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George Washington gets top billing on his birthday

THE BALTIMORE SUN

George Washington gets top billing on his 260th birthday. Various sites associated with the first president in Virginia and Pennsylvania are planning celebrations this week.

Alexandria, Va., boasts the nation's largest George Washington's birthday parade and numerous other events, including an 18th century-style banquet and ball, a Revolutionary War encampment, 18th century musical entertainment, walking tours and a wreath-laying ceremony. The citizens of Alexandria have observed Washington's birthday ever since their fellow townsman was elected president in 1789.

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. After dinner there will be period and modern dancing at Gadsby's Tavern Museum, site of the original ball. 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. Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the public can visit a military encampment, where soldiers and their families re-create camp life of the Revolutionary War era. A skirmish will be staged at 2 p.m. between British and Colonial troops. Admission is free. The fort is at 4301 W. Braddock Road in Alexandria. Call (703) 838-4848.

About 75,000 people are expected to attend the George Washington Birthday Parade on the federal holiday, Feb. 17. This year's grand marshal is Lt. Gen. Walter E. Boomer, commander of the coalition forces that liberated Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War. About 200 units, including marching bands, floats, military and re-enactment units, Scouts, equestrian entries and antique cars, will parade through the streets of the Old Town historic district beginning at 1 p.m. George and Martha Washington will review the units in front of Gadsby's Tavern. Immediately after the parade, the public is invited to join members of Opera Americana for a Colonial-style sing-a-long. The event, entitled "A Meeting of the George Washington Glee Club," will be held at Gadsby's Tavern Museum about 3 p.m. Washington was president of an Anacreontic Society, a type of drinking and social club that enjoyed singing and revelry. Participants will be handed sheets printed with the original words to a popular drinking song. Admission is free.

Before the parade, a fife and drum corps will perform at 10:45 a.m. on the steps of the Lyceum, 201 S. Washington St., and the performance will be followed by a dramatic reading of Washington's farewell address. Visitors are invited to the museum for complimentary refreshments and entertainment by the Colonial Recorders. Admission is free.

On Feb. 22, visitors can step back in time for an evening of diversions at Gadsby's Tavern. The entertainment begins at 7:30 p.m. and includes a variety of songs and dances, dramatic readings and short theatrical presentations. It simulates the type of evening that George Washington would have enjoyed. Re-enactors will demonstrate dance steps to the accompaniment of live period music, and light refreshment will be served. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $6 for children. For reservations, call (703) 838-4242.

The final event is a wreath-laying ceremony Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Callahan Drive and King Street. Admission is free. For information on these and other birthday events in Alexandria, call

838-4200.

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Eight miles to the south of Alexandria is Washington's home, Mount Vernon. It will be open to visitors free of charge on Feb. 17 to honor his birthday.

There will be a wreath-laying ceremony at 10 a.m. at Washington's tomb. Immediately after the ceremony, the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps will play Revolutionary War military and patriotic tunes, and the Commander-in-Chief's Guard, a colonial unit of the Army, will demonstrate military tactics of the period on the bowling green in front of the mansion. For information, call (703) 780-2000.

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At Valley Forge, Pa., where Washington spent the harsh winter of with the troops of his Continental Army, four regiments will set up camp next Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Muhlenberg Brigade near the Visitor Center. There will be living history demonstrations depicting the life of the Continental soldier. Tactical demonstrations with firings of musket and cannon are scheduled at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Admission is free. Call (215) 783-1077.

On Sunday there will be a lecture on Washington's military career at 2 p.m. in the Visitor Center. Also on Sunday, 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 of charge between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Call (215) 783-0535.

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Brandywine Battlefield Park in Chadds Ford, Pa., will host its birthday celebration next Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The troops (members of the First Continental Regiment of Foot and the mounted Philadelphia First City Troop) will gather at Washington's headquarters, which was the home of Quaker Benjamin Ring during the battle of Brandywine in 1777. The general will inspect his troops, and there will be demonstrations of military drills. During the second drill at 12:45 p.m., visiting children will be invited to join in as young recruits.

The traditional re-enactment of Squire Cheyney's ride to warn Washington of British troop movement in the area is scheduled at 1 p.m. Throughout the day there will be guided tours of the Ring House.

George and Martha Washington will lead troops and guests on a march to the Visitors Center at 1:45 p.m., where all are invited for birthday cake and cider. The final program of the day will be a presentation on uniforms and equipment of the Revolutionary War soldier and on clothing of the Quakers in the 18th century.

Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for children ages 5 to 12, free for under 5. The park is on U.S. Routes 1 and 202 in Chadds Ford. For information, call (215) 459-3342.

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A Victorian Tea is planned at Rockwood Museum, a 19th century country estate in Wilmington, on Feb. 14. It will be held in the

newly redecorated reception rooms of the mansion from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Tea sandwiches and holiday-related sweets will be served. After the tea, there will be a slide-and-lecture presentation on Valentine's Day customs and greeting cards by Timothy Mullin, director of the Read House in New Castle, Del. The $7 admission includes tea and lecture, and reservations are required.

A valentine display will be on view at the manor house, which is open for tour Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults, $2.50 for seniors, $1 for ages 5 to 16, free for under 5. The museum is at 610 Shipley Road in Wilmington. For information, call (302) 761-4340.

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