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Thousands attended Alexandria’s birthday celebration on the waterfront on Saturday.

For a minute it seemed that rain on Saturday would result in a washout, like last year when the event was postponed. But skies cleared and grass dried enough for the event to continue as planned.

The annual event at Oronoco Bay Park (100 Madison Street) is always held the first Saturday after July 4, and this year featured performances by Three Man Soul Machine, 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.

City leaders also handed out more than 3,000 cupcakes before the grand finale fireworks display with the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra performing the 1812 Overture accompanied by howitzers from the 3rd US Infantry Regiment.

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The Portside in Old Town Summer Festival at Waterfront Park in Old Town. (Via Facebook)

Alexandria’s summer will kick off this weekend with the Portside in Old Town Summer Festival. Here’s what you need to know.

The free event, which includes the 45th annual Alexandria Jazz Fest, will be held at Waterfront Park (1A Prince Street) on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 9 p.m.

“This free festival features an array of live music, local craft beer from Port City Brewing Company and fun for the whole family on the Alexandria waterfront,” said Visit Alexandria.

The musicians were chosen by the 2023 Alexandria Jazz Fest Activation Team, which includes John Hasse, a music curator at The Smithsonian Institution, Suraya Mohamed of NPR Music and Jeremy Castillo, the director of Performance and Contemporary Music at the Levine School of Music.

Food will be provided by Borinquen Lunch BoxChalkboard Wings & BBQ, Kungfu Kitchen, Dolci Gelati and The Italian Place.

Port City Brewing Company will provide the beer, as well as:

The Portside Festival is organized by Visit Alexandria and the City’s Office of the Arts and is sponsored by Ting Internet.

The Portside in Old Town Summer Festival at Waterfront Park in Old Town. (Via Facebook)

Friday schedule

Poetry will be read between sets by:

During the performances, muralist Aniekan Udofia will paint a new piece from 6 to 9 p.m. Udofia is best known for the mural at Ben’s Chili Bowl in D.C.

Saturday schedule

Image Via Facebook

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The grand finale of Alexandria’s birthday celebration over the Potomac River, July 7, 2018 (staff photo by James Cullum)

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:

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The following press release was just published by the City of Alexandria.

The “DASHing Words in Motion” poetry contest brings recognition to writers, promotes an appreciation of poetry as an art form, and provides inspiration to individuals using the Alexandria Transit Company’s DASH Buses and Trolleys. The contest encourages quality writing by participants 16 years of age or older, who live, work or study in the City of Alexandria. Contest winners will have their poems on exhibit on DASH buses and trolleys throughout the City, as well as displayed on websites, social media platforms, brochures and flyers.

The online submission deadline for the DASHing Words in Motion is Friday, January 27, 2023. To submit poetry click here.

For additional information about the literary program, visit the Office of the Arts website: alexandriava.gov/Arts or email [email protected].

For reasonable disability accommodation, contact [email protected] or 703.746.5565, Virginia Relay 711.

The competition caps off a pretty good year for DASH, though there’s some discussion about whether the fare-free system will be sustainable.

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With fireworks, cupcakes and music, Alexandria celebrated its 273rd birthday on Sunday, July 10.

Thousands were in attendance for the free party, which also celebrates America’s birthday and was supposed to be held on Saturday (July 9), but was held off due to rain. What resulted was a less crowded event than years past — with performances by Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker, Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam, and the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO).

During the fireworks show over the Potomac River, the symphony played the “Superman theme” by John Williams instead of the traditional “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky. ASO Conductor Jim Ross said that it would not be fitting to play music by a Russian composer commemorating Alexandria’s and the country’s birthdays.

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Zeina Azzam is Alexandria’s next Poet Laureate. (Via Zoom)

Palestinian American Zina Azzam has been chosen as Alexandria’s poet laureate, and will take over the post filled three years ago by KaNikki Jakarta, who was honored with a proclamation on Tuesday night (April 5).

“I’m really delighted to be here and to I’m really honored to have this position,” Azzam told the Alexandria City Council. “I’ve got big shoes to fill and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Azzam is a volunteer with Grassroots Alexandria and is the author of poetry collection “Bayna Bayna, In-Between“. She has a master’s degree in Arabic literature from Georgetown University and her professional credits include stints as the publications editor at the Arab Center Washington D.C., senior program manager for

Mayor Justin Wilson presented outgoing Poet Laureate KaNikki Jakarta with a proclamation honoring her for her work over her three-year term, which concludes at the end of April.

“You have been a wonderful poet laureate,” Wilson told Jakarta. “It seems like just yesterday that we were appointing you. I don’t know what the heck happened here in time, but you have been a wonderful ambassador for our city and just set the perfect tone for so many different events on so many different occasions.”

Jakarta wrote 25 poems in those three years, spoke at numerous annual events and conducted poetry workshops.

“Thank you very much for appointing me to be poet laureate,” Jakarta said. “It’s been very interested in these Covid times, being able to pivot. It has been an honor to honor other people before me and to bring history and words to that.”

Azzam was chosen by a literary task force made up of representatives from the Alexandria Library, a local book store, the Alexandria Transit Company, and the Office of Historic Alexandria. If unable to fulfill her three year term, the task force recommended that poet Elias Yabarow act as an alternate.

The poet laureate program began in 1979, and there have been seven poets to hold the position:

  • KaNikki Jakarta, 2019-2022
  • Wendi R. Kaplan, 2016-2019
  • Ryan Wojtanowski, 2016
  • Tori Lane Kovarik, 2013-2016
  • Amy Young, 2010-2013
  • Mary McElveen. 2007-2010
  • Jean Elliot, 1979-1999

Photos via Zoom

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Current poet laureate KaNikki Jakarta, photo via City of Alexandria

Know anyone that’s a poet at heart? The City of Alexandria is opening applications to be the new poet laureate.

