- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Old Town Alexandria, Va., yesterday said nay to Presidents Day and instead held a parade to celebrate George Washington's Day.
Rows of Revolutionary War-era re-enactors many in powdered wigs marched down St. Asaph Street accompanied by the sound of drum and fife in the first president's "hometown." Images of Washington appeared on placards, maps and parking signs.
But there was no mention of that other commander in chief whose birthday observance was combined with Washington's to create Presidents Day.
"I would have thought they would work [Abraham] Lincoln in somewhere," said Bob Patterson, 46, who brought his family from Columbia, Md., to see the bands, politicians and vintage clothing. "We've had multiple George Washingtons."
Falls Church, Va., resident Martin Generous, 40, summed it up: "Washington's the local guy."
(Before 1971, Lincoln's birthday was observed on Feb. 12 and Washington's on Feb. 22. In 1971, President Nixon combined the observances to create Presidents Day to honor all presidents. It is celebrated annually on the third Monday in February.)
Alexandria takes great pride in its connection to the first president. Every year it holds the George Washington's Birthday parade, and every year the event attracts bundled-up residents from across the region.
According to city records, Washington made early maps of Alexandria in 1748 and 1749, represented Alexandria in the House of Burgesses before the Revolutionary War and was a trustee of Alexandria.
In the 1760s, Washington built a town house on Cameron Street to avoid the hazards of traveling between Alexandria and his home at Mount Vernon, eight miles away.
Though his 269th birthday anniversary is Thursday, city officials chose the federal holiday when many had the day off to celebrate.
"For us it's a chance to expose the kids to some patriotic festivities," said Edward O'Neill, 33, of Springfield, Va., who stood along the crowded parade route among dogs, flag-waving children and parents with video cameras. "And it's a great day for a parade."
Mr. Generous said he has been attending the annual Washington festivities on and off for the past 15 years. His son Chris, 9, seemed more enthusiastic about getting the day off than seeing the different military bands.
"It's really a neat neighborhood," said Kay Eccleston, 61, a new Northern Virginia resident from Los Alamos, N.M. "They don't celebrate this in New Mexico."
Everyone from the local police SWAT team to the Boy Scouts made a showing. Residents clapped for their sheriff's deputies and, this being Alexandria, the bagpipers with chilly knees.
Children tossed candy to their peers seated along the curb, prompting one man to say, "There's a certain sense of power in throwing candy to your own."
Mr. Patterson's children ended up with so much candy that the event felt more like Halloween to them.
"Daddy, my foot's asleep," said 5-year-old Caroline, who repeatedly crouched in the road to pick up Tootsie Rolls and hard candies.
"The kids love it. It's very simple," Mr. Patterson said. "It's a complete throwback with the Brownies walking by."
Among the oddest sights of the day was the Alexandria Archaeology group that performed dancing high kicks and excitedly waved flags that read simply, "Archeology."
Not to be outdone, the Shriners pulled a large, fake camel on a trailer embossed with the words "Camel Herders" in paint. And some of their elderly, tassle-capped members sped down the street squeezed into little amusement-park style cars.

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