The Triangle: News in 5 (Feb 22)

James City County seeks input from citizens; an AutoZone distribution hub will bring hundreds of new jobs and Virginia's school mask mandate will soon end. Plus, Russia and Ukraine are on the brink.

Good Morning!

And Happy ‘Twosday,’ 2/22/22.

I hope you enjoyed the long weekend. ICYMI: Colonial Williamsburg put on an excellent President’s Day weekend program, An Evening with the Presidents, which was streamed live and can be viewed here.

The weather will be all over the place on the Peninsula this week, shifting back and forth between spring-like and winter temperatures. Cold air will settle in over the weekend, bringing the possibility for snow on Sunday night, according to an early warning forecast by News 3 Meteorologist Myles Henderson.

There are a number of events happening in the area this week. Some highlights include a W&M and Dewey Decibel concert featuring saxophonist Greg Osby, the “After Angelo” Black History Month celebration at Jamestown Settlement, “Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars” and the Dedication of the Benjamin Spraggins Carriage at Colonial Williamsburg.

If you have an event you’d like to submit for consideration – or want to share comments or suggestions for future newsletters – please send me an email.

Now to the news.


Local & Statewide

1. James City County is asking citizens to participate in a survey about the area’s heritage and cultural features.

  • The survey “represents a critical opportunity for citizens to review six draft maps developed as part of the Natural and Cultural Assets planning effort,” a County news release said.
    • Survey topics fall under several key categories, including natural habitats, agriculture, forestry, water resources, cultural resources and recreation.
  • Citizens will be able to share their thoughts about which heritage and cultural resources areas should be added to the maps, such as scenic views, historic sites, walking or biking areas, agricultural sites and more.
  • The survey is available here, and paper surveys can also be found at the James City County Library and James City County Recreation Center through March 7.
  • Why it’s important: The efforts to map and plan the County’s natural and cultural assets began in fall 2021. The mapping process helps the County make decisions about where to plan infrastructure projects and where to prioritize conservation and restoration.

2. A major AutoZone distribution center is set to open in New Kent County, creating hundreds of jobs.

  • The $185.2 million, 800,000 square-foot facilities will create over 350 new jobs, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced in a news release Friday. The center will serve as AutoZone’s East Coast distribution operation.
    • AutoZone – which operates over 6,400 stores in the U.S – is the largest auto parts retailer in the nation.
  • The project was secured through a partnership between The Port of Virginia, New Kent County and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. A $2.5 million grant was also approved by Gov. Northam from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to support the new development, the release said.
  • “During our rigorous and competitive search process to identify our next distribution center location, Virginia and New Kent County leadership were tremendous and instrumental in us deciding to join this wonderful community,” said Bill Rhodes, AutoZone Chairman, President, and CEO in a news release. “Our large-scale investment in New Kent County is an important part of our strategy for accelerated growth and represents our commitment to always put customers first.”

An AutoZone distribution center will be built in New Kent County, bringing hundreds of jobs. AutoZone is the leading auto parts retailer in the U.S. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

3. The ongoing search for Codi Bigsby is gaining worldwide attention thanks to social media efforts.

  • It’s been three weeks since 4-year-old Codi Bigsby of Hampton was first reported missing. Nonetheless, volunteers say they’re as determined as ever to locate the child, News 3 reports.
  • One woman dedicated to the search effort, Karena Thomas, has launched a public Facebook group to help find Codi. The group has grown to more than 24,500 members and consists of people who are dedicated to unraveling the mystery of what happened to the toddler – and bringing Codi home.
  • “There’s members that are losing sleep over this. It’s hitting that community very hard. It’s even hitting people that don’t live in that community, not even in that state, hard,” Thomas said. “Any one flier or his picture could jog someone’s memory.”

