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Community champions were honored as Living Legends of Alexandria on Wednesday night.

The prestigious annual honor was given to a dozen well-known former lawmakers, city employees, activists and business owners.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that Alexandria draws people who contribute to the greater good.

“This community has a way of just sucking you in to something great and it’s wonderful,” Wilson said. “But quickly, whether you’re growing up or you just got here, you start to realize that some of the same people are involved in multiple things, and… those are the kinds of people we’re honoring tonight. These are the people that make a lasting difference to our community. Decades from now when all of us are long gone, you will go around and you will say, ‘Wow, that happened because of them.'”

The reception was held at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial and was hosted by former Alexandria City High School principal John Porter. Three of the honorees who died recently were still recognized.

The 2023 Living Legends of Alexandria

  • Former Police Chief David Baker
  • Nelson Greene Jr., who died last year
  • Retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne
  • Carolyn B. Lewis, founder of Project Discovery Alexandria
  • Patty and Kate Moran
  • Gary Oelze, who died this year
  • Colonel James Paige
  • Former City Council Member Redella S. “Del” Pepper
  • Jack Sullivan
  • Former School Board Member Charles Wilson
  • William Vosbeck, who died in 2021
3912 Taney Avenue, a winner of the 2023 Residential Beautification Award (image via City of Alexandria)

Homes, schools and businesses around Alexandria are being recognized for their work to make the city sparkle a little more.

On Monday, the Alexandria Beautification Commission announced the winners of the Residential Beautification Award, celebrating the creative use of non-invasive plants, native plants, landscape architecture and more.

Winners, broken up into West End, Central, and East divisions, focused n a mix of environmental sustainability and creative architecture.

According to the website:

Our 2023 Residential Beautification Award winners demonstrate how the creative use of non-invasive plants, native plants, sustainable approaches, and landscape architecture along with proactive maintenance delivers garden beauty, texture, and scale in an eco-friendly way. The winners inspire others to enhance the beauty of their properties and speak to the future of Alexandria’s neighborhoods as environmentally sound and dynamic.

“The 2023 awards recipients demonstrate how all of us can make a difference in our neighborhoods,” said Beautification Commission Chair Steve Cohen. “By using native plants, meadow areas, and drought tolerant gardens, the awardees achieved a vision of color, composition, dimension, and beauty. We commend their hard work and accomplishments.”

Earlier this year, the Beautification Commission awarded similar top prizes for local architecture, community projects, and businesses. Notable winners included Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats (200 Commerce Street), the Dale Street Community Garden (65 Dale Street), and Ferdinand Day Elementary School (1700 N. Beauregard Street).

A gallery of the winners is available on the city website.

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World champion sprinter Noah Lyles speaks after receiving the key to the city at Market Square on Monday, October 10, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

The fastest man on the planet is an Alexandrian.

Noah Lyles cemented his place in history last week with a hat trick at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, by winning the 100-meter and 200-meter races, and brought home the gold for Team USA as anchor in the 4×100 relay.

Lyles, who raced to his third straight 200m championship, was also the first man to win both the 100m and 200m races since Usain Bolt in 2015. He’s now poised to take on the competition next year in the Olympics in Paris, France.

Lyles ran the 100m last Sunday (Aug. 20) in 9.83 seconds — a personal best, and followed it up by clocking in 19.52 in the 200m on Friday (Aug. 25). Luckily, he wasn’t injured in a golf cart crash on Thursday.

On Saturday, he anchored Team USA in the 4x100m to win gold with a time of 37.38.

Last year, Lyles broke the American record in the 200m with a time of 19.31 seconds, breaking Michael Johnson’s 200-meter record of 19.32 seconds set at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The 26-year-old is a mental health advocate and last year received the key to the city from Mayor Justin Wilson after earning the bronze medal in the 200m at the Tokyo Olympics. He’s a graduate of Alexandria City High School and now lives and trains in Clermont, Florida.

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Dish at Kismet Modern Indian in Alexandria (image via Kismet Modern Indian/Facebook)

Kismet Modern Indian (111 North Pitt Street) won a spot in Southern Living Magazine’s The South’s Best New Restaurants of 2023.

The Alexandria location has been open since November 2021, but the restaurant made the list for opening a second location in Richmond last year.

