Old Town Alexandria had the largest celebration for President George Washington’s Birthday in the United States this weekend, with about 100,000 people attending the parade Monday afternoon.
In preparation for the weekend of events in Alexandria, which included the 218th annual George Washington Birthnight Banquet and Ball Saturday, a Washington impersonator rode through Old Town in a horse-drawn carriage Saturday morning. The first president, as portrayed by Don DeHaven, made a special stop that morning at Gadsby’s Tavern, the site of Washington’s Birthday Ball since 1789. DeHaven also attended the parade and ball as the general-turned-chief-executive.
At the tavern, DeHaven surveyed the second-floor ballroom, where the ball would be held and discussed the weekend with Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille.
“We are awfully proud to reflect on your memory, President Washington,” Euille said.
DeHaven thanked the mayor and said he is looking forward to the parade Monday the most. He said, as Washington, that it was an honor to be remembered.
“I’m flattered after these years that you still remember me,” DeHaven said.
DeHaven said he attends every GW Commencement as a guest of University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s and also frequents other school events. He said Washington would be honored to share his name with GW, especially since it was his idea to found the school in the first place. Washington is credited with starting the idea of a D.C. college and gave financial assistance to the pursuit of what would later become GW in his will.
“I would say that my vision of the city (of D.C.) needing a great national college where students could come from all over the States has been fulfilled many times over,” DeHaven said as Washington.
At the tavern, Euille told a story about Washington he had learned of recently. He said the late president was known to create his own alcoholic beverages to distribute on the campaign trail in order to gain favor for his election.
“Just remember in Alexandria you can’t display alcoholic beverages in the streets,” Euille quipped.
After touring the tavern, DeHaven and Euille greeted visitors in Alexandria’s shopping district and visited Continental Army re-enactors as they ate a meal.
Todd Brighton, a 1991 graduate from the Elliott School, was one of two centuries accompanying the Washington re-enactor throughout the day. Brighton, who is a member of the reenacted 1st Virginia Infantry said depicting 18th Century battles is “just a hobby.”
“I’ll be attending the re-enactment (of a Revolutionary War skirmish) tomorrow,” Brighton said Saturday.
The sold-out Birthnight Ball Saturday night had an extensive waitlist, said Joe Shumared, vice chair of the George Washington Birthday. He said organizers try to allow as many people as possible to attend the ball but usually restrict attendance to about 100. He said more come just for the banquet and do not attend the ball, which features traditional English dancing.