Up and down the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the 250th anniversary of Washington's birth will be celebrated in the months ahead, with some help coming from as far away as Washington, England.
Alexandria's annual Washington birthday parade and historic house tour will take place in Old Town on Monday, the federal holiday, when Mount Vernon also will be open free to the public. Banquets, balls, games and concerts will be held in the area over the weekend, with additional events scheduled next weekend and on Feb. 22, Washington's actual birth date.
The Smithsonian Institution will stage George Washington exhibits and celebrations are planned at various other Virginia sites, including Fredericksburg and Washington's birthplace at Wakefield on the Potomac.
The 250th anniversary will continue to be celebrated sporadically all spring in Alexandria and Fairfax County, culminating May 8 when the parkway between Alexandria and Mount Vernon will be closed much of the day for a special 250th birthday parade from Fort Hunt to Mount Vernon, followed by a band concert on the green in front of Mount Vernon.
Before the parade, a mass of runners will travel north on the parkway in a 10-mile foot race between Mount Vernon and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria.
Although most of the events will be fleeting celebrations, several permanent improvements are being made in connection with the 250th anniversary.
Mount Vernon itself has launched a $10 million fund-raising drive, the first since the 1850s, when the Mount Vernon Ladies Association was formed to save Mount Vernon from developers. The money will be used to replace antiquated electrical, security and irrigation systems and provide an endowment for future expenses that cannot be met by admission charges.
A $2.5 million library and research center are under construction to help house Mount Vernon's extensive collection of Washington papers and artifacts. The mansion's interior has just been repainted in the vibrant, original 18th century colors, and early Washington portraits, on loan from Washington and Lee University, are hanging in their original positions on Mount Vernon's walls.
Washington, England, has donated $15,000 for the planting of 250 trees along the parkway between Alexandria and Mount Vernon. The Washington family took the town's name, called Wessington in the 12th century.
The trees, including English oaks, maples and sycamores, will be planted this spring, with a ceremonial planting of an elm in Mount Vernon Circle on April 22.
Because of budget restraints, no Park Service money will be spent this year for trees or landscaping along the parkway, although Park Service officials have said they are concerned about the visibility of new airport parking lots, office buildings, a church and new homes built along the scenic parkway.
About $100,000 worth of landscaping will be done along the parkway opposite National Airport, however, by developer Charles E. Smith, who is building high-rise office buildings between the parkway and Crystal City.
The Park Service, however, does plan to include an extra $30,000 in the parkway budget to add two rangers to assist the ever-increasing number of persons using the parkway and the 16-mile bike trail between Mount Vernon and Washington.
The rangers will operate a new visitors' kiosk at Fort Hunt this spring to oversee the trail and help coordinate a new Park Service volunteer program.
Detailed lists of Northern Virginia events commemorating Washington's 250th birthday, published by the Alexandria Tourist Council and Fairfax County's George Washington Celebration Commission, are available at local libraries and Alexandria's Ramsay House Visitor Center, 221 King St.
Among the major events are:
Feb. 13. Birthnight banquet and ball. With 18th century dinner at Alexandria Holiday Inn and ball at Gadsby's Tavern, where George and Martha Washington attended the first birthnight ball in 1798. By reservation only; $50 a couple. Call Alexandria's G.W. Birthday Committee, 549-0205.
Feb. 14. Revolutionary War encampment. Fort Ward Park's reenactment of soldiers' lives in the 1770s starts at noon, ends with skirmish at 2 p.m. Free. 4301 W. Braddock Rd.
Feb. 15. George Washington birthday parade. 206th Alexandria parade in honor of Washington, the largest ever, will wind through Old Town Alexandria streets starting at 2 p.m. at Wilkes and South Fairfax streets, passing Market Square and Gadsby's Tavern on Royal Street, west on Queen and south on St. Asaph Street.
Feb. 15. Fredericksburg. Mary Washington House and other city museums at half price.
Feb. 15. Mount Vernon. Open free.
Feb. 15. Fairfax birthnight supper and ball. 18th century menu; at Springfield Hilton. $60 a couple; by reservation only. Call 780-1585.
Feb. 22. Washington Monument. Alaska stone for the Monument will be presented by governor of Alaska at foot of monument at 9 a.m.
Feb. 21. Birthday eve candlelight tour. Food, drink and entertainment at Alexandria's Gadsby's Tavern Museum and the Ramsay, Carlyle, Robert E. Lee and Lee-Fendall Houses. $8 adults, $5 children. 5-8 p.m.
Feb. 22. Hometown birthday party. Bands, entertainment and cake at George Washington Bicentennial Center, 201 S. Washington St., Alexandria. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free.
Feb. 22. Mount Vernon. Ceremony commemorating first issue of a new George Washington stamp, at Mount Vernon Inn in front of Mount Vernon. Wreath-laying ceremonies during the day at Washington's tomb inside Mount Vernon.
Feb. 22. Washington's birthplace. Wakefield on the Potomac in Westmoreland County will celebrate with music, cider and gingerbread. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free.
Feb. 22. Fredericksburg. Refreshments also at Mary Washington house in Fredericksburg, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission fee.
Feb. 22. Smithsonian Institution. National Portrait Gallery will open a two-month print and illustration exhibit on Washington as seen by his 18th century contemporaries. The show travels to other cities on April 27.
Feb. 23. Smithsonian Institution. Opening of a special 10-month Washington exhibit at the Museum of American History, billed as the first major Washington exhibit in the 20th century. It focuses on Washington as myth and man.
March 21. Sully Plantation. A "He did not sleep here" celebration linking the plantation and Mount Vernon, with 18th century music, dancing and refreshments. 3-6 p.m. $3 adults, $1 children.
April 22. Tree planting ceremony. At Mount Vernon Circle, to acknowledge gift of 250 trees from Washington, England.
April 30-May 1. Candlelight tours. Gadsby's Tavern Museum, Carlyle House, Lee-Fendall House and boyhood home of Robert E. Lee will have tours at 5 p.m. Music, refreshments, entertainment. Admission price has yet to be set. Tickets will be on sale at Ramsay House Visitors Center.
May 8. "Mount Vernon Classic" foot race. 10-mile run on the parkway from Mount Vernon to George Washington National Masonic Memorial on King Street in Alexandria. The parkway south of the city will be closed from 8 to 10 a.m. for the race. At least 5,000 runners are expected to participate. A $7 registration fee must be mailed by April 21 to Mt. Vernon Classic, 4702 W. Braddock Rd., Alexandria, Va. 22311. Bus will take runners from the memorial parking lot to Mount Vernon at 7 a.m.
May 8. 250th Birthday parade. On the parkway from Fort Hunt to Mount Vernon, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Parade bands will perform in concert at 2 p.m. at Mount Vernon's gates. The parkway will be closed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. between Mount Vernon and Fort Hunt. Free parking for the parade will be at Fort Hunt, accessible by the northern entrance on the parkway. Tourmobiles are expected to operate along the three-mile parade route for a yet-undetermined fee. The National Park Service is encouraging spectators to come by bicycle or on foot.