Alexandria, VA

Descendants of the men who led the 1939 Alexandria library sit-in plan to meet tonight for a panel discussion examining how the event impacted their families.

At the Beatley Central Library (5005 Duke Street) at 6:30 p.m., relatives of protestors William “Buddy” Evans and Morris Murray are scheduled to discuss the event and some of the lingering impacts, followed by a question and answer session.

In 1939, five young black men entered the library separately and asked to register for a library card. When each was refused, they picked up a book, took a seat, and began to read. Library staff called the police, who arrested the men for disorderly conduct.

Samuel Tucker, a local lawyer who had helped plan the protest, contacted a photographer who documented the event. Tucker had the men released but used the case as part of a legal push for integration.

Charges were officially dropped this past Friday, after it came to light that the case was never adjudicated so the men had never been declared innocent or guilty. Copies of the judge’s order are planned to be presented by Mayor Justin Wilson to descendants tonight.

The case ultimately resulted in the construction of the Robert H. Robinson Library — today the Alexandria Black History Museum — though Tucker continued to fight for equal access to the library.

Photo via City of Alexandria

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(Updated at 9:30 a.m.) The annual Dance America Rapper Tournament (DART) will take over several pubs in Alexandria this Saturday, October 26, with the public invited to witness the fun.

From 1 p.m. until late into the evening, the sword dancing competition tour will kick off across three pubs in Old Town and end with a celebration at the Durant Arts Center (1605 Cameron Street).

Inspired by British competitions, DART is an organization that hosts an annual competition of American sword dancers.

No, they’re not rhyming verses while swinging swords — “rapper” is a type of old English sword dance dating back to 1715.

According to the event website, “the weekend aims to be a friendly gathering of sword teams, with the added bonus of the rapper competition.”

From approximately 1-3 p.m., different teams will rotate through at rapper competitions at the following pubs:

  • The Light Horse, 715 King Street
  • Columbia Firehouse, 109 South St. Asaph Street
  • Bilbo Baggins Restaurant and Green Dragon Pub, 208 Queen Street

At 3 p.m., all teams will reconvene at the Bilbo Baggins Restaurant for a communal dance.

Afterward, there will be an evening of feasting and celebration at the Durant Arts Center beginning at 6 p.m. At 8 p.m., there will be “Ceilidh Dancing” performances, along with live music from local musicians Frog Hammer and Caroline Barnes.

The Durant Arts Center event will have a $15 admission, along with a cash bar.

Photo via Sligo Creek Sword/Facebook 

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) Old Town’s cobwebs are strung and Del Ray’s carved pumpkins are out, which means it’s Halloween time for Alexandria.

The city is playing host to an ample amount of spooky events this year, including family-friendly parades to a tour of mystery and murder.

The spooky Alexandria events include:

