“It ties the whole community together”: 40th annual Potomac Day celebrates local businesses, culture and creativity


Caroline Reichert

Businesses like East West Tae Kwon Do performed live demonstrations, while others like DogiZone, a dog boarding and daycare facility, asked community members to guess the number of dog treats in a plastic container to win a special deal.

By Caroline Reichert

As the mild October sun beams down on the crowds of people flocking to the Potomac Promenade strip, a tight-knit community prepares for its annual whirlwind event. James Michael Kelly, a Potomac Day car show participant, carefully inspects his silver Jaguar XK120 to ensure it’s still in prime condition. Zande, a Vie De France employee, bustles back and forth behind the glass counters of the Potomac bakery bagging sandwiches and croissants. Girl scout troop leader Dianna Owens escorts her troop into position behind the glowing red fire trucks for the parade. Winston Churchill High School sophomore Lizze Li and members of the Formosa Association of Student Cultural Ambassadors (FASCA) run through their complex diabolo routine, watching the yo-yo fall perfectly onto the string. 

On Oct. 22, the Potomac community came together to celebrate Potomac Day, a popular event that features a carnival-style children’s fair, a car show and a parade down Falls Road through the Potomac Village. 

For 40 years, the Potomac Chamber of Commerce (PCC) — a group of officials that has grown to include the D.C area, who aim to support small and mid-sized businesses — has organized Potomac Day. The organization connects local businesses with networking opportunities, leads and referrals year round. 

The event started in 1982 as a small-town event that celebrated the classic hunting culture within the Potomac area. When it began, the event focused on the parade that featured horses, people dressed up in traditional fox hunt attire and members of the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

Whitman parent Creighton Armstrong Sr. has attended the event since its inaugural run in 1982 and said that one of his fondest memories from the event as a kid was standing along the parade route and watching the horses. But, for Armstrong, the event is also just as special when he gets to spend it with his family. He recalls taking his own children up to the festival every year while they were young. 

However, the event looks a lot different now than it did when Armstrong was a kid. Back then, the event served more as a town fair and had more of a small town feel than it does today. 

“After the parade, everybody would kind of gather,” Armstrong said. “You’d be able to kind of pet the horses and see some of the other animals and there were tractors and that kind of stuff.”

Today, Potomac Day resembles a hustling business fair. Rows of tents fill the parking lot at the promenade in Potomac Village, each home to a business advertising services and promoting goods. Colorful signs and displays stand at the forefront of each tent. Businesses like East West Tae Kwon Do performed live demonstrations, while others like DogiZone, a dog boarding and daycare facility, asked community members to guess the number of dog treats in a plastic container to win a special deal. 

The children’s fair portion of the event, set up on the Potomac Plaza across Falls Road, is full of fun and laughter. The fair features carnival games like whack-a-mole, moon bounces spanning over great heights and fall-themed crafts set up by Great Kids Events, a party planning company that sets up inflatables and puts on shows. 

The event also had a portion of the promenade sectioned off for a quaint car show, which featured two small rows of cars in various, bright colors. The cars were in peak condition, shining in the sunlight, without a spot or a scratch. Kelly brought his car to the show to connect with other vintage car owners, show off and have a good time, he said. This year was Kelly’s first time experiencing Potomac Day after a friend from a past car show invited him to the event. 

“I heard that it was a small and manageable show,” Kelly said. “And sure enough it is.” 

While the car show was modest in scale, it represented a small portion of the event, which spanned both sides of Falls Road and welcomed hundreds of community members. 

Businesses like Vie de France, which have storefront locations, had to prepare differently. According to employee Zande, the shop scheduled more people to work shifts during the event and even set up a “mini-booth” outside of their shop to attract festival-goers.

“We made some good profits today,” Zande said. “We kinda set up a little out there, but its been very busy in here. We made some money today.”

For orthodontic assistant April Michelle, Potomac Day is an opportunity for businesses to find more than just profits; it allows them to be creative with the promotion of their products, she said. Michelle attended the event with her coworker Dianne, the creative coordinator at Specialists in Orthodontics. The businesses tent featured entertainment that ranged from a wheel that festival-goers could spin to win orthodontic consultations, to sunglasses they could use in a social media booth. 

“I was not planning on putting a lot of this together,” Michelle said. “So thanks to [Dianne] and Amazon, we had to get super creative, but it was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience.”

The event has also inspired students to continue involvement with local initiatives. Working at Great Kids Events, Quince Orchard senior Kiran Modi assists with kids’ parties about twice a week. He enjoys bringing smiles to kids’ faces and encourages high school students to get involved with their community through events like Potomac Day, he said. 

“It’s such an important community event,” Modi said. “It ties the whole community together and all the kids are having fun.” 

Potomac Day also allowed community members to learn about different cultures through programs like FASCA. Churchill student Lizze Li joined FASCA in middle school after discovering the program’s efforts to inform community members about Taiwanese-American culture and complete community service projects, she said. Through FASCA Li also presented a diabolo routine — a performance showcasing a traditional Chinese yo-yo that is spun on a string held together by two sticks — at Potomac Day. Li has been practicing the diabolo since middle school and enjoyed sharing her interests with the community and meeting new people, she said. 

The annual event took place less than a month before the Nov. 8 midterm elections, and some attendees noticed that the event was more politically-oriented than they expected. Owens said that she did not expect campaign activities to dominate the parade. 

“It was a lot more political than I expected,” Owens said. “I think about half of the people represented in the parade were there with a candidate for the 2022 election.” 

Still, Potomac Day occupies a special place in the hearts of many community members. For Armstrong, the celebration means watching his son bike to Potomac Day alongside his friend’s son, just as they had as kids. 

“I think Potomac Day is a great tradition,” Armstrong said. “I like that it does give you that small-town feel and that real sense of community.”