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.
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!
— Dick Uliano (@DickUliano) March 4, 2023
Get out of the way!!
Today, the Woodridge Showtime Marching Eagles Performed at the 2023 Ballyshaners St. Patrick's Day Parade held in Old Town Alexandria Virginia. #woodridgeeaglessoar💙💛💙🦅 #FriendshipProud #fpcswoodridge #dccharterproud #marchingband pic.twitter.com/0jpJoQ4U4F
— Friendship PCS (@FriendshipPCS) March 4, 2023
— Old Town Dog Walks (@Oldtowndogwalks) March 4, 2023
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.
Updated at 6 p.m. Old Town residents and business owners are up in arms for not being officially notified of a route change for the George Washington Birthday Parade on Feb. 20 (President’s Day).
The parade will shut down large sections of Old Town North and Old Town near the King Street-Old Town Metro station, restricting parking and vehicular access for residents and businesses. The parade will start at 1 p.m. at the intersection of Pendleton Street and Fayette Street, and marchers will walk south down Fayette Street, hang a right on King Street and then end at the foot of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial at King Street and Commonwealth Avenue.
The new route was chosen by the volunteer-led the George Washington Birthday Parade Committee to recognize the 100th anniversary of the parade, which is the biggest annual parade celebrating George Washington in the world. The parade is traditionally held east of Washington Street near City Hall in the Old Town Historic District, but this year’s event will commemorate the construction of the Memorial in 1923, which saw then-President Calvin Coolidge, Chief Justice William Howard Taft and Virginia Governor E. L.Trinkle laying the cornerstone.
In November, the Committee submitted a request to the city to change the route. That request was approved on Jan. 24, and two days later parade organizers publicly announced that the parade will happen on Feb. 20, and that a number of side streets will also be closed.
“As with any large-scale event of this magnitude, a months-long process was necessary to assess the best approach,” Ebony Fleming, the city’s director of the Office of Communications and Public Information, told ALXnow. “While we are honored our city is home to such notable celebrations, we recognize how changes, and even temporary road closures, can be an inconvenience to our residents and business owners, especially on a holiday weekend. We will continue promoting the new parade route and ask impacted Alexandrians for their grace and flexibility as we prepare to welcome excited visitors for this historic occasion.”
The parade will be held between 1 and 3 p.m., and parking restrictions and access will be lifted no later than 5 p.m.
“If it’s such a big deal — the 100th anniversary — don’t you want to let people know?” said an Old Town resident who will be affected by the parking. “I haven’t heard anything about this parade at all.”
Parade spokesperson Bud Jackson said that the new route is a one-time experience, and acknowledged the inconvenience for residents and businesses. Jackson said that parade volunteers will soon be going door-to-door to inform those affected about the change.
“Like most parades, the George Washington Birthday Parade has always included portions of residential neighborhoods and inconvenienced some businesses,” Jackson told ALXnow. “We acknowledge that this year’s one-time only parade route change will inconvenience some residents and businesses.”
But many residents and business owners are either unhappy about the late notice or unaware of changes to the route.
“Certainly the organizers knew it was the 100 anniversary of this event for quite some time,” a business owner told ALXnow. “Perhaps even for the last 100 years. Why did the City allow them to change the route well after event permits were submitted and approved? Why were impacted residents and businesses not notified? Would a for profit organization like Pacers be given the same leniency? I don’t think so.”
The parade will also restrict vehicular access to a number of housing complexes, including The Asher (620 N. Fayette Street), The Henry (525 N. Fayette Street), The Prescott (1115 Cameron Street), 1111 Belle Pre Apartments (111 Belle Pre Way), as well as Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority properties.
“I didn’t know about (the new parade route) and none of the residents that I spoke with knew about it either but I haven’t heard any complaints,” said Kevin Harris, president of the ARHA Resident Association.
Another Old Town business owner said they will be losing up to $7,000 in business.
“We already have events and staff scheduled for February,” the business owner said. “Federal holidays are typically huge retail sales days. This will be a $5,000-to-$7,000 hit on our business. This is why notifying impacted businesses is required in the permitting process.”
Parade traffic and parking restrictions
While the parade starts at Pendleton and N. Fayette Streets, all parking on nearby side streets will be cleared by 9 a.m., according to organizers.
- The bridge at King Street and Commonwealth Avenue will be cleared by 5 a.m.
- All vehicles parked on the street will be towed between the 100 and 900 blocks of N. Fayette Streets (at the intersection with Braddock Place)
- All vehicles parked on N. Payne Street will be towed
- All vehicles parked on N. West Street from the intersection at King Street to Princess Street will be towed
- All vehicles parked on Queen Street and N. Fayette Street
- All vehicles parked on Princess Street, starting at the intersection with N. Fayette Street and going down to the intersection with King Street
- Traffic will be shut down (except for residents) on King Street to Janneys Lane
- Traffic will be shut down on Callahan Drive (except Amtrak station traffic and buses)
- Traffic will be shut down on Diagonal Road and portions of Daingerfield Road (except buses and local traffic)
- Traffic will be shut down on Sunset Street, Russell Road and Cedar Street near the intersection of King Street and Commonwealth Avenue
It was an unseasonably warm 60 degrees on Saturday afternoon (Dec. 3) in Old Town for the Campagna Center’s 51st 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 marshal was former City Council Member Del Pepper.
