Clyde C. Lamond, 77, woke up early, knotted his red, white and blue tie, and found a curbside seat at the parade he has watched ever since his grade school teacher told him that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree.
"I wouldn't miss this," said Lamond, a native of Alexandria, the city that claims to the first president's home town. "It's our biggest day."
Lamond lifted his camara as White House Press Secretary James Brady and 1984 Olympic weightlifter Arn Kritsky passed by waving miniature American flags.
"I must have seen 60 of these George Washington Day parades. Truman came once. And it was so cold one year that some musicians poured water . . . or was it alcohol . . . down their French horns so they wouldn't freeze up."
With yesterday's temperatures climbing into the 50s, the number of spectators watching Alexandria's 187th annual George Washington parade neared 100,000, according to parade officials. The parade, which began at 1 p.m., followed a two-mile rectangular course through Old Town and lasted an hour and a half.
Many said they came because of the weather, others for the marching bands and some, like Robert Moraes, a tourist from Rio de Janeiro, "because it's interesting." As Moraes paged through the brochure explaining the history behind the parade and listing its 180 participating units, he said, "They go to some length here to celebrate a birthday."
Ernie T. Coleman, of the First Virginia Regiment, went so far as to outfit himself in a woolen colonial suit with pewter buttons. "Why do we do it? We're history buffs," said Coleman. Then laughing, the retired Internal Revenue Service worker added, "And we're large hams."
"But George deserves it," piped in Robert V.H. Dwinelle, a fellow regiment member who carried a musket. "He was the cement that held this country together. The whole tone of our nation came from him."
Toddlers in three-corner hats and grandparents buying ice cream with George Washington bills lined the sunny Old Town streets as Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) led a platoon of local politicians who mixed in with the fife and drum corps.
"It's our biggest single-day event of the year," said Mayor Charles E. Beatley, as he stood on the reviewing stand near Gadsby's Tavern, the famed watering hole of Gen. Washington. "It's done for history's sake, but I think after 20 minutes, people forget about George and just enjoy themselves. Parades are really social affairs."
And a chance to relive some of the fanfare of the Los Angeles Olympics for weightlifter Kritsky, 23, a senior at George Mason University. "It's not a bad feeling having people wave at you and congratulate you. As a matter of fact, it's great."
Fifth grader Brian D. Marsh of Oxon Hill said he had a "terrific time," too, especially since it was Monday and he wasn't in school.
While schools and most offices in the area were closed for the holiday, not everybody had the day off.
Though only yards from the reviewing stand, Taya R. Abbott didn't see any of yesterday's parade. The owner of the Cameron Street Cafe, Abbott said she was busy attending to the appetite of parade-goers. "Oh, I don't mind. It's been a good day for business. We ran out of cherry pie before noon."