will also be held for families and pets, allowing visitors a closer look at the sparkling set ups. 

On Tap spoke with the man behind the displays, owner of Event Consultant and Management, Brad Canfield, and talked about Symphony of Lights’ long history, their work with Howard County Hospital and showstopping displays.

On Tap: How long has Merriweather been hosting the Symphony of Lights?
Brad Canfield: It’s been at and around Merriweather for 25-plus years and it’s been owned by the Howard County General Hospital as a fundraiser. Recently it’s changed, with the hospital still receiving donations, but they no longer manage it. The venue [use] has always been donated, because we’re raising money for the hospital.

OT: How does the music venue tie into the attraction?
BC: The display gets its name from the Symphony Woods around Merriweather, which the hospital came up with more than 25 years ago. The stage and seating area of the venue are also a part of the overall display.

OT: What makes this light display different from others in the DMV area?
BC: There’s more technology. We have LED video screens with 3D images on it, and we use projectors and lasers and other things. There are the traditional light displays you see every year, but they’ve got modern technology added to them.

OT: What are some of the showstopping displays people can expect to see?
BC: One of our biggest displays this year is a 65-foot Christmas tree with a real train going around it.

OT: What are some of the events that that are held annually as part of the Symphony of Lights?
BC: Festive Families has already happened, but it’s a walk-through for families and is sort of our opening event. Then we have one called Tail Lights which is a dog walk, so people can bring their dogs to walk through. We also do Midnight at 7 which is a New Year’s Eve event designed for kids – because they can’t stay up till midnight, we do a countdown at 7 p.m. like its midnight and have a firework show.

OT: Do you all have any big ideas for Symphony of Lights in the future?
BC: We do have some plans, but nothing concrete yet. Every year we change it up as much as we can. There are some of the same displays, sort of the classics, and then we try to add new touches to them.

OT: What is your favorite part of the Symphony of Lights?
BC: I like the tradition of it and people that come back year after year.

Hop in your car and wander through Merriweather Symphony of Lights every weekday from 6-10 p.m. and weekends from 5-10 p.m. through January 1. $20 per vehicle on regular nights with discounts offered for military and veterans. For more info visit www.merriweatherlights.com 

Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; 410-715-5550; www.merriweathermusic.com

Dirty Habit // Photo: Drew Hairston

8 Warming Winter Cocktails

‘Tis the season for jolly merriment and drinking to stay warm – because nothing provides warmer layers than rounds of spiked toddies and hot chocolate. Check out these eight cocktails that will keep you nice and toasty for whatever Polar Vortex, Snowpocalypse or Bomb Cyclone rolls into DC this winter. 

Astoria DC

1521 17th St. NW, DC
Known for serving up heat in the form of Sichuan-style dishes, the sultry Art Deco bar offers more ways than one for patrons to warm up. From chili wontons to numbingly spicy water boiled beef (a staff favorite), the word “flammable” is taken to new levels. Eat your heat or pony up to the bar and order the seasonal Whispers of Winter. With rye whiskey, ruby port, oloroso sherry and brown sugar, Astoria’s spin on the Hot Toddy spotlights fortified wines. 

Blue Duck Tavern

1201 24th St. NW, DC
Cozy up at the Park Hyatt’s outdoor garden terrace suited up for the winter months with fire pits, soft blankets and hot beverages. The Fire Garden at Blue Duck Tavern is armed for the colder weather with a bevy of warming drinks including their take on the traditional Toddy. The Forbidden Forest with local Copper Fox rye whiskey (infused with Lapsang souchong tea), saffron honey, Meyer lemon juice is capped with black truffle foam and cracked pink peppercorns. 

Conrad DC

950 New York Ave. NW, DC
Head to the City Center destination for a luxe Apres ski experience featuring themed decor, staff decked out in Moncler gear, dishes fitting for a day on the slopes, fire pits (with blankets at the ready) and warm cocktails including a deliciously rich hot chocolate spiked with your choice of Illegal Mezcal or Patron XO. 

Dirty Habit

555 8th St NW, DC
An ideal pit stop after a day of ice skating at the Sculpture Garden or walking around the National Mall, get toasty with a seasonal hot gin punch made with Monkey 47 Schwarzvald Gin, Cardamom, Bouquet Garni and Blood Orange. The outdoor patio is outfitted with fire pits and blanket throws to add an extra layer of warmth.