  • Rituals of the Occult on Saturday, October 19 from 7:30-8:30 p.m. offers exploration into “Ancient Druids and Wiccans to Modern Wedding Ceremonies” in the the Ivy Hill Cemetery Burial Vault (2823 King Street) from 7:30-8:30 p.m. exploring ” Ticket sell for $20 and can be ordered online via PayPal.
  • The Haunting of Hill House starting Wednesday, October 23 is a play to be performed at The Little Theater of Alexandria (600 Wolfe Street) based on the 1959 gothic novel by Shirley Jackson about three strangers invited into a haunted house (which also recently became a Netflix series). As of Friday the theater is selling tickets to multiple performances, including Wednesday, October 23, Thursday, October 24, and Friday, October 25. Tickets start at $21. 
  • HOWL-oween Canine Cruise, next Friday, October 25 from 6:30-8 p.m. boards at the Alexandria City Marina (105 North Union Street.) On this canine costume cruise, dogs ride for free, and humans can buy tickets online for $15.75 a piece.
  • Old Town Trick or Treat on Saturday, October 26 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. will welcome children to trick and treat at the shops and restaurants throughout Old Town. Those in need of costumes who can’t afford any can pick up free outfits from the city’s costume drive between 2-4 p.m that Saturday at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center (2701 Commonwealth Avenue.)
  • Halloween Pumpkin Hunt on Saturday, October 26 happens at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. and invites families to gather at the Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden (614 Oronoco Street) to go on a scavenger hunt for treat-filled Halloween crafts, as well as make their own, visit a sticker station, listen to spooky stories, and participate in a costume parade. Tickets can be bought online and range from $5 for adults; $15 for children ages 1-18; and free for infants.
  • Halloween Rock Show at Port City on Saturday, October 26 from 6-10 p.m. at the Port City Brewing Company (3950 Wheeler Avenue) will host three local rock bands (Triadem, Surfin’ Satan and the Beach Demons, Rabid Flash MoB) for a free concert. Attendees are encouraged to wear a costume, and enter to win the best Halloween outfit.
  • Del Ray Halloween Parade on Sunday, October 27 from 2-4 p.m. will also throw a free parade, beginning on Mt. Vernon Avenue and continuing down to the fields at Mt. Vernon Recreation Center. Awards will be given the best costumes with best pet costume, best decorated home, and best decorated stroller, among other categories.
  • Halloween in Old Town on Sunday, October 27 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. will lead participants on a décor detour around Old Town before embarking on a “Ghost and Graveyard Tour” led in lantern light by an 18th century clad guide who will tell the city’s best ghost stories. The event is free but attendees are asked to RSVP on social media.
  • Special Halloween Ghost Tours on October 29, 30, and 31 go from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Alexandria Visitor’s Center (221 King Street.) Tickets can be ordered online and cost $15 for adults and $8 for children. Adults over the age of 65 or who have student or Military ID can buy discount tickets for $15.
  • Trick-or-Treating at Carlyle House on October 31 from 4-6 p.m. at the Carlyle House (121 N. Fairfax Street) offers one last chance to enjoy the holiday and welcomes children to trick or treat in the historic house.
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Del Ray Pizzeria (2218 Mount Vernon Avenue) is celebrating its nine-year anniversary with a pizza party this weekend.

The restaurant, which has previously hosted the Obamas and courted controversy with its “Grab Her By the Pizza” pie a couple years ago, is celebrating this Sunday (Oct. 20) from 2-8 p.m. in the lot behind the restaurant.

According to an employee at the store, the party will have face painting, pumpkin painting, cornhole and other games. They also plan on having a moon bounce that the employee assured ALXnow will fit adults.

The employee noted that in addition to soft drinks, the party will have craft beers available.

“We’ll have our cheese and pepperoni pizza, but also a few specialty favorites,” the employee said.

These specialties include Butcher’s Block — a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham and prosciutto — and Tropic Thunder — sausage, pepperoni, jalapenos, and pineapple.

Photo via Del Ray Pizza

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A candlelight vigil and memorial service will be held outside of Market Square next week (301 King Street) to honor those who have died, or are still suffering from, acts of domestic violence.

The event, on Thursday, Oct. 24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., is hosted by the City of Alexandria’s Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP) to raise awareness of the issue and its prevalence in the city. City officials such as Mayor Justin Wilson and Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter will be present.

A visual memorial will depict 22 people in Alexandria who have lost their lives to acts of domestic violence since the mid-2000s. The vigil will begin with a private viewing for families affected by domestic violence, followed by a public program and reception.

“During the program, we will have a victim read a poem, and then light refreshments will be served,” said Barbara Sweeney, assistant residential coordinator for DVIP.

The vigil is being organized as part of Alexandria’s recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“On Thursday, Oct 24, City employees and the public are invited to wear or display purple to raise awareness about domestic violence,” the city’s website says. “Get involved, take a stand against domestic violence and express solidarity with survivors and their families.”

More from a press release:

The City of Alexandria’s Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP) will host a Silent Witness Candlelight Vigil and Memorial program on October 24, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., in Market Square (301 King St.). This public event is designed to raise awareness about domestic violence and create a space of healing through a visual memorial, which will include life-sized silhouettes of those in Alexandria who have lost their lives to acts of domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive or coercive behavior such as physical assault, verbal abuse, or threat of harm that is used by an individual to exert power or control over another, particularly in the context of a family or intimate relationship. Acts of domestic abuse can be perpetrated by a current or former spouse or partner as well as a parent, stepparent or other relative, and can occur in relationships such as dating between people who do not live together and persons in same-sex relationships.

