Spring Fling at the AFRH is the fun way to start the outdoor season in Petworth

When the weather turns nice, it's time to get outside and enjoy it at the Spring Fling

For the past four years, Friends of the Old Soldiers' Home, a volunteer group that sponsors activities at the Armed Forces Retirement Home (Upshur & Rock Creek Church Rd), has put on the Spring Fling, an outdoor festival complete with great food, beer and drinks, music, a nature walk, games and more.

This year, they're putting on the 4th Annual Spring Fling on May 7th, from 12pm-5pm on the grounds of the AFRH.

You can walk there or park (for a $10 donation) via the entrance at Rock Creek Church Rd and Randolph Street. Alas, you have to leave pets at home as they're not allowed on the Retirement Home property.

For music, Herb Spice and Cinnamon Stix are back for the fourth straight year, in rotating sets with the vocalist Cecily and her accompanist, who also performed last year. This year they will have a stage to go along with the dance floor.

The George Washington University ballet dance group "Balance" will perform a 20-minute routine right in the middle of the event at 3pm.

Phil Blair, a geologist by training, will again lead a nature walk at 1:30pm (Mr. Blair has has led all the nature walks at all four four flings).

Captain Cookie

Captain Cookie has been at every single FOSH event and will be there again (as is the tasty tradition). They make amazing cookies and moonpies.

There will be kid activity tables by the local Montessori school and Lincoln's Cottage, and a face painter and other kid activities. And of course, kids have a whole golf driving range to run around on and who doesn't love that?

I spoke with John Hughes, who runs the Friends' group about the event.

How did the Spring Fling and the events at the Home get started?
"The Friends group started in November 2011 with our first event, "Big Bucks Bingo" at the Home that December. Our volunteer events went on from there," John said. "In 2012, the Home suggested the group look to invite the community to come in and watch fireworks on July 4th. Because military bases often hold Oktoberfests, the Home encouraged us to do an Oktoberfest in the Fall, and it went great," John said. "After those successes with the community, I asked the Home if we could add one in the Spring. Our former board member, Linda Lawson, and her planning committee, suggested the name Spring Fling. Now we are on the fourth annual!"

FOSH organizers John Hughs and Reyn Anderson

What do you see as the benefits to the AFRH residents?
"The residents love the solitude and tranquility of their beautiful campus, but they also love to see people from the community come in and enjoy themselves at these festivals, particularly all the children. Many people chat up the residents and thank them for their military service, and for inviting them in to the campus. The residents love making those connections."

"I was up at the Home last night and lots of the veterans told me they are coming down, so it'll be a great opportunity to mingle with some fabulous men and women."

What do you hope the Petworth community gets from this beyond a good time?
"I have always felt the Soldiers Home is the hub of the community. That is particularly true with Lincoln's Cottage and Creative Minds charter school now located there. The experience people have with the beauty and history of the campus is powerful. We always have a nature walk as part of Spring Fling. Then there are the connections people make with veterans and with others who live in the community. Not long ago the community and Home were quite separated from one another. The barbed wire on the fence has come down. The relationship is blossoming."    

What kind of assistance does FOSH need from Petworth residents?
"Last year 225 people volunteered for FOSH. We are so grateful to those who get on our volunteer list by writing volunteerfriendsofsoldiers@gmail.com and come to Jingo, Happy Hour, Saloon Night With Friends and Bowling With Friends, or who help out at a festival. We love our frequent friends, but three-quarters of our volunteers help out once or twice a year. That is OK! Every little bit helps. Beyond that, we are always on the hunt for event planners, web designers, fundraisers, organization developers, board members." If you want to help with one of those roles, email John.

Any beer on site again this year?
"Oh yeah, multiple flavors! Courtesy of Anheuser."