Alexandria is turning 271 years old next month, but due to coronavirus concerns the city’s annual massive birthday event will be virtual.
The event, which also celebrates the countrywide July 4 festivities, draws thousands of residents and visitors along Oronoco Bay Park to receive birthday cupcakes; listen to the city’s poet laureate; and ooh and ahh at a fireworks show over the Potomac River as the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) plays the 1812 Overture — with actual howitzer blast punctuations by the Presidential Salute Battery of the 3d United States Infantry Regiment.
According to the city calendar, “Because all special events have been cancelled or postponed through August, the City of Alexandria’s annual Birthday Party and fireworks will not be held in person this year. The City will announce virtual alternatives for this celebration of Alexandria’s 271st and the USA’s 244th birthday.”
ASO Music Director James Ross said that last year’s event was a blast and that he has tried presenting an alternative concert to the city.
“All I know is that they cancelled the concert, so we aren’t participating,” Ross said. “We’re trying to propose what modular version of a concert that we can, even if it’s just 10 musicians… I had such fun leading the concert last year, and I hope that events with gatherings of thousands of people and fireworks will come back as we learn to live with the coronavirus.”
Old Town resident Hal Hardaway enjoys the annual event, but supports the cancellation.
“I think it’s probably a good idea,” Hardaway said. “I don’t go overboard about the coronavirus, but I do use caution. It is important (to cancel it), even though I’ve been going to that celebration for 21 years. I love the symphony and seeing the people, but it’s usually just packed, so it would be too close.”
Incidentally, Hardaway is a co-founder of the annual Old Town Festival of Speed & Style, which was rescheduled from June 7 to September 6.
Staff photo by James Cullum