Get your lawn chairs and picnic blankets ready for fireworks, because Alexandria’s 274th birthday celebration is happening in Old Town on Saturday, July 8.
The event at Oronoco Bay Park (100 Madison Street) draws thousands of people every year. It’s always held the first Saturday after July 4, and features performances from the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, a declaration from Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker, a poem from Alexandria’s Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam and brief speeches by city leaders.
Mayor Justin Wilson, City Council members and other officials will also hand out birthday cupcakes to attendees.
The celebration kicks off at 6 p.m. and ends with a grand finale fireworks display at 9:30 p.m.
Visit Alexandria recommends these vantage points to see the best fireworks:
- Canal Center Plaza (Center Canal Plaza)
- Rivergate Park (2 Montgomery St.)
- Oronoco Bay Park (100 Madison St.)
- Founders Park (351 North Union St.)
- Waterfront Park (1A Prince St.)
- Windmill Hill Park (501 South Union St.)
- Fords Landing boardwalk (99 Franklin St.)
- Jones Point Park (Jones Point Dr.)
- George Washington Masonic Temple (101 Callahan Dr.)
As a symbol, the Jones Point Lighthouse represents Alexandria’s legacy as a port city. But as a building, it’s in rough shape.
The wooden lighthouse is described by the National Park Service website as “one of the last riverine lighthouses in the country,” as well as a “focal point of Jones Point Park and a clue to the area’s history as a busy commercial center and naval base.” But the building itself is in rough shape. Grime coats the outside of the structure and there’s visible damage to parts of the building. The interior is unfinished, so visitors aren’t allowed inside due to safety concerns.
In a meeting of the Historic Alexandria Resources Commission Advocacy Committee last month, committee members said that they’ve been pushing for the city and the National Park Service (NPS), on whose and the lighthouse sits, to do something to fix up the building.
“The advocacy committee prepared a decisively coherent letter on Jones Point,” said Chair Danny Smith. “We did send that it to the City Council and to the Mayor at the beginning of December. Within a day we had responses from the Mayor and City Manager.”
Smith said Mayor Justin Wilson told him that he’d get back in touch with the National Park Service to ask about near-term restoration or at least better maintenance, and City Manager Mark Jinks said staff would visit the site and do a visual assessment of its condition.
“I think we got their attention on that and have made some headway,” Smith said.
NPS spokesman Aaron LaRocca said has invested in the lighthouse before and has proposed additional work, but has had issues with funding.
“Approximately 10 years ago the NPS invested over $600,000 in the lighthouse including work on the stairs, porch and roof,” LaRocca said. “We currently have a proposed project for additional work, including exterior maintenance and interior restoration. However, it has not yet been funded. We recognize the need for ongoing maintenance of the facility, some of which is routine maintenance and some of which is more significant.”
LaRocca said the NPS is starting to work on interim maintenance measures until funding for more comprehensive repairs can be secured.
“Park staff are taking steps to develop interim maintenance measures for the site and building with a newly established park strike team,” Larocca said. “This team, made up of subject matter experts, will identify and execute routine maintenance activities at the Jones Point Lighthouse.”
