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An official announcement of the opening of the Capital Wheel took place during a VIP event on May 22 at National Harbor. Children and adults were entertained while waiting for darkness to cover the sky. Various activities led up to a light show featuring 1.6 million LED lights, which are fully programmable. In addition to views of the Potomac River, the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol are two landmarks which are reportedly visible from the top of the observation wheel. Up to eight passengers can ride in each of 42 gondolas for 12 to 15 minutes.

Jon Peterson, Senior Vice President of The Peterson Companies, opened the event by welcoming everyone. Peterson acknowledged special guests who attended through United Service Organizations (USO). Ranna Armstrong—the center manager of the Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir— offered remarks.

“On behalf of the troops, and their families joining us here today, I want to thank Peterson Companies for asking us to be a part of this very special grand opening event. The fact that you chose local military members and their families to be the first to ride this amazing wheel back here speaks volumes about your support for our Nation’s Troops and their loved ones. I also want to thank Peterson Companies for their partnership and support of USO-Metro throughout the entire year.”

Armstrong reminded that one of the largest concentrations of military members in the world is in this region. She also stated that USO-Metro is the largest chartered USO center in the world. Thirty military families from Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Ft. Belvoir, Ft. Myer, and Marine Corps Base Quanitco headed to the dock toward the 180-foot-tall Capital Wheel. Guests tested out the observation wheel in their own gondola, during the inaugural ride.

“One hundred-twenty days ago there was nothing out on that pier. What we’ve done in one hundred-twenty days is a great accomplishment,” Jon Peterson said.

Peterson requested a round of applause for the contractor. He also credited Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III with helping the county to become a better place. Peterson made specific mention of National Harbor, Tanger Outlets, and the Capital Wheel. County Executive Baker congratulated USO-Metro for their work, then shared how the nonprofit organization supported his military family.

“My Dad did 30 years. What a lot of folks don’t know is during his second tour he was severely wounded in Vietnam. It was the USO that allowed my brothers and sisters and I—and my Mom—to do a video while he was recuperating in Hawaii.”

County Executive Baker also remarked that he will be happy that people will be spending their money to ride and enjoy the latest attraction at National Harbor. Milton Peterson, CEO of Peterson Companies, spoke about being a developer in search of great ideas. The concept of the Capital Wheel reportedly evolved during a trip that he took with his wife.

“We happened to be staying at a great hotel on the Place de la Concorde—a very fancy place—okay? On the other side of the Place de la Concorde is the Louve. I saw this wheel. I said, ‘Wow. Isn’t that neat?’ I rode in it and said, ‘If this is befitting of being in the Place de la Concorde, how about National Harbor?’”

After finishing the story, Peterson stated, “The only thing that we have left to do now is to go round and round. So, welcome. Let’s take a ride.”

The Capital Wheel will be available for a variety of events. Wolfgang Puck can cater a day or night of VIP treatment. The cost for adult riders is $15 per ride plus tax. The military rate is $13.50 plus tax. For more details, visit www.thecapitalwheel.com. The Capital Wheel officially opened at National Harbor May 23.