4. A mother-daughter team has opened the Peninsula’s first selfie studio.

  • The Newport News-based studio – named Say Cheezz – features 5,000 square feet of space complete with over 30 different photo backdrops, green screen rooms and more. People can rent the space for private parties or buy a ticket to reserve a full hour for selfies, according to the studio’s website.
  • While the studio just opened earlier this month, owners Tawana Randolph and Chelsea Haskins told the Daily Press they’ve already served customers ranging from age 2 to 85.
  • The owners also hope to partner with local organizations to reach a shared goal of ensuring that the studio can become a fun, safe and affordable place for local young people to hang out.
  • “This is a family-run business and I think we’re just opening our arms for a bigger hug around the community,” Haskins said. ” If we can help to keep kids out of trouble that’s just as gratifying as making the money.”


View more on Instagram.
The Peninsula’s 1st Selfie Studio – An Experience Like No Other

Reserve your tickets online at www.saycheez…

5. School mask mandates in Virginia are coming to an end.

  • Governor Youngkin signed a fast-tracked law on Wednesday, ending school mask mandates in Virginia, the Virginia Mercury reports. Schools must begin making masks optional as of March 1, according to the new law.
  • In remarks following the bill signing, the governor noted that the legislation originated in the Senate, meaning that it couldn’t have passed without support from some Democrats.
    • Youngkin also emphasized that while the mandate is ending, parents can and should continue to mask their children if they feel more comfortable doing so. “It’s really important that we respect each other’s decisions,” he said.
  • Up next: Youngkin said he’s hopeful the new law won’t face additional legal challenges. In the meantime, he’s setting his sights on new tax cuts, including one-time rebates for taxpayers, gas tax relief and the repeal of the grocery tax, according to 13 News Now.

Local Covid-19 Update

New cases: ➕

VDH reports that an additional 19,994 people in Virginia tested positive for Covid-19 last week. Community transmission remains high in every county on the Peninsula, according to the CDC Covid-19 data tracker. The highest numbers of cases in Hampton Roads were recorded in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Hampton, WTVR reports.

Hospitalizations and deaths: A total of 1,221 patients are currently hospitalized with Covid-19 in Virginia. That’s a decline of 479 patients compared to a week ago, according to VHHA data. 250 of the currently hospitalized patients are in the ICU, and 157 are on ventilators.

An additional 539 Covid-19 related deaths occurred last week in Virginia, according to VDH.

Vaccination rate: 71.7% of Virginians are fully vaccinated (up from 70.8% last week).

Good News

Every child attending a Newport News elementary school received free new books last week.

  • The students, who attend Newsome Park Elementary School, were selected by the “If You Give a Child a Book Campaign…,” made possible by News 3. Sponsorship for the initiative was also provided by the Scripps Howard Foundation.
  • News 3 staff and community members donated more than $12,600 for the initiative in 2021, which made it possible to purchase 2,538 children’s books. As a result, each of the kids at Newsome Park received five new books for free, which they picked out for themselves at the Scholastic Book Fair.
  • “I’m on a whole adventure when I read books. It’s just super fun,” fifth-grade student Denver Brown said upon receiving his free books.
  • More information about the “If You Give a Child A Book…” campaign is available here.


View more on Instagram.
Reading is fundamental, and the News 3 team invites you to join us in a special read-along!

This year for the…


1. The U.S and its European allies are imposing sanctions against Russia as fears of a Ukraine invasion materialize.

  • The new sanctions were announced after a rare emergency U.N meeting was held among Western nations Monday night, according to Reuters. The details of the sanctions are expected to be released sometime Tuesday.
  • The news comes after President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would recognize separatist regions in Ukraine as independent during a history-altering rant during which he appeared visibly angry, according to the AP. The U.S and EU swiftly denounced Putin’s move, calling it a violation of international law.
    • Putin is attempting to turn the tables, alleging that Ukraine is the true aggressor and is acting as a “puppet of the West,” according to ABC News. Amid the major escalation, the White House on Monday night urged Ukraine’s President Zelensky to leave Ukraine for his own safety.
  • American personnel were evacuated out of Ukraine to neighboring Poland Monday as video surfaced showing Russian tanks rolling into Ukrainian territory. While Putin said the forces are there for “peacekeeping operations” – without further elaborating – U.S officials sounded alarms of an impending major invasion, Axios reports.
  • Leaders throughout the world are reacting to Putin’s actions in strong terms.
    • In a televised address early Tuesday, Ukraine’s President Zelensky said the nation “will not give away anything to anyone.”
    • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also released a strongly worded statement, saying: “[NATO] allies urge Russia, in the strongest possible terms, to choose the path of diplomacy, and to immediately reverse its massive military build-up in and around Ukraine, and withdraw its forces from Ukraine in accordance with its international obligations and commitments.”
    • In remarks before the U.N Council Monday, U.S Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield strongly denounced President Putin’s “outrageous, false claims about Ukraine aimed at creating a pretext for war.” She also said Putin falsely stated that Ukraine is seeking nuclear weapons from the West.
      • “The consequences of Russia’s actions will be dire – across Ukraine, across Europe, and across the globe,” Thomas-Greenfield said. ” If Russia invades Ukraine even further, we will see a devastating loss of life. Unimaginable suffering.”
  • The latest: Germany has announced that it will stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, USA Today reports.

Other headlines in the nation:

Events This Week

Multiple Days

VITA Free Tax Preparation Service – Free tax preparation and electronic filing services are available to the public this year. Offered by the Greater Williamsburg Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, the goal is to offer assistance to those who would find the cost of a paid preparer burdensome. Includes basic federal and state income tax returns. Offered on a first-come, first-served basis on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:00 pm – 5:30 pm and Saturdays, 9:00 am – 1:30 pm. Covid-19 precautions will be followed and masks are required. See website for details.

Spring Homeschool Days – Colonial Williamsburg. Homeschoolers and their families can enjoy special deals on admission, hotels and interactive program experiences during CW’s annual Spring Homeschool Days, Feb. 26 – Mar. 6. Single-day and multi-day tickets are available during this period for 50% off retail. Special programming like private history walking tours, an 18th-century science lecture and a behind-the-scenes tour of CW’s stable and carriage facilities are also available. See website for additional details.

Black History Month at Colonial Williamsburg – Colonial Williamsburg is running special programming for Black History Month all month long. See the full list of those events here.

Colonial Williamsburg Hiring Event – Williamsburg Lodge. Every Wednesday in February, 12-7 pm. CW is actively seeking to fill hospitality roles, including guest services, food and beverage, housekeeping and more. Hiring bonuses will be offered for a limited time.

Black History Month at the Virginia Living Museum – VLM is offering special activities relating to African American scientists all month long. This week, the focus is on Khalia Braswell, who founded the INTech Camp for Girls to encourage girls to become innovators in the technology industry.

WRL Youth Art Show – Middle and high school students in James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg are invited to submit hangable, original artwork to be included in the Williamsburg Regional Library Youth Art Show. The show will take place between March 6 – March 31, and all submissions must be received by February 25.

“Snow Many Books” Reading Challenge – Virtual. Williamsburg Regional Library is running a reading challenge for kids throughout the month of February. Participants can log on to all month long to log their reading progress, complete activities and ultimately earn 3-D pieces to build a snowman.

Black History Month Reading Challenge – Newport News Public Library (Virtual). Participants who spend 420 minutes reading books written by or about African Americans will receive a completion badge and a prize.

Busch Gardens Mardi Gras – Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. Jan. 28 – Feb. 27. Features jazzy live music, Mardi Gras-inspired food, colorful entertainment and more. Suitable for guests of all ages. Fridays, 3:00 – 8:00 pm and Saturdays and Sundays, 12:00 – 6:00 pm.

Ice Skating at Liberty Ice Pavilion – Colonial Williamsburg. Daily through Feb. 27, 2022. Features ice-skating and a concession stand that sells hot chocolate, hot cider and other treats. See the full ice rink schedule here.