The restaurant came in at the number 22 spot.

According to the list:

Pay a visit to the original Kismet in Alexandria, and take in the cozy, modern, loft-style restaurant. Chef Ajay Kumar draws a comfortable connection to Karma with reappearances of dishes that have left the D.C. menu, like the Paneer Lajawab (islands of stuffed cheese floating in a tomato-onion sauce) while also charting new territory with things like the Chingri Shrimp Curry with lemon rice. Presentation here is always delivered with a flair for the artistic. The Calcutta Jhaal Muri, a puffed rice with cashews and tamarind sauce, arrives in a golden paper cone, and the Tandoori Shrimp surround a small tower of mango salsa.

Chef Ajay Kumar said in a release that it was an honor to be included on the list.

“We are incredibly honored to be recognized by Southern Living and to be ranked among the South’s Best New Restaurants of 2023,” said Kumar. “This achievement is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our entire team who consistently strive to create memorable dining experiences for our guests.”

Image via Kismet Modern Indian/Facebook

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Donald Simpson, Jr. has been named the 2023 Chamber ALX Business Leader of the Year (courtesy photo)

The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce has selected Don Simpson, Jr. as its business leader of the year.

Simpson, the president of Simpson Development Company and vice president of Simpson Properties, Ltd., was recognized for giving back to the community. He’s a fourth generation Alexandria and has worked with his family firm for more than 40 years.

Simpson now serves as chair of the INOVA Alexandria Hospital Foundation Board.

Simpson is an active member of the Alexandria Rotary Club, the city’s Youth Sports Commission and the Youth IMPACT Foundation. He was named a Living Legend of Alexandria in 2020. He previously served on the boards for the Alexandria YMCA, the Miracle League of Alexandria and the Center for Alexandria’s children, among others, and his company has raised funds for dozens of local nonprofits.

Married with two children, Simpson graduated from T.C. Williams High School in 1978, and later Virginia Tech with a degree in building construction and engineering. His family also helped create the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria.

Simpson will be honored at the chamber’s annual Best in Business Awards on Oct. 12.

Hanoi Ragmen (image via Hanoi Ragmen/Facebook)

(Updated 8 p.m.) A band consisting of former T.C. Williams High School students and a current Alexandria City High School (ACHS) teacher were recognized at the Wammie Awards last Saturday, a regional music award.

Rock band Hanoi Ragmen, an Alexandria-based six person band that started at T.C. Williams High School (before it became Alexandria City High School), won Best Rock Album for their debut album The Oldlight and Best Rock Song for Foolhearted off the same album.

“We’re definitely stoked,” said front man and guitarist Gabe Harr. “It’s a regional thing, so by no means are our heads blown up, but we put a lot of hard work into that record. Sometimes it feels like you’re shouting into a void, so it’s nice to have an institution recognize that and say it’s of quality and emblematic of rock.”

The band released an EP in 2019 and started work on an album, but those plans got disrupted when Covid hit. The band also signed with Alexandria record label Baffin Records and had to remix and remaster the songs.

Harr said it’s been a slow process, but the band has gradually been building over time, but that’s been part of the band’s charm as well.

“We started at birthday parties with bounce castles, but you build knowledge and people start to book you for shows,” Harr said. “We released our EP when we were in high school. It became a fun reason for a bunch of social circles to come together and jam with us. By the time we made our new record in 2022, we formed this little community of fans.”

Harr said that small community of fans has made shows an intimate and friendly experience.

“The way we’ve always understood growing success in Alexandria is: if you’re going to Hanoi Ragmen, you’re coming to hang out with your friends,” Harr said. “It feels like Hanoi Ragmen is everybody’s band, it’s not just us being cool on stage. The band is my best friends from Alexandria.”

Lead guitarist Max Powell said promoting shows up to this point has usually meant the band members just texting everyone in their contacts. The disparate social circles has also been reflected in an array of different music genres influencing the band.

“About a month before our shows, we text everyone in our phones, exes and all, and get it out to everyone,” Powell said. “I feel like we have a pretty eclectic range of musical interests and interwoven genres.”

According to Harr, Alexandria’s music scene has a big advantage over some of the other localities in the region.