The poet laureate’s job, according to the press release, is to promote appreciation of poetry as an art form, encourage creative writing and reading, and promote literacy through poetry. The position has a three-year term starting on April 1, 2022, succeeding current poet laureate KaNikki Jakarta. The ceremonial role will also involve presentations of poetry to various audiences.

“Individuals can nominate themselves or be nominated by someone else,” the city said. “To qualify, nominees must distinguish themselves in the field of poetry through their body of work; be a resident of the City for a minimum of one year and maintain residency through the three-year term of service; and be 18 years of age or older.”

Entries are juried by a task force that will provide a recommendation to the City Council. The nomination forms are available online.

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Morning Notes

TikTok captures promotion for first Hispanic Alexandria Fire Department battalion chief — “‘Hi dad, it’s Nicholle,’ the voice said before listing all the other people in the room. ‘It is my honor to announce your promotion to battalion chief.'” [7News]

Emergency alert at 10 a.m. announcing 16+ eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine — “On Monday, April 19, around 10 a.m., #Virginia will be issuing a Wireless Emergency Alert System message alerting everyone 16+ that they are now eligible to register for a #COVID19 vaccine under phase 2. More information: bit.ly/3mXUfTC #VaccinateVA” [Twitter]

Police honor good samaritan who identified crash suspect — “The Alexandria Police Department honored a man and his family with the Chief of Police Award on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, for their assistance in a deadly pedestrian crash from last year.” [Twitter]

DASHing Words in Motion Poetry Bus honors 10 Alexandria Poets, Poet Laureate — “On April 15, ten local poets were honored by the Alexandria Transit Company and The City of Alexandria Office of the Arts for their poetry submissions. Their winning submissions are posted inside each bus of the entire DASH bus fleet and on the Office of Arts website.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Considerable clouds early. Some decrease in clouds later in the day. Slight chance of a rain shower. High 68F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph… Clear (in the evening). Low 47F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Group fitness instructor — “This is an exciting opportunity for the right person to be an inspiring member of our team and help us to continue to share the Row House brand and experience to all people, everywhere. Coaches are hired as employees (not independent contractors) as we invest in your development and growth as a rowing-based fitness professional.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Police Provide Guidance on Indecent Exposures in Del Ray — “The Police department encourages anyone who is a victim or witnessed these incidents to call 9-1-1.  If you live in the neighborhood, please review your security cameras and call police if there is suspicious activity.” [City of Alexandria]

City Hall Walk-in Payment Hours Expanded — “Beginning Monday, March 1, in-person services are now available Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.” [City of Alexandria]

Little Theatre of Alexandria Presents ‘The Revolutionists’ — “Come watch as four sassy women lose their heads in this irreverent, girl-powered comedy set during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror.” [Gazette]

‘Port City Publius’ Bashes Anti-Establishment Facebook Group — “The group is a tinpot dictatorship in which comments and posts that don’t share the narrow worldview of the moderators are routinely deleted and removed, and the offending poster evicted from the membership. This authoritarian intolerance for diverse and divergent viewpoint–not to mention an outright manipulation of the discourse in the group (‘IT’S CANCEL CULTURE!!’ comes the ironic scream from the cover of the CPAC brochure most of these people probably have laying on their kitchen counter)–is pretty hypocritical for a group allegedly concerned with integrity.” [Port City Publius]

Former Delegate Krupicka Publishes Poetry Book — “”It took a while, but I fell into routine of writing poems inspired by grace and the need for grace in life. Fast forward a few years and I had a good number of poems. Enough for a collection. Well, here it is. This project took close to five years in total to write, edit and then get the nerve up to publish.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy. Periods of rain early. High 54F. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 70%… Some clouds early will give way to generally clear conditions overnight. Low 27F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Full Time Nanny for 1 Child — “We are looking for a nanny who can watch and care for our five-month-old daughter while both parents are working from home, ideally one who can start as soon as possible. Nanny would be responsible for ensuring that the baby gets fed, has playtime, and takes naps on a reasonable schedule; takes her outside as weather permits; and helps ensure she is hitting her developmental milestones. We are taking our COVID precautions seriously, and since the nanny would effectively become part of our bubble, we would want to work with someone who is also diligent about our daughter’s safety. The nanny must also be Infant CPR certified.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria’s course toward social justice might be long, but hope remains for a better future. That’s the message behind the Alexandria Choral Society’s (ACS) Refuge project, and if all goes as planned the five-movement piece will be performed live next May by members of the T.C. Williams High School choir.

“There’s a lot of mileage that you have to go on that journey for a better future,” Refuge composer Jonathan Kolm told ALXnow. “There’s an uplifting arc of hope, but one that is tempered by difficult circumstances that we find ourselves in.”

ACS Artistic Director Brian J. Isaac said that the piece has been labeled a “crowdsource commission,” because portions of the texts that will be sung by the choir have been chosen by the ACS members and fans in Zoom chats. The texts from the fifth movement will be chosen next month.

“Right now, we plan to present this live in May,” Isaac said. “But if it’s not safe to do so, we will likely release a portion of this and maybe a teaser of one movement or a portion of one movement in a virtual format, and then perform the entirety of this work with T.C. Williams as soon as we possibly can.”

A portion of ticket revenue from the concert will be donated to a social justice charity in Alexandria.

The first four movements will include the following texts:

Photo via Alexandria Choral Society/Facebook

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