In 1990, the Silent Witness Initiative began promotion and education to support an end to domestic violence through community-based exhibits. It started with a small group of volunteers in one state and grew into an international presence, with projects in all 50 states and in 23 countries. DVIP participates in Silent Witness Alexandria as one of many activities during the national observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The event will include a private viewing for affected families affected by domestic violence, followed by a public program and reception.

To learn more about the Silent Witness Initiative, or for more information about domestic violence and the Alexandria Domestic Violence Project, visit alexandriava.gov/DomesticViolence. If you or someone you know may be a victim of domestic violence, call 703.746.4911 to speak with someone about services offered. If someone is in immediate danger, always call or text 911.

Photo via City of Alexandria

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Alexandria’s Archeology Museum is inviting the public to come see its new exhibition on ships long-ago sunk to build the city’s waterfront.

This Saturday, October 19, the public will be able to see for themselves how archeologists and volunteers have worked to excavate and restore four of the ships in time for Archeology Month.

The museum will open the free exhibition from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at its public lab at 105 North Union Street.

“Recent development along the waterfront has led to significant discoveries by archaeologists, including the remains of four historic ships,” the museum wrote in its description of the upcoming event.

“Follow the story of the city’s archaeologically recovered maritime heritage from excavation to preservation,” it added. “View a 3D model of one of the historic vessels and find out how archaeologists are answering questions about the age and use of the ships, as well as what role they may have played in Alexandria’s early economy.”

The exhibit is sponsored in part by the Historic Alexandria Foundation.

Those who need accommodations for disabilities can request them by contacting the museum at [email protected] or call 703.746-4399 or Virginia Relay 711.

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Alexandria fire engine (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

First responders can eat for free at an upcoming event in Del Ray.

Southern cuisine destination Live Oak (1603 Commonwealth Ave) is hosting a free breakfast and coffee for firefighters, police officers, and EMTs on Monday, October 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The meal includes free pancakes, bacon, sausage, and coffee, per a restaurant spokeswoman.

“Jeremy and I host the First Responders Brunch every year at Live Oak because we want to show our gratitude to all the folks that put their lives on the line daily for us,” said Justus Frank, Executive Chef and co-owner of Live Oak.

“They work in relatively thankless jobs, and even a small gesture such as free eggs and coffee can help them to feel appreciated,” said Frank.

Officials expected to attend the event include Alexandria Fire Chief Corey Smedley and Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter.

The restaurant is asking that people interested in attending register online.

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Danielle Romanetti, owner of Alexandria yarn store fibre space (1319 Prince Street), is ready for the colder weather.

Even as the store celebrated its ten year anniversary, it faced an unusually difficult summer, with Metro closures and unseasonable warmth leaving business hanging by a thread, so to speak. But now, she’s hopeful that the recent dip into sweater weather heralds the return to wool season.

“Coming off of the Metro closure we needed things to pick up,” Romanetti said. “The end of September and early October was not what it should have been. It was 95 degrees. You bring in a fall inventory then it’s 95 degrees, which is not the most helpful thing ever. I’m hoping things are getting better since this is the kick-off of the fall season.”

With new activities and events lined up for the next couple of months, Romanetti said her store is ready to bounce back.

First up is Slow Fashion October, a celebration tonight (Wednesday) from 5-8 p.m. spanning three local stores: fibre space, Threadleaf, and Stitch Sew Shop. The celebration is focused on clothes that endure for more than just a season.

“It’s about investing money in pieces that are long-lasting and not really a quick disposable item,” Romanetti said. “Investing in the longer-lasting items over time, so our three shops are doing that to help everyone make their own sustainable clothing.”

At fibre space, the focus is on a new breed-and-ranch specific yarn, which Romanetti said is a big deal in the yarn world. It’s yarn sourced from one specific ranch and breed of sheep, which is unusual given that the United States doesn’t have a particularly strong wool market.

Each of the stores is planning to have a special gift with each purchase. Romanetti said any purchase over $50 at fibre space comes with a lanolin bath bomb — a wax secreted from wool-bearing animals that is frequently used in moisturizing products.

“It’s about trying to celebrate all of the ways in which wool and sheep contribute to our livelihoods,” Romanetti said, adding that she’s also excited for a new unique, hand-dyed yarn coming to the store in November.