Hook Hall

3400 Georgia Ave. NW, DC
The Park View tavern is channeling all of the ski chalet vibes this winter. Cozy sectional seating, heated areas, and plenty of plush blankets and pillows add to the ski lodge feel. Sip on a traditional Gluhwein while noshing on Bavarian bites such as pretzels served with spicy mustard. 

Miracle on 7th Street

1843 7th St. NW, DC
The infamous pop-up bar has returned for another season, armed with a collection of festive cocktails. This year’s decor pays homage to baseball hometown heroes, the Nationals, with oversized bats and balls, and Baby Shark paraphernalia. Guests looking to warm up from their time spent outdoors waiting in line to gain entry should opt for A Christmas Prince and Chill made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, red wine hot chocolate and vanilla marshmallow.

Ritz-Carlton Georgetown

3100 South St. NW, DC
In honor of the holidays, the Living Room at the Georgetown Ritz will be unveiling a new cocktail each day of December leading to Christmas. The merry libations include everything from cinnamon-infused gin to boozy takes on eggnog. If you’re looking for seasonal sippers post-holiday, order the warming Winter Spice with whiskey, cognac, spiced syrup, lemon juice and hot apple cider, which will be available throughout the season.

Stable

1324 H St. NE, DC
The Alpine-themed restaurant is known for serving up Swiss staples like traditional cheese fondue, raclette and spaetzle but come wintertime, guests can imbibe seasonal creations filled with schnaps and spices. Looking for something over the top? Opt for the Feuerzange with mulled wine flambéed, Goldschläger and cinnamon liquor.  

Photo: Laura Metzler

6 Spots To Get Holiday Sweets

With the recent openings of bakeries and the growing profiles of local pastry chefs, DC’s bakery game is on the rise – literally. Spinning sugar into showpieces, whipping meringue into mini mountain peaks and constructing cakes into literal works of art, DC dessert masterminds are showing how their craft is a vital part of the food scene in the nation’s capital.

So what’s the buzz behind DC’s sugar rush? It’s no secret that in recent years, the food scene in the District has exploded. In 2016, Bon Appetit named it the Restaurant City of the Year, and in the same year, Michelin awarded DC with its first-ever guidebook. What does that mean for pastry chefs and the bakery niche?

“It’s definitely an exciting time for food in general in DC, and it’s nice to see that pastries have kind of caught on to the wave of openings and young chefs becoming owners of businesses,” notes Buttercream Bakeshop’s owner and pastry chef, Tiffany MacIsaac. “There’s a lot of great places to get pastries now.”

For pastry chefs who double as business owners, part of the draw to open their own storefronts is the opportunity to create on a whim. MacIsaac’s menu of treats includes addictive cinnascones, savory breakfast bombs and custom cake orders dreamed up in her Shaw bakery.

“That was one of the reasons why I wanted to open a bakery,” she continues. “I wanted to be able to cook whatever I wanted – when I wanted – and put it out on the shelf.”

For Foreign National Pastry Director Pichet Ong – the culinary talent behind LINE Hotel eateries Brothers and Sisters and Spoken English, as well as H Street’s Maketto and a handful of other local spots – the environment in DC has encouraged a new wave of chefs and restaurant openings.

“I think it’s just part of the growth of the restaurant industry here,” says Ong, who is known for signature desserts highlighting fruit, Asian flavors and herbs, and savory ingredients. “DC is unique in that way, in that it has always boasted a huge pool of local talent – and from that, they each have their own unique experience.”

Beyond the burgeoning culinary environment in the DC area, Schlow Restaurant Group’s Alex Levin says it’s about chefs evolving and elevating their game. From managing the pastry program at Osteria Morini to his current position as executive pastry chef for all Schlow Restaurant Group’s eateries, he’s created new businesses within those concepts such as his popular pop-up bakeries.

“[I] have this amazing platform to be creative and make desserts, but also be a business mind about it and think about how we can create new experiences within our concepts so that we’re constantly challenging ourselves,” Levin says. “I can have the best of both worlds, where suddenly being a pastry chef is a real benefit for a company to have. I believe that’s what a lot of other people are doing too. They’re showing their value in ways that go far beyond what they do on the menu.”

With so much talent on the rise, it would be easy to assume competition is stiff. But amongst DC chefs, it seems to be all about community over competition. MacIsaac notes that just in Shaw alone, there’s a number of bakeries and restaurants with pastry offerings beyond Buttercream Bakeshop.

