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Alexandria’s annual George Washington Birthday Parade brought the usual pomp and circumstance befitting the country’s first president.

This year’s parade marshals were the recipients of the prestigious Living Legends of Alexandria award. The theme of this year’s parade was “George Washington: Alexandria’s Living Legend.”

A number of political candidates marched (or rode) in the parade, including mayoral candidates Vice Mayor Amy Jackson and Alyia Gaskins, as well as Sheriff Sean Casey and Clerk of Court Greg Parks. City Manager Jim Parajon also marched, as did his counterpart in the school system, Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt. Former Mayor Allison Silberberg also marched in the parade with the “Coalition to Stop the Potomac Yard Arena.”

Alexandria’s next parade is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town on Saturday, March 2.

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The annual George Washington Birthday Parade is returning to Alexandria on President’s Day (Monday, Feb. 19). Here’s what you need to know.

The theme of the 101st annual parade is “George Washington: Alexandria’s Living Legend,” and this year’s parade marshals are the recipients of the prestigious Living Legends of Alexandria award.

According to parade organizers:

The Grand Marshal will be representatives of the Living Legends of Alexandria, individuals who have contributed to the community in an exemplary and lasting way that has significantly impacted the quality of life in Alexandria and serves as an inspiration to others. 2024 is also the 275th Birthday of the founding of the City of Alexandria.

Thousands of freemasons, city-related groups and nonprofits, and politicians march in the parade, which the city says is the oldest and largest of its kind in the world. The free event was first held in 1923 to commemorate the cornerstone laying of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial at King Street and Commonwealth Avenue.

The parade begins at 1 p.m. at the intersection of South Fairfax Street and Gibbon Street. Participants will then march north on South Fairfax Street to City Hall (301 King Street), take a left at Queen Street, and another left at S. Royal Street to the reviewing stand, which will be located at the intersection of N. Royal Street and King Streets. The parade route ends at the intersection of S. Royal Street and Wilkes Street, and the parade is scheduled to end at 3 p.m.

Parade organizers will also select the first, second and third-ranking participants in the following categories:

  • Antique vehicles
  • Masonic lodge with the best spirit
  • Community/fraternal group
  • Float
  • Historical unit
  • Honor and color guards
  • Military units and drill team
  • Youth groups
  • The spirit of George Washington

Additionally, the winning restaurant in this year’s annual Cherry Challenge will be announced.

Alexandria’s next parade is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town on Saturday, March 2.

The 2024 George Washington Birthday Parade route (via GW Birthday Parade)
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George and Martha Washington ride in the George Washington Birthday Parade in Old Town, Feb. 21, 2022 (staff photo by James Cullum)

George Washington’s history with cherries will be honored this month, as 18 Alexandria restaurants will compete in this year’s GW Cherry Challenge.

The challenge, which is sponsored by George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, pits the restaurants against each other to create the best “cherry-oriented appetizer, entrée, beverage, or dessert,” according to the city.

The challenge ends at the city’s annual George Washington Birthday Parade in Old Town on President’s Day, Feb. 19.

“This unique event helps generate buzz for Alexandria restaurants, encourages chefs to get creative, and boosts customer traffic,” said Kristen Eastlick, GW Birthday Celebration committee member and chair of the event. “The #GWCherryChallenge lets us offer a tasteful event that keeps George Washington’s memory alive in his hometown. We’re thrilled that historic Mount Vernon has graciously sponsored this whimsical event.”

When George Washington turned six, he was caught red-handed chopping down his father’s cherry tree. Legend says that his father angrily asked him what happened, and the future president said: “I cannot tell a lie…I did cut it with my hatchet.”

Here’s how it works:

Diners—whether dine-in or take-out—will receive QR codes to vote electronically for their favorite cherry entries based on three criteria: taste, presentation, and creativity. Diners will rate each item from one to three cherries for a maximum score of 9 on each ballot. Point totals for each dish are divided by the number of ballots to get the average score. The highest average in each category wins.

Participating restaurants:

Guests are also encouraged to share photos and descriptions of the cherry items on Instagram or X with the hashtag “#GWCherryChallenge” or by posting them to the George Washington Birthday Celebration’s Facebook page.

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(Updated 9:35 p.m.) It was overcast and cool — the perfect weather for the Campagna Center’s 52nd Scottish Christmas Walk Parade.

The parade is one of the most popular events in the city, bringing thousands of participants, including Irish dancers, historic reenactors and the City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums. It is considered the highlight of a weekend full of events.

This year’s grand marshals were Congressman Don Beyer (D-8th) and his wife, Megan.

Enjoy the photos!

https://twitter.com/AlexandriaVA/status/1731039541656490264

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Santa at the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Old Town, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Santa Claus will don a kilt and bagpipes this weekend for the Scottish Christmas Walk in Old Town. Here’s what you need to know about the annual event.

Congressman Don Beyer (D-8th) and his wife, Megan, are the grand marshals of the 52nd annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade. Thousands of parade watchers are expected to attend the free event, and the weather is forecasted to be cloudy and cool — perfect for taking pictures.

