Even as goblins and ghouls were slinking through the city last weekend, Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association was officially launching its 2004 holiday shopping/tourism promotion campaign, "It's All About Alex."
During ACVA's Fun Side Forum at the King Street Holiday Inn Select, attendees were told of a host of special activities to be initiated throughout the city this yuletide season. It's designed to entice tourists and residents to patronize local merchants, restaurants, attractions and hotels.
"Because of all the support we've already received, we know this is going to be a very successful program," said Mary Ann Russell, chair, ACVA Board of Governors. "We plan to have entertainers all over Alexandria so that it's completely festive."
At the center of this comprehensive effort is a small, black Scottish terrier stage named "Alex." He not only puts the spotlight on Alexandria's Scottish heritage but also serves as a symbol of that heritage with his tartan tam and scarf.
One of the primary shopping enticements is a contest dubbed "Find Alex." Shoppers throughout the city will be invited to do just that. A toy Scottie dog will be on display at participating merchants who will have forms for customers to register to win a winter shopping spree during January and February 2005.
ALEX WILL BE MAKING appearances in participating shop windows throughout Old Town and along Del Ray's Mount Vernon Avenue throughout the holiday season. