There are only 150 houses lining seven streets in the compact Fairfax County community of Oakton Glen, but the population of the small neighborhood includes more than 200 children under the age of 16.
That is 60 more than were listed in the community's directory four years ago.
During the neighborhood's recent fall festival, where one block of Oakton Glen Drive was cordoned off, bicycles lined the curb. Neighborhood girls ran the spin art and snow cone machines while some boys conducted a hastily put together magic show. Teen and adult volunteers helped control the entrance to the Moon Bounce, lifting children over the pile of discarded shoes at the entrance and keeping things somewhat orderly. "First, young children, then older!" barked one dad, adding jokingly, "Then the dogs!"
"I like how this is all one big family," said Kelly Corish, 11, who was entertaining toddlers with piggyback rides.
The entrance to the community, just off Chain Bridge Road west of the town of Vienna, is graced by a striking green wood frame house with white porticos. The six-bedroom, three-bath house, built in 1919 and the site of lavish parties in the 1940s, is known as Twin Oaks. "There's a comforting aspect of this house that I haven't been able to put my finger on," said Skip Gault, whose family has owned the property since 1980.
Janice Farr, a real estate agent who has lived in Oakton Glen since the neighborhood was developed in the late 1970s, remembers when the Twin Oaks property also included a large barn with turrets. The barn, with two bathrooms and a large stone fireplace, served as a temporary school for students displaced by a fire at a nearby elementary school in 1944. Before it was torn down in 1980, the barn was also the site of the community's first Halloween party. Farr has just completed a drawing of the old building for an upcoming edition of Oakton Glen's community directory.
The houses of Oakton Glen itself are Colonials with a handful of split-foyers and split-levels, said Sandee Byrne, also an original resident. Most are a basic four-bedroom, 21/2-bath, two-car-garage design. In 1978, they sold for about $97,000; the most recent sale was $660,000.
Association dues are $175 a year. "Most of it goes to grounds keeping," said Ed Byrne, association president. The only recreational amenities within Oakton Glen are two tennis courts, available on a first-come, first-served basis, and the large open lawn in front of Twin Oaks, where children play soccer.
House lots are small, but well maintained. Credit for the Byrnes' nicely landscaped back yard goes to her husband, Sandee Byrne said. "He has the green thumb. I have a green finger," she said. Then she mockingly demonstrated by pointing a forefinger at an imaginary plant and saying, "This would go nicely over there."
Oakton Glen's wooded setting and its proximity to James Madison High School have been big draws for families. Bill Jeschke, who along with his wife, Melanie, has home-schooled most of their nine children through eighth grade, praised the local high school. "Madison is one of the 'good buzz' schools, one of the best in the state," said Jeschke, pastor of King's Chapel, a Fairfax church.
"Buzz" might be the sound you would expect to hear when so many children live in a neighborhood just off a busy commercial thoroughfare such as Route 123, and yet Oakton Glen is surprisingly tranquil. Residents are only steps from nature because creeks and a wooded path snake through 27 acres of common ground.
Pati McGahern, a home-schooled seventh grader, said she likes the country atmosphere along the path and enjoys hosting "boots in the water" parties in the creek. "We just start in one place and follow the creek until we can't go any further, cleaning up trash along the way," she said.
The homeowners association maintains the path. Sandee Byrne said she and friends occasionally carry clippers with them on their walks, trimming branches along the way.
Oakton Glen appears to attract people who enjoy walking. Robert McGahern walks the two miles from his house to the Vienna Metro station, where he catches the Orange line to his office in Ballston. Several walking clubs have formed in the community, some starting their strolls as early as 5:30 a.m.
George Bentley, who has three daughters, said: "The houses are close enough that kids can get together easily. In other areas, parents have to drive them everywhere."
When author Robbie Kaplan and her husband moved from the town of Vienna to nearby Oakton Glen 14 years ago, they were particularly taken with a Halloween tradition where children would gather for grilled hot dogs and hamburgers before going trick or treating.
"We were charmed. . . . It's a nice tradition," Kaplan said.
This year, two families -- one at each end of the community -- will throw pizza parties for the children before the trick or treating begins. The homeowners association provides the pizza and drinks, while residents supplement with side dishes and desserts.
Then the parade of costumes begins. "They all come at once," said Scott Garrod, a three-year resident and treasurer of the homeowners association. "You sit out front with a big bowl of candy and you're done in an hour."