“[Alexandria] is a community that’s big enough to have a lively music scene, but small enough that we all know each other and you can talk to musicians you think are cool,” Harr said.

Powell said it’s that fan connection that made the Wammie Award feel so special.

“As a band, we’re not usually too concerned with awards, but knowing our fans got us in there to know we could get judged… it feels like they have our backs,” Powell said. “Whenever we play D.C., we’re really just bringing Alexandria to D.C.”

The band is going to get a chance to bring Alexandria to D.C. later this year with their biggest show yet on August 12 at Black Cat (1811 14th Street NW).

“It’s a much bigger venue than we’ve played before,” Powell said, admitting that playing at the famed venue makes him nervous. “We did well and we sold out Union Stage in july this past summer. That was, like, 450 person capacity. Black Cat is 800. So it’s definitely a big step up for us.”

Powell also said the Wammies have drawn more attention to the band, putting more eyes on the Black Cat show in August.

“We left a pretty decent impression on people at the Wammies and we’ve had a few people looking our way now,” Powell said.

For those checking out the band for the first time, Powell said his favorite go-to song to direct people to is Foolhearted, the one that won the award.

“That’s one written almost entirely by our bassist [Beck Moniz],” Powell said. “It’s just a great fun pop rock song and it was the first song he ever wrote. To know him and to know how good of a song it is, I love that song. That and I would tell people to listen to the opening track. The sax solo, oh my god.”

The awards program also recognized Gregory ‘Sugar Bear’ Elliott for its 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Elliott is the frontman of go-go band Experience Unlimited — known by fans as E.U. — which was most known for its song Da’ Butt in the Spike Lee movie School Daze. The song popped up again recently at the Oscars in 2021 when Glenn Close danced to it at the program.

In addition to leading the band, Elliott has been teaching special education at Alexandria City High school since 1996.

While E.U. hasn’t had a hit to the level of Da Butt’ in 1988, the band has continued to put out music, including an album called Free Yourself in 2021.

Image via Hanoi Ragmen/Facebook

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Pat Miller, the founder and director of the Del Ray Farmers Market, accepts the 2023 Heart of Del Ray award on Feb. 10, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Del Ray Farmers’ Market was declared the winner of the Heart of Del Ray Award on Friday morning.

The award, which is an annual popularity contest, was voted on by more than 1,000 people, and founder Pat Miller was presented with a large red heart symbolizing the nonprofit’s place in the community. The award is always presented just before Valentine’s Day, which this year is on Tuesday, Feb. 14. The oversized heart will be hung outside in the square.

“It (the market) truly is a meeting place it is on Saturday mornings, rain or shine, warm or cold,” said Del Ray Business Association Board Member Gayle Reuter.

Now in its 27th year, the market is open every Saturday from 8 a;m. to noon at Pat Miller Neighborhood Square at the parking lot behind Virginia Commerce BankCheesetique and Let’s Meat on the Avenue.

“Thank you so much,” Miller said after receiving the award. “Del Ray is the best.”

The other nominees this year were Del Ray Artisans (2704 Mount Vernon Avenue), Del Ray Psych and Wellness (1900 Mount Vernon Avenue), The Dog Store/Your Dogs Best Friends (2301 Mount Vernon Avenue), Rosemont Landscaping and Lawncare (3308 Mount Vernon Avenue) and St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub (2300 Mount Vernon Avenue).

The Del Ray Business Association awards the Del Ray Farmers’ Market with the Heart of Del Ray award, Feb. 10, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Previous Heart of Del Ray award winners:


Alexandria land use attorney Cathy Puskar was named the 2022 Business Leader of the Year by the Chamber ALX at its annual Best In Business awards on Thursday night (Oct. 27), and restaurant Chadwicks (203 Strand Street) was named Overall Business of the Year.

Puskar, a well-known attorney with Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, thanked a packed ballroom in the Westin Alexandria Old Town, and said that it means a lot since she’s a native Alexandrian.

“I don’t just ‘Remember the Titans,'” said Puskar, a 1985 graduate of T.C. Williams High School (now Alexandria City High School). “I am a Titan.”

Alexandria land use attorney Cathy Puskar was named business leader of the year by the Chamber ALX, October 27, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Puskar frequently represents landowners in major development projects, like Inova Alexandria Hospital’s massive redevelopment of Landmark Mall.