“It’s a yarn that has two plies, each of a different color,” Romanetti. “It’s dyed in the wool, then plied after that into a two-ply [line].”

The launch party for the unique yarn is scheduled for Saturday, November 9, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Outside of the events, fibre space regularly hosts classes for knitting and crocheting, ranging from beginners to advanced levels.

“If you knit, you know we exist,” Romanetti said. “We have the knitters, but we need to make more knitters.”

Romanetti said the classes help get people who haven’t tried knitting involved in a new hobby and offers people a chance to meet others outside of their usual social circles.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet people,” Romanetti said. “You see people you might no overlap with, like people who are teachers and people who are federal employees. People who are not part of your social structure.”

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(Updated on 10/16/19) Some Alexandria Library patrons are browsing more than just books: these days they’re also checking out discussions about death.

Hannah Risley, the librarian at Duncan Library, is in charge of adult programs from dance workshops to movie nights to book clubs. But last year, she wanted to try something different.

“Essentially what a Death Cafe is you come and you discuss death,” said Risley. She told ALXnow she got the idea from the D.C. Public Library, which also runs a version of nationwide discussion group, as does Arlington Public Library.

Attendees to the library program sit and discuss anything related to death while Risley provides “light moderation.” Over the past year, she said groups of nurses and EMTs have talked about end of life care, while others have come in to chat about estate planning and the afterlife.

The next meeting will take place on Saturday, November 23 from 3-4 p.m. People interested in attending the free event are encouraged to register online.

With an average of 25 people joining each month, Risley says attendance is “bonkers” and that the Death Cafe has become her most popular program. Most people are “curiosity” walk-ins, drawn by the name and the Dia de los Muertos skull on the library flyer. Others have been referred there by a local therapist handing out flyers.

Risley emphasized the Del Ray library program is not a therapy group, but said talking about all things death can help “release nervous energy” about the taboo topics.

It’s also inspired another Death Cafe program at the Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library.

Beatley librarian Andrea Castillo hosted her first death discussion in January after attending one of Risley’s and one in D.C.

“I was very curious about attending that first one, but I was also afraid to tell people about it because I thought people would think I was strange or morbid or obsessed with death,” she told ALXnow.

Since then, she’s organized half a dozen of the group discussions where she says attendance has been “widely variable” with as many as 15 adults, and as few as four. Her most recent meeting in August attracted 10 death-discussers. Over the past year members have talked about confronting the reality of losing loved ones, green burials, and what end-of-life doulas can do to help.

Back at Duncan, the library provides Risley the event space for free, and guest speakers volunteer their time so the program’s cost is low. Risley uses the kettle from her wedding shower to make tea and pays $30 a month out of her own pocket to bake cakes for the attendees.

“Nothing speaks to a gathering of the living more than the sharing of food and drink,” she quipped.

At Beatley, Castillo says she spends about $10-$15 per session with the funds covered by the Friends of the Beatley Central Library, and occasionally her colleague librarians, Stacy Arth has volunteered to bake cake.

The discussions at Duncan prompted Risley to start compiling the information into a hand-out for patrons. The document contains resources from how to talk about end of life plans to defining do-not-resuscitate orders, to free and low-cost services to make wills. In the future she hopes to expand and post the document online.

“Next year I will try something new and try a death-themed book club,” added Castillo. “Before my August death cafe I read Atul Gawande’s ‘Being Mortal‘ and several of the attendees had also read and enjoyed the book.”

Castillo’s next Death Cafe sessions are from 7-8 p.m. on Wednesday, October 23 from 7-8 p.m. and December 18.

Both librarians told ALXnow that holding the group has also helped them personally.

Castillo completed a graduate certificate in applied thanology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore this year, and said between her studies and the group she’s found it’s not so weird to be interested in death after all.

“Trying to imagine the dying process and life going on without me is still hard for me to wrap my head around. However, as I’ve gotten more open to talking about it, I find that others are in the same boat,” she said. “I want to help make death less taboo to talk about. It’s going to happen to all of us one day. Let’s talk about that! Let’s explore it! Let’s face our anxieties and fears together!

