The Colonial period has “always kind of fascinated” Ben Fiore-Walker, who grew up in Philadelphia, close to Valley Forge and Washington’s Crossing.
He was such a fan of the time period that, in 2003, he wore a Colonial uniform at his 18th-century themed wedding at the Friends Meeting House in Alexandria.
Eight years later, Fiore-Walker dusted off the uniform again when he tried out, and was awarded, the position as Alexandria’s town crier. A city resident since 2002, he knew the city’s history and had the requisite booming voice. He beat out 11 others for the job.
“He was authoritative and official,” said Lance Mallamo, the director of the Office of Historic Alexandria. “It wasn’t just funny, it was something that people would understand and relate to.”
Then, there was the uniform. “Someone who’s going to go to that level of authenticity, I was like ‘Hey, this is the guy,” Mallamo said.
Since winning the job in September, the 43-year-old has begun attending official gatherings and private events, has been accepted to the American Guild of Town Criers and set up a Facebook page. Sometimes, it takes him several hours to prepare for events in which the public only sees him for a few minutes.
Fiore-Walker’s first official duty was opening the city council legislative assembly on Sept. 27, but he got to test his town crier call at an appearance for the fifth annual Old Towne Dogge Walk for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria two days earlier.
“It’s sporadic, but it could be - as more people think about an event they’re having - they think “Oh, it’d be great to have a town crier there,’ then they can contact me.”
The position is a fun departure from Fiore-Walker’s position as a pre-clinical science facilitator at Georgetown School of Medicine, where he also helps run a post-baccalaureate program that focuses on students with an interest in medicine from inhibited backgrounds. He always gets this question.
“So, what do you do to pay your mortgage?” he said. “I like going in and talking to students of all different grade levels and just saying ‘Look - whatever you want to do, you can do it. Don’t not expand your horizons and not choose something ‘cause you didn’t even know it existed.’”
“And I can always point to me and say ‘Look, I teach at Georgetown...and I’m also a town crier.”
Fiore-Walker’s wife, Kari, thinks her husband has found the ideal position to showcase his talents. “I call him sort of a walking encyclopedia,” she said. “He just has this sort of amazing capacity to remember details that I really admire, because I can’t do that.”
Kari Fiore-Walker said their two children love to see their father in the role. One dressed a mini-town crier for Halloween. “We were sort of joking about handing the position to his son someday,” she says with a laugh.
After hosting an event on King Street one evening, the family went out to dinner, with Fiore-Walker still dressed in period clothing. Thinking he was possibly a docent, diners approached him to ask what he did, and he happily said “I’m the Old town crier!” says his wife. “He’s a real head turner,” she says.
Read more on The Root DC