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Planning Virginia's Birthday Party

Vienna residents plan town events to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown in 2007.

Like clockwork, the commonwealth of Virginia has been commemorating the 1607 settlement of Jamestown, the first permanent English-speaking settlement in the New World, every 50 years since 1807.

The year 2007 will be no exception, as the Town of Vienna and dozens of other jurisdictions throughout the state will be marking the 400th anniversary of the historic settlement with their own homegrown events.

"It's really exciting. People have just come up with some wonderful ideas," said Vienna mayor Jane Seeman.

Although still more than two years away, Vienna residents have been gathering to plan events for their own commemoration of the Jamestown settlement. While many of the activities will focus on Virginia's history from the 1600s onward, a sizable portion of events in Vienna will focus on the town's history since its founding in 1890.

"The idea of commemorating Jamestown gives impetus to other projects," said Paul Snodgrass, a board member of Historic Vienna Inc., who is chairing the Jamestown committee.

Interested citizens, community organizations and businesses have been meeting monthly since January to come up with ideas to commemorate Jamestown.

FROM A LIST of 20 possible ideas, Vienna presented to the statewide Jamestown 2007 organization six ideas that the Town may implement in the next several years. More ideas may come up as plans progress or are finalized.

So far, the committee has suggested several "Legacy Projects" and special events.

Legacy projects "are things that will be around for a long time," Snodgrass said.

The Legacy Projects include a proposal to construct a band shell in the future Town Green park at 146 Maple Ave. E., a drive to place directional signs to several town historic sites, and a project to collect pictorial and oral histories of the town.

Special events could include enhancing the annual Town of Vienna Halloween Parade to increase awareness of Jamestown 2007, planting a Colonial garden so that area students can learn about the importance of medicinal herbs during the Colonial period, and creating a play for fourth-graders about Virginia history.

Vienna is one of 67 communities signed up to observe the Jamestown commemoration, although more communities should be included as 2007 gets closer, according to Ritchie.

McLean and Great Falls have joined efforts to commemorate Jamestown, while Fairfax County has yet to sign on to the commemoration.

The purpose of honoring the settlement's founding is threefold: to encourage economic development, promote tourism, and educate students and residents on the 400 years of Virginia's history.

"We're looking at this as Virginia's 400th anniversary," said Amy Ritchie, manager of statewide programs for Jamestown 2007, based in Williamsburg.

During the last several commemorations, the state has created significant special events and projects. In 1907, the World's Fair took place in Virginia, and in 1957, the Colonial Parkway on the Virginia peninsula was built and Queen Elizabeth paid a visit.

Sponsored by The Virginia Co. of London, Jamestown was a settlement created by businessmen to establish trade and an outpost in the New World. Unlike the pilgrims who would land in Plymouth Rock 13 years after 1607, the settlers didn't come to the New World to escape religious persecution.

Jamestown also served as capital of the colony before it was moved to Williamsburg in 1698.