She added, “I love living in a vibrant progressive city where I’m surrounded every day and tonight by family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and ‘YIMBYs’ who share a vision for moving our city forward, championing economic development, supporting our public schools, celebrating our diversity, helping others, and bringing the fun back to Alexandria.”

Chadwicks owner Trae Lamond accepted the Overall Business of the Year award.

“Anyone that’s told you that a business starts from the top down is wrong,” Lamond said after receiving the award. “We’ve got dishwashers, busboys, servers — they’ve been there for  25 years. They’re the reason Chadwicks is standing here now.”

The Awards


World champion sprinters Noah and Josephus Lyles were born and raised in Alexandria, and now they’ve got the key to the city.

Last weekend, the brothers were inducted into the Alexandria City Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame, and on Monday night (October 10) they got a little extra. At a ceremony at Market Square, the pair were presented with the key and a commendation by Mayor Justin Wilson.

Noah, who won the bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics, has been hailed for frankly discussing battles with mental health.

“The reason we’re here is not just your athletic pursuits, but what you have done using your platform that you have as an athlete to speak out on mental illness and make sure you raise awareness of that,” Wilson said. “We know that that advocacy that advocacy is not not just important, that advocacy saves lives.”

The 25-year-old is a 2016 graduate of T.C. Williams High School (now Alexandria City High School), and 24-year-old Josephus graduated in 2017. Following the Olympics, Noah ran the third-fastest 200m in history at the World Championships in July, clocking in at 19.31 seconds. Josephus also broke a personal record by running the 200m in less than 20 seconds on the U.S. National team. The brothers now live and train in Clermont, Florida.

After receiving the awards, Noah said he was surprised that talking about mental health would have an impact. Since he was a child, he and his brother have gone to family therapy, and have been open about their mental health challenges.

Noah said that he sees two therapists “quite often.”

“I truthfully did not realize how much of the impact I had on everybody when it came to mental health,” Noah said. “Until I came back from the Olympics, and everybody was talking about it. Even at the world championships this year, I had the honor to talking to the Second Gentleman of the United States, and we talked about mental health, and I was shocked, because my first thought is like, ‘Me? Why do you want to talk to me?’ I mean, I know I’m fast, but fast only gets you so far.”

Lyles continued, “And he’s said, ‘Well, you’re the only male that talks about mental health openly in a international level.’ And I thought to myself, ‘What? No, there’s, um, well, there’s… I never thought of that before. I never thought of my moment of, you know, being vulnerable as being so heroic.”

The brothers, who have a sports foundation, were also praised for giving ACPS more than $100,000 in Adidas sports attire to local high school athletic teams, including Alexandria City High School.

“It’s always a wonderful feeling when Alexandria City public school students work hard and realize success in their endeavors,” said School Board Chair Meagan Alderton. “One of their biggest achievements has been how they’ve developed as young men outside of sports. They have the character that will stand the test of time. We need more of that in this world.”

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For the fifth straight year, Alexandria was named in the top five best small cities in the country in the 2022 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.

Alexandria took home the fourth spot this year after placing third the last two years in a row.

  1. Charleston, South Carolina
  2. Aspen, Colorado
  3. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  4. Alexandria, Virginia
  5. Savannah, Georgia
  6. Greenville, South Carolina
  7. Key West, Florida
  8. Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
  9. Palm Beach, Florida
  10. Wilmington, North Carolina

According to Condé Nast:

Washingtonians are all in on the secret, but it’s no surprise the rest of the world is catching up: Alexandria, Virginia, the charming, historic city just across the Potomac River from our nation’s capital, draws travelers and would-be residents alike.

Most folks start to imagine moving there immediately after setting foot in Old Town, once they’ve strolled the red-brick sidewalks, clocking street after street of perfectly preserved rowhouses from the 18th and 19th centuries. When you visit, scope out King Street, packed with boutiques, restaurants, and specialty shops; then land at the waterfront, where you can watch the boats bobbing on the water before touring the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a collective of galleries and artists’ studios. End the day at Gadsby’s Tavern, where some of our founding fathers used to drink — don’t mind the actors in colonial garb.

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