“Right around the corner is Seylou [Bakery], and then across the street is Unconventional Diner,” she says. “It just really goes to show there’s lots of people that want good pastries in this city and there’s plenty of business to go around. I think we all rise together, so I think it’s good that there’s more things opening.”

With the holidays right around the corner, bakeries and pastry kitchens have shifted gears toward seasonal treats. Expect fun DIY cake kits from MacIsaac’s shop outfitted with all the decorating accoutrements including piping bag, piping tip, buttercream, sprinkles and paper toppers.

“They’re little four-inch cakes, so it’s enough for one or two people to eat. We’re kind of reinventing the whole ‘leave a cookie for Santa.’ We’re thinking people might want to leave a cake for Santa.”

The kits also double as a gift for holiday soirées.

“It’s a fun thing for people to get for parties because it can be an activity, the dessert and the gift – all rolled up into one,” MacIsaac says of her kits.

Buttercream Bakeshop patrons can enjoy holiday cookie lattes with “cookie butter spread, molasses and all of the spice.” Essentially, they’re gingerbread cookies in latte form.

Although Ong didn’t grow up with traditional American holiday flavors and ingredients, he’ll be putting his spin on winter favorites over at the LINE including a salted caramel apple pie with a smoky flavor and a persimmon dessert featuring jasmine tea for Spoken English.

Schlow Restaurant Group’s eateries will also highlight seasonal desserts. Indulge in the triple chocolate s’mores budino or the apple tart with almond frangipane at Alta Strada. Levin is also running a December pop-up, located at Casolare Ristorante + Bar in Glover Park and Alta Strada’s DC and Mosaic locations, where guests can order winter treats like a classic linzer cookie filled with raspberry jam. Levin will be hosting his second annual People’s Hanukkah Party at Casolare on December 6 where he’ll be slinging sufganiyot – the traditional donuts typically only found during Hanukkah – as well as latkes and other savory bites.

After the holiday season is over and DC denizens transition into the new year, what can be expected from the bakery scene? Ong predicts an even greater rise for pastry chefs.

“I think for sure there’s going to be more openings of restaurants in DC,” he says. “We’re going to hopefully see more pastry chefs coming to the scene. There’s a lot of really great pastry chefs already in DC, but you’re going to see more of them coming into prominence.”

Learn more about the delectable items offered at the spots below. 

Alta Strada: 2911 District Ave. #150, Fairfax, VA; www.altastradarestaurant.com
Brothers and Sisters: 1770 Euclid St. NW, DC; www.brothersandsistersdc.com
Buttercream Bakeshop: 1250 9th St. NW, DC; www.buttercreamdc.com
Casolare Ristorante + Bar: 2505 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.casolare.com
Osteria Morini: 301 Water St. SE, DC; www.osteriamorini.com
Spoken English: 1770 Euclid St. NW, DC; www.thelinehotel.com/dc

Sofi Tukker at 9:30 Club // Photo: K. Gabrielle Photography

Epic Shows, Espionage, Craft Beer & More: Our Top Picks for Ringing in the New Year

While I’m big on festive parties and having any excuse to be dressed to the nines, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve often shied away from New Year’s Eve events over the years – not because they don’t look fun, but because they can break the bank for some of us. That being said, the District’s burgeoning creative and foodie scenes have grown so exponentially in the past decade that the options to celebrate seem limitless and span many budgets. We picked our top five ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve in DC this year – all around $100 and under and with much to choose from. From channeling your inner spy to finding the right 90s dance party for you, we’ve got you covered – so read on and find a unique way to ring in the New Year that speaks to you.

Espionage Awaits: Party Like a Spy
The International Spy Gala is an NYE mainstay in the District, with spy-themed everything: a mock casino (with prizes, of course), spy ice luges at the ice bar, spy gold girls and spy male dancers, and much more. Dressing the part is encouraged, so be sure to get into character as your favorite secret agent or femme fatale. Other perks include party favors, two balloon drops, a live band and DJ, and live feeds to the Times Square countdown. 9 p.m. – 2 a.m. Tickets start at $110. Washington Plaza Hotel: 10 Thomas Cir. NW, DC; www.fb.com/SpyGalaDCNYE

