Alexandrians are invited to dance away the lunch hour today at an outdoor bash in front of the Torpedo Factory arts center, to celebrate winning All-America City honors.

Alexandria was one of eight winners in a contest sponsored by the National Municipal League, a New York-based organization that honors municipalities for citizen involvement and community projects.

"This doesn't mean we are a perfect city," said acting City Manager Vola Lawson, who scripted the slide show presentation that was entered in the contest. "It means we're working to address problems. It's a pat on the back for all the people who get involved."

Marion Kelly, contest administrator, said she was aware of recent allegations that the city's director of public safety improperly halted a drug investigation. A special grand jury reported Feb. 27 that there was no substance to the allegations, and lambasted two city council members, saying they had smeared the city's name.

"We didn't take into consideration anything to do with the police department" or the grand jury, Kelly said. "We looked at the three citizen projects that Alexandria submitted and felt they were worthy of the award."

The $2 million Torpedo Factory renovation, which has sparked further development along the waterfront; the Micah Housing Inc. project, which allowed low-income residents to buy apartments at Fayette Court, and the Friends of Alexandria Public Schools, a group credited with boosting the school system's image and enrollment, were the projects Alexandria cited in the contest.

"I'm excited. You can take my pulse if you want to," Mayor Charles E. Beatley said yesterday as he began preparing for the celebration. "Let's have a parade and balloons and cake. Let's get everyone dancing in the streets."

The city's Tourist Council scrambled to sign up bands to play in the parade, which will start at the 1400 block of King Street and proceed east to the waterfront. Beatley said city officials "and anybody else who wants to" will assemble at 11:30 a.m. outside the Hard Times Cafe at 1401 King St., and celebrate their way down to a cake-eating lunch time party at the street's end.

"I guess it's wonderful," said Erica Donnellon, 25, a management consultant who moved to Alexandria from Paris five years ago. "But who were the other winners?" she asked as she ate a tuna fish sandwich by the City Hall fountain yesterday.

Told they were Anchorage; Tempe, Ariz.; Albany, Ore.; Monterey Park, Calif.; Quincy Ill.; Harrisburg, Pa., and Fayetteville, N.C., Donnellon laughed and said, "Well, maybe it's not such a big deal after all."