Two ARHA residents receive $6,000 college scholarships — “Two Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) residents have been awarded $6,000 scholarships for the upcoming school year, thanks to the Resident Scholarship Program from the Housing Authority Insurance (HAI) Group. This is the second consecutive year Natasha Cross has been selected for the funding… Yonael Tekleberhan, a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University majoring in Business is the second awardee.” [ARHA]
The Italian Place is opening a location in Fairfax — “We are getting closer and closer to the grand opening on July 24th of the new Mosaic District location. If you haven’t registered yet, head over to our website to do so! We hope to see you all there!” [Facebook]
Del Ray Citizens Association hosting community pizza party Thursday — Come on out and join us this Thursday July 22 from 5 – 7pm at Del Ray Pizzeria, where the DRCA will be hosting a Del Ray Citizens Association Meet & Greet Pizza Party! Hang out with your fellow Del Ray superfans and enjoy some pizza, salad, tots, fries, and special happy hour pricing. DRP has set us up in the bar space, so we can enjoy some much-needed air conditioning. For those who may feel more comfortable socializing outdoors, we’re also working to set up a ‘spillover’ table in the Lot behind the restaurant.” [DRCA]
Park and recreation center signs replaced — “The signs at Ruby Tucker Park, Fort Williams Park, and Mt. Vernon Recreation Center were replaced with City standard signs last week. The signs were replaced to update addresses or broken and missing signs. Look out for new signs coming to Shirley Tyler Unity Park and William Ramsay Recreation Center coming this fall.” [Facebook]
Today’s weather — “Sunshine and some clouds (during the day). High 92F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph… Considerable clouds early (in the evening). Some decrease in clouds late. Low 72F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Package delivery driver — “UPS is accepting applications for temporary, seasonal full-time Package Delivery Drivers. This is a physical, fast-paced, outdoor position that involves continual lifting, lowering and carrying packages that typically weigh 25 – 35 lbs. and may weigh up to 70 lbs. A DOT physical exam is required. Package Delivery Drivers must have excellent customer contact and driving skills.” [Indeed]
Alexandria Hospital President Dr. Rina Bansal asks residents to get vaccinated — “A healthy person can get COVID and survive, and if you have already had it, you may still have the antibodies to keep you safe for a period of time. But what about your community? It may not be readily apparent that a family member, friend or neighbor has an underlying health condition that puts them at higher risk for hospitalization or even death from COVID-19. Your choice to not be vaccinated isn’t just putting you at risk, it can impact so many others around you.” [ALXnow]
Historic Building that inspired ‘Mercy Street’ to be private residence, museum offices — “The building was converted into the Mansion House Hotel and served as a Union Hospital during the Civil War. Green and the hospital were depicted in the TV drama series “Mercy Street,” which aired on PBS from 2016-2017. NOVA Parks has owned the property since 1970, using it as office space and leasing the rest of the space to other companies. In 2019, NOVA Parks announced that it was marketing the sale or lease of the building.” [Alexandria Living]
Barkhaus expands outdoor play area for pets — “The new off-leash dog park attached to Barkhaus, at 529 E. Howell Ave., is more than twice as large as the old park and is furnished with umbrellas, lounge chairs, ice baths, mist and is partially turfed. This meant moving the parking to 516 E. Bellefonte Ave., behind the restaurant.” [Alexandria Living]
Today’s weather — “Some clouds in the morning will give way to mainly sunny skies for the afternoon. High 79F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph… Partly cloudy (in the evening). Low 57F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Full-time assistant store manager at Aldi— “When you join our team as an Assistant Store Manager, you’ll take on key store management responsibilities including assisting with supervising day-to-day store activities, ensuring overall store performance, managing schedules, and developing operational action plans while identifying training opportunities to develop and grow the team.” [Indeed]
What a week it’s been in Alexandria.
The pandemic seemed inescapable this week, and much of our coverage was related to dealing with the coronavirus.
Five more fatalities related to the virus were reported by the Virginia Department of Health, and the death toll now stands at 67. There are now or have been 3,671 cases in the city since the first case was reported in March.
The week also began with our coverage of City Council’s passage of a face mask ordinance requiring residents to wear masks in public places. While there is no fine for noncompliance, the new law takes effect on October 1.
There was some heartwarming news. City residents helped a Del Ray business owner raise more than $10,000 after her house burned down on September 12.
We also covered the Little Theatre of Alexandria’s newest COVID-friendly in-person show. Additionally, Alexandria restauranteur Bill Blackburn participated in a COVID-19 vaccine trial this week, and Alexandria resident Ann Samuels safely celebrated her 100th birthday.
The Alexandria City School Board also accepted a name change proposal for Matthew Maury Elementary School. Now with the virtual school year in full swing, we also published a poll on how folks think school is going so far and saw mixed results.
Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.
- ‘Lipstick On A Pig’: BAR Rejects Heritage Old Town Proposal
- Just Listed in Alexandria
- ThePoopBrothers: ‘Fearless’ Del Ray Kids Created New Business Over Summer Break
- UPDATED: Flooding Reported in Parts of City After Heavy Rain
- Man Struck by Bullet While Driving in West End
- Alexandria Hospital Nurse Wins First-Ever Nightingale Award
- Juvenile Arrested After Shots Fired in Arlandria
- City Council Passes Mask Ordinance, and There’s No Fine for Noncompliance
- New Alexandria Boxing Club Works Out Every Sunday at Jones Point Park
- Monte Durham’s New Hair Salon is Opening Saturday in Old Town
- Alexandrian Ann Samuels Turns 100 Years Old
Have a safe weekend!