Beer-Centric: Party Like a Beer Head
This one’s for you, beer nerds. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group is offering two opportunities to celebrate that are 100 percent beer-themed. Head to Bluejacket in Capitol Riverfront for an open bar featuring all of the brewery’s drafts and casks – plus cocktails, a champagne toast with good bubbly (pro tip: it’s Chandon rosé, which is excellent), an all-you-can-eat menu including smoked salmon crepes and pulled pork sliders, and live music and DJ sets. If you’d rather stay put in Northwest, head to ChurchKey in Logan Circle for a similar and equally fantastic option featuring a full selection of the beer bar’s best offerings of craft beer, vino, cocktails and snacks, a very affordable four-course tasting menus at Birch & Barley downstairs, a DJ, champagne toast, and much more. ChurchKey’s party runs 9 p.m. – 2 a.m. and tickets start at $105. Bluejacket’s party runs 9:30 p.m. – 2 a.m. and tickets start at $110. Bluejacket: 300 Tingey St. SE, DC; www.bluejacketdc.com // ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.churchkeydc.com

Keep It Classy: Party Like a Jazz Lover
Feeling fancy but don’t want to drain your checking account? Get dolled up and sip some bubbly in style at the Kennedy Center’s A Jazz New Year’s Eve event featuring an evening of jazz music from Grammy nominee Branford Marsalis followed by a blowout in the Center’s Grand Foyer with champagne bars, dancing, a balloon drop, a photo booth, a countdown to midnight and much more. Pro tip: brave the cold and take some Instaworthy shots out on the terrace with killer views of the city. Starts at 7 p.m., tickets $75. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

Pick Your Decade: Party Like It’s…
If you want to dance the night away, the District has no shortage of high-energy concerts and dance parties. To keep your options open if you’re up for multiple stops in one neighborhood, we recommend heading to The Wharf or Shaw. At The Wharf, catch DC’s favorite 90s cover band White Ford Bronco at The Anthem (9 p.m. show, tickets start at $75) and/or an 80s dance party with rap, R&B, freestyle, new wave, rock and pop from DJ Marco at Union Stage (9 p.m. show, $30-$35 tickets). Over in Shaw, head to 9:30 Club for a concert that’s equal parts punk rock and hip-hop from Gogol Bordello and special guests (doors at 9 p.m., tickets $75 and check out our interview with frontman Eugene Hütz here) and then head next door to Satellite Room to celebrate 2020 like its 1999 at the Back in the Day 90s dance party (9 p.m. – 3 a.m., tickets start at $40). 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com // The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com; Satellite Room: 2047 9th St. NW, DC; www.satellitedc.com; Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

Keep It Simple: Party with DC Fray
Sometimes, the simplest option is the best. If you’re into low-key, affordable, fun celebrations, then look no further. Tickets to DC Fray’s two NYE options at Kelly’s Irish Times near Union Station and Grand Central in AdMo are a steal at $69 per person with live DJs, party favors, champagne toasts, specialty cocktails, quality beers and more. General admission to both events includes open bar starting at 9:30 p .m., appetizers until 11 p.m. and a champagne toast at midnight. Grand Central: 2447 18th St NW, Washington, DC; www.grandcentraldc.com // Kelly’s Irish Times: 14 F St. NW, DC; www.kellysirishtimesdc.com

Treat Yo’ Self: New Year’s Day R&R
For those of you feeling ambitious enough to leave the house, we recommend foodie spots with lots of options to cure your hangover (Union Market if you’re in the District, The Block if you’re coming from the burbs). Plus, check out our top cozy spots to nosh during wintry days. Or if you’re looking for some hair of the dog, read about some of our top picks for local winter brews and spots with unique bubbly offerings. But if you’re nursing an epic hangover and just want to binge-watch Netflix shows in your sweatpants, we totally get it. **Pro-tip: Pedialyte is our go-to for rehydrating and feeling human again. Pick up lots of free samples at DC Fray’s NYE locations or if you’re feeling super healthy on New Year’s Day, swing by any Balance Gym in the city if you’re feeling super healthy on New Year’s Day).

For a comprehensive list of NYE events to choose from, pick up a copy of our December issue or check it out here.

**Pedialyte is a sponsor of DC Fray. 

(Left to right) Justin Mark, Sinclair Daniel and Isabella Star LaBlanc // Photo: Tony Powell

The Story Of Peter Pan: From Beloved Classic To Contemporary Spectacle

Director Alan Paul likes to go big. Shakespeare Theatre Company’s (STC) associate artistic director has made a name for himself directing musicals and operas notable for their grand scale and lush scope. That experience will come in handy this winter as Paul tackles his biggest project yet: a re-envisioning of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, at STC’s Sidney Harman Hall from December 3 through January 12.

