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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Williams

Tiny Town, Big Community

Occoquan is a lot of things to a lot of people. To some, it’s that town that their GPS can't seem to pronounce QUITE correctly (it’s “Aww-Kah-Kwan” by the way.) To others, it’s the real life Stars Hollow they go to every holiday to find the perfect gift. And to some (this author included) it’s the place they said “yes!” to a future with the love of their life (thanks gazebo.) But for many, Occoquan is so much more. It’s where they go everyday to work. It’s the town that welcomed the start of their dream business. It’s even the place that some get the joy of calling “home.”

Aside from the obvious allure that a small town holds, what exactly is it that draws people from all over the world to a place like Occoquan? “People come for a wide variety of reasons,” shares local realtor and Town councilmember, Theo Daubresse. “Whether it is because they need a pit stop from driving down the highway, they heard about one of the many community activities the town hosts, or so much more. However, people who ultimately decide to live here often do so because of one thing and that is the community that Occoquan has to offer.”

When he and his wife, Nancy, moved to town almost eight years ago, Henry Brinton was looking for that exact thing: “small-town life on the banks of a beautiful river, in the middle of a vibrant metropolitan area.” And what they found in Occoquan surpassed even those wishes. The town’s “Colonial and Civil War history, combined with natural beauty and a changing array of retail shops, bars, restaurants and art galleries” have made the town the perfect blend of home and history. The Brintons have also experienced firsthand the community that locals are known for, inspiring Henry to pen three novels based on Occoquan: City of Peace, Windows of the Heavens, and newly released, War Bug.

In the fast-paced, high-pressure, higher-stress culture of the DC metro area, coming to a place like Occoquan that still holds peace and quiet is more than a breath of fresh air; it’s an “oasis” as town mayor and resident of more than 20 years, Earnie Porta shares. “The fact that it provides that oasis in the form of a town with restaurants and shops, as opposed to solely a suburban, residential neighborhood, also appeals to people.” 

“It is a community where people actually know and care about each other,” Daubresse says. “You may meet someone while going on a dog walk into town, volunteering at a community event, or taking part in an activity in River Mill Park, but Occoquan gives that small town feel where you actually recognize and care for your neighbors.”

It’s no surprise that housing so much hospitality and community in a mere six-square-block area could be classified as special. But what is it that makes this town truly unique? “It’s the eclectic blend of the traditional and the modern,” Porta summarizes. The shops, businesses, and restaurants in town keep residents and visitors coming back in search of something new, while the rich history and outdoor opportunities give them a sense of tradition and rest. 

“The charm of the town is additive, not exclusive,” shares Paint Your Heart Out owner and 20+ year resident, Nikki Vandover. “The more creative businesses that spring up, the better the town experience becomes for visitors and residents.” With annual events like Riverfest, Fall Arts and Crafts Show, Peep Week, and more, those experiences are guaranteed to fill up calendars and connect visitors with the passionate team of business owners and town residents.

What makes our town a hidden gem is exactly what draws thousands of visitors and hundreds of residents to its borders each year. Whether you live here or not, you’ll always find home in Occoquan.

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