Risley’s mother-in-law was diagnosed with advanced cancer last year before later going into a full remission.

“I feel like I was probably the most prepared daughter on the face of the planet to tackle that,” said Risley, adding that “the goal as laid out by Death Cafe is the more you ask about it, the less you worry about it.”

Image courtesy of Andrea Castillo 

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If you’ve ever thought “I want to drink beer outdoors, with other people, but I also want to hang out with my dog,” Port City has the event for you.

Dogtoberfest, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19, is a free event planned in the parking lot of Port City Brewing Company’s brewery at 3950 Wheeler Avenue.

“It’s an all-day event, so from about 12-8 p.m. the whole parking lot will be filled with non-profits that are canine or animal-focused,” Emma Quinn, events and marketing manager for Port City. “A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.”

The event is a collaboration with Frolick Dogs, a “canine sports club” at 3208 Colvin Street.

According to the Facebook post for the event:

This event will be held in our parking lot outside of the brewery with activities throughout the day for dogs as well as a dog adoption (1-3 p.m.), bulldog kissing booth, agility course, and local organizations that support our animal friends! Also, Dog Trivia will be held from 3-5 p.m. outside so dog friends can attend and Heavenly Santa will be there for dogs to get their holiday photos.

In addition to food trucks for humans, a truck called Woofbowl with food for dogs will be set up at the event, the post said.

Photo via Facebook/Animal Welfare League of Alexandria

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Port City Brewing and Gadsby’s Tavern Museum are gearing up to host a special night in memory of the mysterious woman who once perished on the shores of Alexandria.

The two local institutions are pairing up to for an event for “foodies and history nerds alike,” per the city’s website. Attendees can learn about the story of a woman who arrived sick on a ship in 1816 and whose husband swore the local doctor to secrecy about their identity — only inscribing “Female Stranger” on her gravestone after she died in Gadsby’s Tavern on October 14, 1816.

On Monday, October 14, Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant at 138 N. Royal Street will host people interested in hearing the tale over a four-course dinner beginning 7 p.m.

The dinner event will feature the Port City Brewing’s dark “Long Black Veil.” The beer first debuted in 2015 and the brewery said it was “inspired” by the veil worn by the woman and the enduring questions about her real identity.

Tickets to the event cost $85 each and can be ordered online. Attendees must be 21 years or older.

In the meantime, spooky spiritualists and skeptics can check out the historic grave for themselves in the St. Paul’s Episcopal Cemetery. A part of the long inscription reads:

To the memory of the Female Stranger, whose mortal sufferings terminated on the 14th day of October, 1816. Aged 23 years, and 8 months. This stone was placed by her disconsolate husband in whose arms she sighed out her last breath, and who under God did his utmost even to soothe the cold dead ear of death.

Two hundred years after death, visitors still leave flowers on the mystery woman’s grave stone, while some say she still haunts the tavern.

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Alexandria is continuing its “After Work” Friday concert series with a folksy, maritime performance.

The Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum (201 South Washington Street) will continue its fall concert series tomorrow (Friday, October 11) with D.C. area-based folk singer duo Darriel and Jocelyn Day and Maryland-based string instrumentalist Donna Korn, who was trained in Irish and Classical violin as well as viola, bouzouki, and mandolin.

Tickets are free for the concert in Old Town and no registration is required, though attendees are asked to donate what they can to support the band will be from 6-8 p.m. tomorrow night.

Darriel is most known for his Silver Spring-shanty band Scales and Crosstones which performs at Renaissance fairs, and together the couple have a repertoire of sea shanties, working songs, and Scottish folk music.

The concert series includes performances every second Friday of the month, some at the Lyceum and others at the Lloyd House at 220 North Washington Street.

The concert series is joint project of The Office of Historic Alexandria and The Folklore Society of Greater Washington (FSGW.)

Organizers noted in a press release that beer, wine, and “light refreshments” will be available during the event.

On Friday, November 8 the concert series will return to Lyceum with a different kind of folk band — INÃ — that specializes in traditional African Diaspora music in Cuba and Brazil with an emphasis on drumming and vocal harmonies.

Next month’s concert on Friday, November 8, will feature Cuban and Brazilian folk by INÃ, also at the Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum.

Photo via the City of Alexandria

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