Peter Pan and Wendy will feature a fresh new script by playwright Lauren Gunderson, a cast of 20 and a creative team of 66 that will bring Peter Pan’s story to life through special effects, flying and ambitious sets. It is bigger than anything the company has produced before, and it’s all in Paul’s hands.

“I don’t feel like the director of this show,” Paul told me during an interview at STC’s rehearsal space last week. “I feel like the captain of the ship, like I’m orchestrating 50 people doing a million things, which I am.”

Paul envisions a show that is grand in both ideas and design. His team includes a roster of A-list artists including Gunderson, currently the most frequently produced playwright in America (American Theatre magazine), and Emmy Award-winning scenic designer Jason Sherwood (Fox’s Rent Live), who is tasked with creating the worlds of the Darling family nursery, Neverland and more.

Gunderson’s script calls for dazzling effects: flying bunk beds, midair fight sequences, Tinkerbell transforming from light to human and pirates tumbling from their ship while a giant crocodile lurks below, to name but a few. It also includes the familiar Peter Pan storyline – with some twists.

“Peter Pan already has his story,” Paul said. “The pull of it for me was Wendy and what happens to her. This is Wendy’s story, from start to finish.”

Paul felt that Gunderson, known for her plays that put women – often neglected historical figures – center stage, was the perfect person to develop a “robust, swashbuckling adventure” led by a smart, inquisitive heroine.

“There were a lot of people out there who could have written a post-modern riff on Peter Pan, but not in a big, crowd-pleasing, robust way. And that was the charge I had for her. It had to be robust.”

And it had to have the women take charge. Paul hopes Peter Pan and Wendy will do for theatre what Frozen did for movies: rewrite the rules and prove that female-driven adventure stories can attract large audiences.

Rewriting the rules “is the whole point, actually,” Paul said. “In the original Peter Pan, Peter wants to bring Wendy to Neverland to sew their socks and mend their buttons. That feels very different in 2019.”

In Gunderson’s version, Wendy is a budding scientist whose role model is Marie Curie, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and chemist who won her first Nobel Prize in 1903.

Peter Pan was written in 1904, so we thought this was a great example of a very strong, very famous woman that Wendy could aspire to be.”

Wendy is joined by Tiger Lily, the Native American character that many productions of the still-popular 1954 Peter Pan musical cut due to its offensive characterization. In approaching the parts of the original story that may seem sexist or racist, Paul felt his and Gunderson’s job “was not to be apologetic, but to actively flip the script.” Rather than eliminating the Tiger Lily character, they wanted to make her voice powerful and real. She is now a driving force in Peter Pan and Wendy, a vocal sparring partner with Pan, and a leader in Neverland.

Paul enjoys mining the deep psychological undercurrents in the script.

“This is a play that is obsessed with time,” he observed, noting that Peter Pan and Captain Hook are both trying to stop the clock and avoid the inevitability of aging. “It’s not a subtle play. It’s about good and evil and a bunch of boys fighting off pirates and a girl who believes in science. The stakes are really high. These kids go to Neverland to discover who they are and to see the worst of the world. They come back having learned big things.”

The story plays out in five separate sets, each of them designed to dazzle by Jason Sherwood.

“When you do Peter Pan, you can either do Peter and the Starcatcher, which is a very slimmed down version, or you just go ‘Boom!” Paul said. “And I was like ‘Jason, it’s time for big scenery. It’s what people want. People want an adventure.’”

In his approach to scenic design, Paul draws from his experiences directing opera. He recalls advice he once received from Sir Nicholas Hytner, the former artistic director of London’s National Theatre.

“The secret to opera is that you have to create five images the audience will find spectacular,” Paul recalls Hytner saying.

That can be a set piece, like the pirate ship that makes an entrance in Peter Pan and Wendy’s fifth act.

“We played around with simple designs for the ship, but then I thought, ‘People are waiting for that pirate ship to show up. It needs to be great.’”

Or it can be a scene. Paul thinks the opening sequence in which Pan reunites with his shadow will be spectacular. He hopes that a scene featuring an aerialist mermaid in a sea cave will be a beautifully stark and memorable contrast to the rest of the show.