Afterschool Crafts – James City County Library. Monday – Thursday, 4:00-7:00 pm; Friday, 4:00-6:00 pm. This drop-in event features new crafts every week.

Wednesday, Feb. 23

Change is Coming with G. Pamphlet and G. Mason – Hennage Auditorium at Colonial Williamsburg. Enslaved Baptist preacher, Gowan Pamphlet, learns that Virginia’s new Declaration of Rights promises religious freedom and states that “all men are born equal and free.” Watch as Pamphlet seeks out George Mason, the primary author of the document, to find out how it will change his life. Included with art museum admission or a Good Neighbor pass. 1:30 -2:15 pm.

Friday, Feb. 25

Teens Night Out – Stryker Center in Williamsburg. Features teens-only gaming and activities hosted by Williamsburg Regional Library. Masks required. Free. 6:00 – 8:00 pm.

W&M Ewell Concert Series and Dewey Decibel Series Present Greg Osby – Williamsburg Regional Library (515 Scotland St.). Osby is an award-winning saxophonist, composer and producer who has been recognized by the New York Times as one of the “most provocative musical thinkers of his generation.” Artist talk begins at 6:00 pm; concert begins at 7:00 pm. Masks required. Free.

Virginia Symphony Orchestra Presents: Uptown Nights – Ferguson Center in Newport News. Featuring Byron Stripling, heralded as a “powerhouse trumpeter gifted with a soulful voice and a charismatic onstage swagger.” 7:30 pm. Tickets can be purchased here.

Saturday, Feb. 26

Afro American Watermen’s Walk – York River State Park in Williamsburg. Learn about the ways in which African Americans have held an integral role in the Chesapeake Bay’s seafood industry. A ranger will offer a guided walk along the shoreline and discuss the world of enslaved and free “blackjack” watermen. You’ll also hear about how some African Americans are continuing to keep this important component of history alive. 10:00 am – 11:30 pm. Included in park admission.

After Angelo – Jamestown Settlement. This full-day event features a lively celebration of African American culture and heritage. Highlights include showcased artwork from Black artists, special musical performances and storytelling. This event is included in admission and is free for residents of Williamsburg, James City County and York County (proof of residency is required). 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Dedication of the Benjamin Spraggins Carriage – Colonial Williamsburg Courthouse. The public is invited to this communitywide dedication of the Benjamin Spraggins Carriage. Colonial Williamsburg will honor the legacy of Benjamin Spraggins and other CW Black Coachmen with a carriage processional beginning at the Colonial Capital at 12:30 pm. A dedication ceremony will follow at 1:00 pm. This event will also be streamed live online. Free.

Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars – Crosswalk Church in Norge. This show is a collaborative fundraiser to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Virginia Peninsula and Literacy for Life. Ten individuals and a team of 20 local stars have trained with a professional dancer will participate in a live competitive dance number. You can donate in support of the stars and the cause here. The show starts at 7:00 pm. Tickets – including virtual streaming tickets – can also be purchased here.

Battlefield Tour: Redoubts 9 and 10 – Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters in Yorktown. This walking tour features the captivating story of how the Allies took over both redoubts in under 30 minutes, leading to the British Army’s surrender within five days. Meets at the National Park Service visitor parking lot. Masks are required when within 6 feet to another guest and when inside Mobjack Bay Coffee. 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Yorktown Market Days: Winter Market – Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown. This special winter waterfront market offers a variety of vendors and artists. Find seasonal produce, fresh meats and breads, homemade soaps and candles and more – all while enjoying the view of the York River. 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.

Sunday, Feb. 27

WRL Black History Month Featured Film: King Richard – Williamsburg Library. 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. See website for film description. Free.

An African American History of the Civil War in Hampton Roads – York Hall (301 Main St.) in Yorktown. This is a free public lecture presented by York County Historical Committee, featuring author, historian and NSU professor Dr. Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander. Masks are required and seating is limited. 3:00 pm.


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