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Upcoming Alexandria and American birthday celebrations could bring more tall ships

The Tall Ship Providence and The Cherry Blossom on the Potomac River with the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in the distance. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria is planning to pull out all the stops for its 275 birthday next year and, can we just say: it doesn’t look a day over 200.

At a City Council meeting last night, Gretchen Bulova, director of the Office of Historic Alexandria, said the city is preparing for the big 275 next summer with celebrations tying in with state and nationwide events. The city is planning to celebrate from April 24 through Labor Day.

“[It’s] focused on the city, community and really making this focused around oral history,” Bulova said.

But some of the bigger celebrations are a little further off on the horizon. Two years later, 2026, is the 250th anniversary of the United States of America. Virginia is also hosting a similar birthday celebration called Virginia 250.

“This is not your grandma’s 1976 celebration with colonial costumes and celebrating the Declaration of Independence,” said Bulova. “That’s not what this commemoration is about. It’s a look at where we are as a nation after 250 years.”

Bulova said America 250 will focus in part on the stories of immigrant communities that helped to shape the country.

One of the more exciting parts of the 250 celebrations is Sail 250, a multi-state tall ship celebration that will see a small fleet of sailing ships tour the country. Bulova she’s working on having Alexandria be a port partner for Sail 250.

“Sail 250 going to start in New Orleans and hit major ports culminating with a July 4 celebration in Boston Harbor,” Bulova said. “We have the opportunity to be a part of that, which [would have] a huge economic impact for our city.”

Bulova said one of the ports along the way is Norfolk, but the southern Virginia port can’t hold the whole Sail 250 fleet, which is where Alexandria comes in.

“There are 50 ships planned to sail and Norfolk cannot support 50 ships,” Bulova said. “We’re looking at up to four ships in June 2026. There will be some waterfront remediation going on, we are aware of that, we’ve talked about that. The size and location of the ships will be coordinated well in advance as well.”

Next year also marks the anniversary of the Fairfax Resolves, a set of resolutions penned by George Mason in 1774 that rejected British claim to authority over the American colonies.

“On July 18, 2024 we’ll do something about the Fairfax Resolves,” said Bulova. “That’s really significant in history… 30 other jurisdictions in Virginia did this, but apparently we were the most aggressive. So that’s something to be proud of.”

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