STC commissioned Peter Pan and Wendy as the first offering in artistic director Simon Godwin’s holiday family-friendly initiative. But Godwin and Paul believe Peter Pan and Wendy will speak to adults and children equally. Paul knows it is the visual splendor that will wow young audiences, but he also thinks back to the opening night of J.M. Barrie’s original 1904 play.

“The audience that night was full of adults. Adults keep coming back to this old play from 1904 because there is really something to it. We had to find a way to honor that and make it about really contemporary things.”

Don’t miss Peter Pan and Wendy at STC from December 3 to January 12. Times vary. Tickets are $35-$120. Learn more and purchase tickets at www.shakespearetheatre.org.

STC’s Sidney Harman Hall: 610 F St. NW, DC; 202-547-1122; www.shakespearetheatre.org

Photo: courtesy of the NSO

National Symphony Orchestra Brings Holiday Sweaters & Classical Music to The Anthem

It could be argued that ugly sweaters are one of the best traditions of the holiday season. From Santa riding a unicorn under a peppermint moon to “Let’s get lit” menorahs, it’s impossible not to have a good time in an ugly holiday knit. Looking to bring some of that fun to the classical music world, the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) will showcase its Ugly Sweater Holiday Concert on December 11.

Hosted at The Anthem once again, the second-ever themed concert will see the NSO dressed in their best unsightly sweaters as they play holiday tunes both popular and traditional. Audience members are also encouraged to don their favorite ugly holiday pullovers.

“This isn’t your uptight, stuffy concert hall kind of deal,” says Nick Hersh, the NSO’s conductor for the Ugly Sweater Holiday Concert. “It’ll be a really exciting and powerful show, but it won’t be as loud, say, as you would get for a true rock show.”

Further separating themselves from some of the “stuffier” aspects of classical music, playing at The Anthem has allowed the NSO to perform in a more relaxed setting and reach an audience who might not have seen the symphony orchestra otherwise. It also makes this performance one-of-a-kind for the DC area, Hersh says, as the combination of a world-class orchestra playing holiday tunes in a more accessible venue like The Anthem can be hard to come by.

“It’s great fun to be there [at The Anthem],” Hersh says. “I always really enjoy when the audience can do things like take a beer to their seats, which is not something you generally get to do at a hall like the Kennedy Center.”

The attire and venue may be different from the symphony orchestra’s usual style, but Hersh is quick to point out that the audience can expect the quality of the orchestra to hold up to the NSO name.

The audience can also expect a wide variety of music, ranging from classical to more traditional holiday pop songs. The orchestra will play a medley that features seasonal favorites like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” to name a few.

“What we like to play is familiar holiday tunes, and use arrangements of them in a way that really features the orchestra,” Hersh says. “You’ll hear familiar carols but beautifully orchestrated, and we’ll also play some classical standards that have come to be associated with Christmas.”

For example, this year’s show will have a “main course” featuring several pieces from Duke Ellington’s album The Nutcracker Suite, the jazz musician’s take on the classic score from Tchaikovsky. Hersh says this is one of his favorite arrangements from the show as it takes the beauty and familiarity of the original pieces and spikes them with high-energy jazz.

There will also be a choral component performed throughout the show – a new aspect of this year’s concert – featuring DC a cappella group The Capital Hearings. Hersh mentions that the moments the a cappella ensemble come onstage to perform will be a great chance for concertgoers to sing along as well.

“I was learning all the words to the songs [for last year], all those songs I knew essentially the opening words for, but I had to really delve in and learn all the words to, like ‘Frosty the Snowman,’” Hersh exclaims. “Honestly, there’s a lot of stuff I forgot!”

In addition to working with The Capital Hearings, Hersh hopes that the NSO can continue to partner with other local musicians on the Ugly Sweater Holiday Concerts to come, and continue to reach out to audiences of all kinds.

“This is really a concert for anyone, nondenominational of course, and it’s just a really fun time. You’ll clap when you want to clap and you’ll have fun just like you would at any other concert. So if you haven’t seen a symphony, this is really the kind of concert you want to try out.”

Put on your favorite ugly holiday sweater and catch the NSO Ugly Sweater Holiday Concert at The Anthem on December 11. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets start at $15. For more information about the NSO, visit www.kennedy-center.org/nso. For more information about The Capital Hearings, visit their website at www.thecapitalhearings.com.

The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-888-0020; www.theanthemdc.com