— Visit Alexandria VA (@AlexandriaVA) December 3, 2022
It’s the most wonderful day of the year! The Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/G9uT8chYPo
— Alyia Gaskins (@Alyia4ALX) December 4, 2022
The rain stopped JUST in time and we had an amazing parade! pic.twitter.com/FTbJOFebh0
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) December 3, 2022
The 51st Annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade is on the move! pic.twitter.com/0YUiqzP3NE
— Visit Alexandria VA (@AlexandriaVA) December 3, 2022
It will be the 51st year for the event, which features Scottish clans, dancers and bagpipes working along a route through the city. The one-mile-long parade starts at 11 a.m. at the intersection of Wolfe and St. Asaph Streets and ends up outside City Hall (301 King Street).
The parade is the centerpiece for a full weekend of holiday activities, including a parade of boats decorated with holiday lights starting at 5:30 p.m. along the city’s waterfront.
Redella “Del” Pepper finished a historic 36-year term on Alexandria’s City Council earlier this year, but the former City Council member is back and will be at helm of this year’s Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade.
The parade is set to make its return the first weekend in December.
“Campagna Center and Visit Alexandria announce the selection of Redella “Del” Pepper as the Grand Marshal for the 51st Annual Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade taking place on Saturday, December 3, 2022,” the Campagna Center, organizers of the parade, said in a release. “Pepper’s selection as Grand Marshal recognizes her status as the longest-serving member of Alexandria City Council with more than 36 years of service to the community.”
Pepper was elected to the Council in 1985 and officially finished her term on Jan. 1 this year. Pepper served as Vice Mayor three times during her time on the Council.
The Campagna Center said Pepper will be at the head of the procession she walked and rode in many times over the years.
“As Grand Marshal, Pepper will kick off the parade festivities and lead the delegations from the step-off point at the corner of S. St. Asaph and Wolfe Street, progressing through Old Town Alexandria and concluding in front of Market Square on King Street,” the Campagna Center said. “More than 100 community groups will join the celebrations.”
“Visit Alexandria is assuming logistical responsibilities for the event,” the release said. “Preserving the biggest holiday weekend experience ensures the continuation of a key economic driver for the city’s small business and hospitality communities and preserves a historic signature event that is a source of civic pride.”
Visit Alexandria announced today that the city’s famous Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade will be returning for its 51st year early next month.
The parade features dozens of Scottish clans represented in full regalia, along with pipe and drum bands and costumes. According to Visit Alexandria, the event is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3, starting at 11 a.m.
“Alexandria was founded in 1749 by Scottish merchants and was named after Scotsman John Alexander who owned the land that became Alexandria,” the report said. “Today, the city continues celebrating its heritage with the iconic parade.”
The parade traditionally features over 35 Scottish clans gathering from around the region and across the country.
“Bagpipers include the Kiltie Band of York and the City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums plus a bagpiping Santa closing the parade,” Visit Alexandria said in a release. “A pipe band and color guard will be presented by St. Andrew’s Society of Washington, D.C., which is a charitable and social fraternity of Scottish descendants established in Alexandria in 1760, and a founding parade partner along with Campagna Center and the Old Presbyterian Meeting House.”
After walking the parade route, the pipe bands reassemble at Market Square for a concert.
“The parade kicks off on S. St. Asaph Street at the corner of Wolfe Street and progresses north to Queen Street, east to Fairfax Street, south to King Street, and west to terminate in front of City Hall,” the report said. “For the best views, spread out along the one-mile parade route.”
“The Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade is produced by Visit Alexandria through a new partnership with Campagna Center and the City of Alexandria,” the release said. “The weekend kicks off on Friday, December 2 with the Campagna Center’s Taste of Scotland, a festive cocktail party at the Torpedo Factory Art Center featuring whiskey-tasting stations, hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine bars and a custom art exhibit.”
It was crisp, clear on Sunday in Del Ray — perfect for the annual Del Ray Halloween Parade.
Thousands of kids and adults marched in costumes for the event, including members of the Alexandria City Council and the Alexandria City High School ‘Zombie Band’.
It’s Visit Del Ray’s 26th year hosting the fun event, which it started at Mount Vernon Avenue and E. Bellefonte Avenue and ended with live music and prizes at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center athletic fields.
A beautiful day for the Del Ray Halloween Parade!
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) October 30, 2022
ASO joined the Halloween festivities over the weekend at the annual Del Ray Halloween Parade! The fun continues this evening with trick-or-treating so please be extra careful driving and watch for little ones https://t.co/v1AIW2SMY1 pic.twitter.com/j36a0gTGp4
— Alexandria Sheriff (@AlexVASheriff) October 31, 2022
Happy Halloween! BPAC led our third annual Halloween ride through the spectacularly spooky streets of Del Ray this past Saturday. Read more at https://t.co/JGiEJZGcbe
— Alexandria Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee (@AlexandriaBPAC) October 30, 2022
President’s Day in Alexandria was marked with the return of an annual parade celebrating George Washington’s birthday.
Some parade events were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to concerns about the spread of COVID, but with numbers steadily declining more of those events are coming back.