Dawson Saint Jour wants to be the Tony Robbins of boxing. Every Sunday, the coach with Hiit Hard Training is at Jones Point Park with his coaches and boxers, shouting motivational aphorisms while punches are thrown and footwork is improved.
“When life knocks you down, try to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up,” Saint Jour recently told ALXnow, quoting motivational speaker Les Brown. “Another favorite of mine is, ‘Don’t just go through it but grow through it.'”
For the last three years, Saint Jour and his team of boxing coaches took their talents to the business world with a corporate wellness program. But the pandemic changed the way offices work, and now with more clients working from home Saint Jour is looking to open a physical location in Alexandria.
For the time being, however, that means weekly workouts at Jones Point every Sunday from 1-4 p.m. It costs $20 for one class and $65 for four classes.
“We’ve been doing corporate wellness since 2017, and due to the COVID restrictions we had to stop offering our program at the on-site facilities,” Saint Jour said. “We wanted to continue offering these programs to individuals, and we’ve been stuck in our homes for months and months with no way to relieve stress.”
Coach Devon Davies started boxing five years ago and has worked with Saint Jour since October.
“I was going through some personal stuff in my life and I was looking for something to sort of wake me up and feel like a part of a community again and that’s when I got into boxing,” Davies said. “Dawson has changed my life. These people become your family and you know they have your back, and you have confidence in yourself to stand up and defend yourself and have passion for people you love.”
Courtesy photos and video
Amine Ballafrikh was wrapping up one of his daily workout videos at Jones Point Park on Thursday, July 2, when an unidentified man went on a racist rant and threatened to shoot the two-time North American Lightweight Muay Thai champ.
Ballafrikh, who is also the number three Muay Thai lightwight in the world, fought his way out of Moroccan slums to be a U.S. citizen. He trains every day at Jones Point Park, and was filming a video at the end of a workout and speaking in Arabic when a man nearby began a racist and threatening tirade.
“I’m going to shoot you,” the man was filmed telling Ballafrikh. “That’s right, Jack.”
Ballafrikh looked shocked by the comment and asked the man if he was okay.
“Yes, I’m talking to you asshole,” the man replied. “Get your ass out of my country, bitch.”
Ballafrikh again asked the man who he was talking to and if he was okay.
“Who else am I talking to?” the man replied and yelled obscenities at the fighter.
Ballafrikh later filmed the man brandishing a large hunting knife at the park and cutting strips of paper to show the knife’s sharpness. He later called the police and said he is going to send them the videos. He has not seen the man at the park since the incident.
“I have never experienced anything like that over the last eight years I’ve been in the United States,” Ballafrikh told ALXnow. “If he did this to a child or someone who can’t defend themselves, he would basically step on them. I hope they find him, because a man like that can really hurt someone.”
Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine said that anyone who feels threatened to call the police.
“It’s a sensitive time right now, and at any point if you feel threatened you need to call the police, because we will investigate it,” Ballantine said.
Warning: video contains explicit language
A new bike campus is all painted and ready to go under the Alexandria side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
The smooth pavement between the bridge pylons has long been a popular spot for bicyclists on the Mount Vernon Trail or visiting Jones Point Park, but the new signs and lanes on the ground can help new cyclists learn the rules of the road and practice in a safe environment.
At a grand opening ceremony, scheduled for Saturday (Dec. 7) at 10:30 a.m., instructors from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) will be available to help teach cyclists of all ages about rules on the street and bicycling techniques. A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 11 a.m.
According to the Facebook page:
WABA is excited to announce the completion of the Alexandria Bike Campus at Jones Point Park! The bike campus will serve as a dedicated space for people of all ages to learn how to ride a bicycle safely, comfortably, and confidently. WABA will be celebrating the completion of the Alexandria Bike Campus with a ribbon cutting on Saturday, December 7 at 11:00 a.m. at Jones Point Park in Alexandria, VA.
We invite you to bring your family and your bicycles to the ribbon cutting and to participate in a demonstration of the bicycle campus. WABA instructors will show how the campus can be used to teach new cyclists of all ages and how even experienced cyclists can learn and practice new skills. Our instructors will be at Jones Point Park at 10:30 AM – we hope to see you then!