Events commemorating George Washington's 259th birthday will have top priority on this week's daytrip calendar.
Washington's birthday celebrations have been a tradition in Alexandria, Va., for more than 200 years, ever since he was elected the nation's first president in 1789. Several events are scheduled, including comic opera performances, an 18th century banquet and ball, a Revolutionary War encampment and skirmish, period fashions, walking tours and the nation's largest birthday parade.
Festivities get under way today with a fashion promenade of period clothing dating from 1750 to 1865. The event will be held at the Lyceum, 201 S. Washington St., at 2 p.m. Admission is free. Call (703) 838-4994.
On Friday and Saturday night Opera Americana will present "The Beggar's Opera." A satire on 18th century British life, the opera was particularly popular in the colonies at this time. Both performances will be held at 8 p.m. at the Lyceum. The opera will be sung by professional singers from the Baltimore and Washington area. The production will be presented as it was in the 18th century, with a candlelight setting, orange girls selling fruit before the performance, and cast and members of the orchestra dressed in period attire. The audience will be encouraged to cheer and boo, as they did 200 years ago. Tickets cost $17 for adults, $12 for students and seniors. Call (703) 836-0621.
The Birthnight Banquet and Ball on Saturday evening is a re-creation of the many balls held during Washington's time. Cocktails and dinner are scheduled at the Old Town Ramada Hotel, where some of the guests will portray George and Martha Washington and other Colonial figures. Toasts that were made to Washington at the 1798 celebration will be repeated. Following dinner there will be both period and modern dancing at Gadsby's Tavern Museum, site of the original balls. Admission is $65 per couple, $32.50 single. Reservations are required. Call (703) 838-4200.
The annual Revolutionary War Encampment and Skirmish will take place next Sunday at Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site. The public can visit a military encampment, where soldiers and their families re-create camp life of the Revolutionary War era between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. A skirmish will be staged at 2 p.m. between British and Colonial troops using weaponry and military tactics of the period. Admission is free. The fort is at 4301 W. Braddock Road in Alexandria. Call (703) 838-4848.
One of the highlights of the celebration is the George Washington Birthday Parade on Feb. 18. The parade of about 200 units through the streets of the Old Town historic district begins at 1 p.m. That same day Alexandria's museums will be open for the federal holiday, and costumed guides will conduct tours of the historic district from the Ramsay House Visitors Center, 221 King St., at 9:30 a.m. The tours last about one hour and do not require reservations. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for ages 6 to 17, free for those under 6. Call (703) 548-0100.
For information on these and other birthday events in Alexandria, call (703) 838-4200.
In Colonial Williamsburg another full weekend of celebration is planned, including militia drills, an 18th century ball and tours focusing on Washington's ties to the city.
There will be a re-enactment of Washington reviewing the troops on Market Square Green next Sunday at 2 p.m., as artillery fires a 13-gun salute in his honor and the Fife and Drum Corps play military music. That night a grand ball will be held at the Governor's Palace. Visitors can watch as costumed interpreters dance the minuet, cotillion and Scottish reel. The evening of 18th century entertainment offers a look at the lifestyles of the gentry as well as that of the royal governor.
Two-hour walking tours visit buildings where Washington ate, slept and socialized. The tours are offered Saturday through next Monday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Admission will be charged to some events. For information, call (804) 220-7645.
At Valley Forge, Pa., where Washington spent the harsh winter of 1777-'78 with troops of his Continental Army, the weekend will be marked with a living history encampment Saturday and Sunday at the Muhlenberg Brigade near the Visitor Center. Both days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. various regiments will be performing camp duties as they re-create the life of the Continental soldier. A formal program that includes tactical demonstrations and musket firing will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. On Sunday programs are scheduled at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
On Feb. 18 there will be formal presentations in the west wing of the Visitor Center on Washington as a military commander at 2 p.m. and on Martha Washington and her active support of the Revolution at 3 p.m. The Muhlenberg Huts will be manned by park staff from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with continuous programs presented between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Admission is free. Call (215) 783-1077.
Also on Feb. 18 costumed members of the Valley Forge Historical Society will be serving pieces of Martha Washington's "Great Cake," made according to her original recipe at the society's museum in the park. The museum will be open free from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and an actor posing as George Washington will be on hand to answer questions. Call (215) 783-0535.
Brandywine Battlefield Park at Chadds Ford, Pa., will host its birthday celebration next Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Festivities begin as troops gather at noon for the march to Washington's Headquarters, which was the home of Benjamin Ring during the Battle of Brandywine in 1777. Outside the Ring House Washington will inspect his troops, while inside Martha Washington will entertain guests. During a second military drill at 1 p.m. visiting children will be invited to participate as young recruits. They will be given wooden mini-muskets and led through the drill.
Next on the agenda is a re-enactment of Squire Cheyney's Ride. Squire Cheyney rode from Marshalton to Chadds Ford on Sept. 11, 1777, to warn Washington about British troop movements in the area. Visitors will then join a procession back to the Visitors Center, where they will be treated to birthday cake and cider.
Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for children 5 to 12, free for those under 5. Brandywine Battlefield Park is at U.S. 1 and Route 202 in Chadds Ford. It is open year round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. For information, call (215) 459-3342.