A colonial ball last Saturday at Gadsby's Tavern touched off a week-long celebration of George Washington's 250th birthday in Old Town, Alexandria.
George and Martha Washington, portrayed in full costume and elaborate wigs by Richard B. Hills and Anne D. Lash, were the focus of attention in the receiving line and during the dancing that followed.
The tall and imposing Hills hugged Lash and June McInerney (who portrayed John Fitzgerald's wife) and ringingly declared, "The general loves ladies!"
The Colonial Cotillion dancers performed in the upstairs ballroom to music by the Colonial Quartet: Jennifer Gordon, first violin; Jeanette Dell, second violin; Glen Kwok, viola; and Cynthia Lee, cello.
Guests roamed from Gadsby's Tavern to the grand ballroom of American Legion Post 24 next door, where a band played contemporary dance music.
"George Washington often visited Gadsby's Tavern for dinners and meetings," said Carl R. Nold, director of the Gadsby museum, which is open to the public.
"His birthday balls in 1798 and 1799 were held in the Tavern, the final two years before his death," said Nold. "The tradition continued after his death."
Among the historic figures represented at the ball was Spanish Gen. Bernardo de Galvez, played by Gregory Folmer. De Galvez was chosen as Spain's representative at the ball because he led Spanish ships in the battle of Pensacola, the only Revolutionary War battle fought in what is now the state of Florida.
Britain's defeat at Pensacola, according to the program, is thought by some historians to have led "directly to the defeat of the British at Yorktown the following October."
Mayor Charles E. Beatley Jr. led the way around the tavern for visiting Spanish guests Alonso Alvarez Toledo, acting chief of missions to the Spanish embassy, and his wife, Monica.
"I was in Yorktown for the (reenactment of the) battle of Yorktown," the diplomat said. "Here there is so much more warmth."
Birthday festivities at Gadsby's Tavern will conclude Sunday with an evening of "food, drink and music of Washington's time."
Eighteenth-century Virginia was evoked yet again Monday night at a Washington birthday ball given by the Mount Vernon Citizens' Association and the 250th Birthday Celebration Commission.
About a third of the guests wore colonial dress to the dinner and dance at the Springfield Hilton Hotel.
The Fort Hunt High School Madrigal Singers, under the direction of Jack Murray, assembled on the lobby staircase to serenade arrivals with music of the period.
Retired Brig. Gen. A. W. Lyon and his wife Helen, costumed as George and Martha Washington, headed the receiving line. Retired Rear Adm. Richard B. Black took the role of John Paul Jones.
"John Paul Jones never married, so she's my date," he quipped, introducing his wife Aviza, who portrayed Mrs. Christian Blackburn. "It's probable that John Paul Jones knew Mrs. Blackburn," he added.
Toni McMahon, chairwoman of the ball, estimated that $700 to $800 would be donated from the proceedings to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union.
"That includes some donations from local merchants, and some from the Mount Vernon ladies who gave us their very gracious blessings," she said.
John F. Herrity (R-Fairfax), chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, told the guests during dinner: "Gen. Henry Lee said of Washington, 'He was first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.' What not everyone knows is that he then went on to say, 'He was second to none in his enjoyment of domestic life.' "
During the social hour, the conversation was backed by the music of the Fort Hunt String Quartet: Jennifer Swift, first violin; Raelene Cannel, second violin; Margy Bambery, viola; and Tracy Wise, cello.
Among those portraying historical figures were Bushrod C. Washington, a descendant of Gen. Washington's brother, and his wife Lydia, who came as Col. and Mrs. George Mason. A direct descendant of Patrick Henry, Frank Henry, and his wife Marie, came dressed as the great patriot and his lady.