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City Braces for Arts Festival

Parking, navigating Old Town streets will be challenging next weekend.

Visitors to Old Town this weekend may find the city a little more crowded than usual, but also a little more colorful.

The first Alexandria Festival of the Arts is set for Sept. 13-14, stretching along King Street from St. Asaph to Union Street. Even that’s not the full length of the festival, said Ann Dorman, board member of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association.

"All merchants from the King Street Metro station to the river will have things going on,” said Dorman, who’s also a member of the executive committee overseeing logistics for the event. “The city has granted them the right to have tables on the sidewalk. We want the entire length of King Street to look like one big festival." ACVA estimates that there may be more than 20,000.

The actual positioning of the booths is still a work in progress, according to ACVA. The original game plan, as displayed at ACVA's kick-off presentation for the event, was for the booths to be located on both sides of the street along the curbs from St. Asaph to Fairfax streets, then down the center of King Street to Union.

"At this point we are not sure just what the layout will be," Dorman acknowledged. "The Fire Marshall isn't sure how he is going to let the booths set up. That decision won't be made until the last minute. But, there won't be any booths down the center of street as far as we know."

There may be one row of curbside boots from Union to Fairfax, she said. But “the setup from Fairfax to St. Asaph is still up in the air." Show producer, Howard Alan, and ACVA representatives, will walk the area and mark it off officially on Sept. 10.

ORIGINAL ESTIMATES had some 200-plus artisans coming to town to display their creations, but that number has been revised downward to 150 in recent ACVA promotional literature.

Artisans will begin set-up between 3 and 5 a.m. on Sept. 13, and tear down starts promptly at 5 p.m. on Sept. 14, with completion scheduled for no later than 10 p.m. Sunday.

During ACVA's FunSide Forum, devoted to promoting the festival, Alan, head of Howard Alan Events, Ltd., promised, "to leave the area cleaner than he found it."

He told that audience, "I have a professional cleanup crew that travels with me. I have found they can do the job better than the locals. They know how to clean up after a show."

Alan, who produces shows in 44 cities throughout the nation annually, also said at that time, "Obviously, it's a hindrance to parking and there's the inconvenience of street closures. But, it's great for local commerce. This is your opportunity to promote your local businesses. So, as long as its coming, profit from it."

DRIVING MAY BE difficult. Not only will motorists face closed streets but parking will be at a premium.

"We have identified more than 6,000 parking spaces which will be available for use by those coming to the festival," said Dorman.

"Most are in the area from Union Street to the King Street Metro Station and from the 800 block of North Fairfax Street to Duke Street. We will also have two satellite lots on Eisenhower Avenue, at Cameron Run Park and 2121 Eisenhower," she said.

As for traffic flow, no traffic will be allowed to cross King Street between St. Asaph and Union on festival days from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. "Barricades will block access to all cross streets in the festival area at both Cameron and Prince streets," Dorman said.

"People who live in the area between the barricades and King Street, as well as those trying to reach particular businesses and garages in the barricaded blocks, will be allowed to enter, but no one else," said Jo Anne Mitchell, ACVA executive director. "At each barricade will be an AVCA volunteer and Alexandria police officer to aid motorists."

Handicapped parking spaces will be located in the first block of South Royal Street available on a first come basis, according to ACVA. "There will also be handicapped parking in the satellite lots and the buses are handicapped accessible," Mitchell said. Most garages have designated handicapped spaces.

"North-south traffic will be able to move along the full length St. Asaph and Union streets," Dorman clarified. "We are going to have volunteers all over Old Town and at each parking facility. They will be in contact with one another by radio so they can direct drivers to areas where parking is available and they will have maps."

PARKING LOTS in the city will be charging their regular rates, which differ by facility. However, the satellite lots on Eisenhower will be free with free continuous shuttle service to and from the festival area from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, ACVA announced.

Additionally, DASH offers regularly scheduled bus service to the Eisenhower lot areas for those who wish to stay in Old Town later in the day.

For those coming by Metro to the King Street station, ACVA's published schedule for "DASH About" is until midnight on Friday and Saturday and until 10 p.m. on Sunday. However, during the festival, all buses will turn north at St. Asaph Street rather than at Fairfax Street, which is their normal pattern.

IN ADDITION TO automobile and Metro, transportation to the festival will also be possible by boat and motorcoach. Potomac Riverboat Company is providing a water-taxi to and from Georgetown's Washington Harbor from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., both days for $5 each way.

Motorcoach parking will be available at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. A maximum of 25 mortorcoaches will be allowed in the parking lot at one time. That lot will close at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Limited motorcoach parking will also be available at Potowmack Landing and near Robinson Terminal in the 500 block of North Union Street, according to ACVA.

All motorcoaches will be asked to follow a specific route to pre-determined passenger dropoff and pickup areas north and south of the festival area. There will also be a free Potomac West Shuttle to Del Ray. It will run continuously from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday with passenger access at the northeast corner of King and St. Asaph streets.

Attendees driving to the festival are being encouraged to use the designated lots and garages. "Street parking time restrictions will be strictly enforced," ACVA emphasized.