The parade lasts from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes dozens of Scottish clans, dancers, bagpipers and the City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums.

This year, the parade also features a number of entertainers, including champion Scottish fiddler Seán Heely, singer SHENNA, LEGO master builder Andrew Litterst (with one of his creations on the route), and the parade’s newest participant — the Ethiopian Community Support Center.

The City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums marches in the 50th annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Old Town, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

The one-mile-long parade starts at 11 a.m. at the intersection of Wolfe and St. Asaph streets, and travels north to Queen Street, then turns right (east toward the Potomac River) on Queen for three blocks, turns right on Fairfax Street, right on King Street and then concludes at the reviewing stand in front of City Hall (301 King Street).

Also, don’t miss the end of the parade, where three bagpipe bands — the City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums, St. Andrew’s Society’s Washington Scottish Pipe Band and Kiltie Band of York — play a massed concert at Market Square (301 King Street).

The parade route for the 2023 Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023 (Via The Campagna Center)

Taste of Scotland

While the parade is the main attraction, the weekend of events is capped off Friday night (Dec. 1) with the Campagna Center’s Taste of Scotland at The Atrium Building (277 S. Washington Street).

Single tickets for the event cost $200, and the event includes “whiskey-tasting stations, hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine bars and a custom art exhibit,” according to the Campagna Center. The evening is sponsored by The Goodhart Group, starts at 6:30 p.m. and ends at 10:30 p.m.

Proceeds from the event benefit Campagna Center core programs for Alexandria children and families.

Santa at The Torpedo Factory

Also on Saturday, the Torpedo Factory Art Center will host its annual holiday festival.

The event starts at 2 p.m., and art enthusiasts will have an hour-and-a-half before the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, who will be ferried to the event by an Alexandria fireboat at around 3:30 p.m.

Holiday Boat Parade of Lights

Saturday’s events will conclude with the 23rd Annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights sponsored by Amazon.

The boat parade starts at 5:30 p.m. with more than 50 brightly lit boats cruising one mile along the Potomac River.

According to Visit Alexandria:

Enjoy dockside festivities from 1 to 8 p.m. in Waterfront Park including a pop-up beer garden from Port City Brewing Company, holiday music and giveaways from 97.1 WASH-FM,hot chocolate from Dolci Gelati, pizza by the slice from Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, American comfort food from Mason Social cookies, snacks from Together We Bake and more.Also at Waterfront Park, from 1 to 5:30 p.m. enjoy hands-on activities from independently owned Alexandria businesses Shop Made in Virginia, Penny Post and AR Workshop Alexandria.

Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights (photo via Visit Alexandria/Facebook)
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Thousands turned out in costumes for the 27th annual Del Ray Halloween Parade on Sunday.

This year, the parade was named one of the top 10 Halloween Parades in the country by USA Today.

The Del Ray Business Association parade started at Mount Vernon Avenue and E. Bellefonte Avenue and ended with live music and prizes at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center athletic fields.

“We couldn’t have made such a successful event without more than 100 volunteers,” said parade organizer Gayle Reuter. “We start planning for this months in advance, and it takes so many neighbors and friends to make it a success.”

Del Ray’s next big event is the 48th annual Alexandria Turkey Trot on Nov. 23.

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The Del Ray Halloween Parade. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Get your candy buckets ready, because the annual Del Ray Halloween Parade is next Sunday, Oct. 29.

It’s Visit Del Ray’s 27th year hosting the fun event, which starts at 2 p.m. at Mount Vernon Avenue and E. Bellefonte Avenue and ends with live music and prizes at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center athletic fields.

Thousands are expected to attend the event.

Prizes will also be awarded for the following contests:

  • Best decorated house and business — Click here to nominate a Del Ray house
  • Stroller/Group — All strollers must be registered by 1:30 p.m; strollers will then line up on Howell to be judged prior to the parade
  • Pet costume — Pet entries must be registered by 1:30 p.m. at the corner of Mt. Vernon and E. Howell Avenues
The Del Ray Halloween Parade on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022 (staff photo by James Cullum)
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You might know Brian Hilton better as George Washington, but soon, you’ll also know him as Albert Einstein.

For the last six years, Hilton has been Alexandria’s official portrayer of the first U.S. president at the George Washington Birthday Parade in Old Town and at dozens of annual events around the country. He was most recently invited by the National Park Service to appear as Washington on July 4 at Mount Rushmore.

“I want to speak in front of as many people as possible in order to educate about General Washington,” Hilton told us. “I want them to see just how extraordinary a person he was and why he is considered to be the indispensable man. If anyone was ever truly indispensable, that was George Washington.”

Like Washington, the 55-year-old Hilton stands six-feet-one in his Continental Army uniform, and in a low, hushed voice will rattle off any number of famous quotes. And with the 250th anniversary the signing of the Declaration of Independence a year away, Hilton’s schedule is starting to pile up.

