Alexandria, Va., celebrates Washington's birthday


February 13, 1994|By Dorothy Fleetwood | Dorothy Fleetwood,Contributing Writer

Alexandria, Va., pays tribute to its most famous citizen, George Washington, with numerous activities celebrating his birthday next weekend.

Washington, who enjoyed parties, was honored at a number of grand balls during his career. The tradition continues each year at Gadsby's Tavern Museum in Alexandria, site of the original Birthnight Ball.

Saturday's ball is set in 1780, the year that Washington celebrated his 48th birthday with family and friends. The evening begins with cocktails at 6:30 p.m. at the Old Town Ramada Hotel. Many of the guests will come as Colonial figures, and birthday toasts that were made to Washington on those occasions will be repeated. The event will feature an 18th-century-style banquet; after dinner, guests will attend the ball at Gadsby's Tavern. Admission is $40 per person. Reservations are required. Call (703) 823-6351.

The next day a Revolutionary War encampment and skirmish will be presented at Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site. Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. the public can visit a military encampment, where soldiers and their families re-create life of the period. Highlight of the day will be a skirmish between Colonial and British troops at 2 p.m. Admission is free. The fort is at 4301 W. Braddock Road in Alexandria. Call (703) 838-4848.

The main event of the weekend is the George Washington Birthday Parade Feb. 21 (the federal holiday) at 1 p.m. The parade will be preceded by a performance by the Mount Vernon Guard on the steps of the Lyceum, 201 S. Washington St. and a dramatic reading of Washington's Farewell Address between 11 and 1 p.m. It is the nation's largest Washington's Birthday parade, with more than 4,000 participants. At 2:30 p.m. the First Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line will take part in a free service and salute at the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War soldier at the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, 321 S. Fairfax St. Call (703) 838-4200.

The Alexandria Symphony will present birthday concerts Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. and Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial. During the program, actor Robert Bornarth, in the role of Washington, will introduce each selection with a personal commentary. Ticket prices range from $8 to $20. Call (703) 548-0045.

Nearby at Washington's home, Mount Vernon, the public will be admitted free of charge from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 21. William Sommerfield, who is internationally recognized as an interpreter of George Washington, will be on hand to greet visitors. Events include a wreath-laying ceremony at 10 a.m. complete with color guard and an Army Band bugler playing taps; a performance of Revolutionary War military and patriotic tunes by the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps; and a demonstration of Revolutionary War military tactics by the Commander-in-Chief's Guard, 3rd U.S. Infantry. Mount Vernon is located at the southern end of the George Washington Parkway, eight miles south of Alexandria. Call (703) 780-2000.Valley Forge tribute

Tributes to Washington continue at Valley Forge Historical Park in Valley Forge, Pa., where the general spent the harsh winter of 1777-'78 with troops of his Continental Army. Re-enactment troops will be at the park Saturday and Feb. 20 to engage in tactical demonstrations and routines of camp life. Four of the park's log cabins will be open, and programs are scheduled at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. both days.

Feb. 21, five programs on Washington will be presented in the west wing of the Visitor Center. The first, "Washington for Children," is a hands-on talk geared to children at 10 a.m. The talks continue with "Washington in the French and Indian War" at 11:30 a.m.; "Washington as Commander in Chief" at 1:30 p.m.; "President Washington" at 3 p.m. and "Death of Washington" at 4 p.m. All park programs are free. Call (215) 783-1077.

Also on Feb. 21, the Valley Forge Historical Society, situated in the park, will hold open house and serve Martha Washington's "Great Cake." The museum will be open free of charge between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Call (215) 783-0535.Richmond flower show

Visitors in Richmond will get a taste of spring at the fifth annual Maymont Flower & Garden Show at the Richmond Convention Centre during Presidents Day weekend.

This year the show has been extended to four days from Friday through Monday. "Winter Blues and Other Colors," the show's theme, incorporates musical blues by local jazz groups.

A seminar series will again be held at the adjoining Richmond Marriott Hotel. Roger Swain, co-host of the PBS television show "Victory Garden," heads a list of speakers that includes floral designer Michael Polychrone; Erik Neumann, education director of the National Arboretum; Diane Relf, faculty member at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and landscape architect Alice Ireys.

Historic Richmond Tours offers an opportunity to see the show without the crowds. The package includes admission to the show one hour before the doors open to the public, lunch at the Virginia Historical Society and a program on gardening followed by an afternoon tour of several notable private gardens in the Richmond area. The cost is $32. Deadline for reservations is Feb. 14. Call (804) 780-0107.

Show hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday. Admission is $6 for adults; $3 for ages 2 to 12; free for under 2. A $10 (adult) or $5 (child) weekend pass allows unlimited access to the show. Proceeds will benefit the Maymount Foundation, which operates 100-acre Victorian estate in the heart of Richmond. Call (804) 358-7166.

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