Hilton teaches high school history in Henrico County. Raised in Fairfax County, he got his start in interpretive history by portraying President John F. Kennedy while attending West Springfield High School. He’s portrayed Kennedy more than 70 times since then, and has also done Patrick Henry and Woodrow Wilson.

Twenty years ago, Hilton started his public speaking business Hail To The Chief, which is managed by his wife, Mary Beth. The couple have two young sons.

Hilton, a history graduate of George Mason University, has studied Washington for decades and started portraying him in 2007. He was a guide and researcher at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate for 10 years and even appears as the founding father for the Washington family’s annual reunions, before members of Congress as well as groups like the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution.

Hilton’s newest obsession is Albert Einstein, and for the past eight years he’s been studying science, math and German in order to take the scientist on the road, so to speak.

ALXnow: What’s your closet look like?

Hilton: My closet is stocked with quite the 18th-century wardrobe. At the George Washington Birthday Parade, you might see me in my Continental Army uniform, but I’ve also got civilian dress from formal all the way down to farm clothes. I’d say about half of what I’ve got is 18th-century garb.

ALXnow: How did you get started portraying famous figures?

Hilton: For the longest time I portrayed President Kennedy — as early as when I was in high school for my AP U.S. History class. I got the bug right away.

ALXnow: What’s your favorite Washington quote?

Hilton: I really like most of what General Washington conveyed in his Circular Letter to the Governors of the Thirteen States dated June 8, 1783; his Farewell Address of September 19, 1796; and the following from a draft of his first inaugural address that was never used:

(T)he best institutions may be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some instances be made subservient to the vilest of purposes. Should, hereafter, those who are entrusted with the management of this government, incited by the lust of power and prompted by the supineness or venality of their constituents, overleap the known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable rights of humanity: it will only serve to show, that no compact among men (however provident in its construction and sacred in its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable. And if I may so express myself, that no wall of words, that no mound of parchment can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.

ALXnow: Do you sometimes feel like you’re channeling Washington and the other historical figures you portray?

Hilton: Yeah, that happens after about five minutes. It’s an exhilarating experience that takes me a little bit to come down from after a performance. I’ve loved the character-building experience of taking what’s generally agreed upon to be best of Washington and taking these deep dives into the lives of him and other individuals has been extremely rewarding.

ALXnow: Do people ask you to participate in partisan events?

Hilton: Definitely. I will not accept doing, in the persona of General Washington, the extremes when it comes to politics or religion. I don’t say anything that Washington didn’t say. I have studied him since before I was at George Mason University.

ALXnow: When can we next see you as George Washington?

Hilton: The exact date hasn’t been set, but I’ll be appearing at the Carlyle House in September.

ALXnow: Then the George Washington Birthday Parade in February…

Hilton: That’s right. You know, for people like me who portray Washington, President’s Day is what Christmas is like for Santa Claus.

ALXnow: Now that you’re prepping for Einstein, how are your math and science skills?

Hilton: I’ve always been fascinated by Albert Einstein. Mainly it’s just just getting ready when it comes to the whole mathematics side. I’m also studying a little Hebrew. I’ll be speaking English but with a German accent. I hope to portray him for colleges and universities, for think tanks and research facilities. So, it’s been a lot of math, the fluidity of spacetime, and getting all that down. I’ve got the general theory of relativity and the special theory and all of his papers from 1905 in particular. I’ve got all the Einstein equations down and I’ve got the quantum mechanics down, as well.

ALXnow: Will you wear your shoes without socks?

Hilton: That’s right. I will not be wearing socks. I go into more of a nerdy mode and, like Einstein, start thinking in pictures. There’s an absent-mindedness when it comes to his general appearance, and when you get the mustache on and the superannuated sheepdog look with the hair. It’s really quite something to see when put together.

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Old Town was packed on Saturday morning for Alexandria’s 40th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Thousands of visitors lined King Street to watch a procession of more than 2,000 participants, including Irish dancers, historic reenactors and the City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums. The festivities also included a car show and a dog show at Market Square outside City Hall.

This year’s Grand Marshal was Charlotte Hall, managing director of Old Town Business. The parade was sponsored by the Ballyshaners, a nonprofit dedicated to Irish heritage. Ballyshaners is Gaelic for “Old Towners.”

Enjoy the photos!

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Old Town was packed on Monday, as thousands of revelers and marchers celebrated the George Washington Birthday Parade.

More than 2,000 freemasons from all over the country marched in the 100th annual parade, which is the largest annual celebration of Washington in the world.

This year’s event saw a rare route change for the parade, which is traditionally held east of Washington Street near City Hall in the Old Town Historic District. This year, the parade made its way from Old Town North to King Street and near the George Washington Masonic National Memorial at King Street and Commonwealth Avenue.

This event commemorated the construction of the Memorial in 1923, which saw then-President Calvin Coolidge, Chief Justice William Howard Taft and Virginia Governor E. L.Trinkle lay the cornerstone.

Alexandria’s next parade is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town on Saturday, March 4.

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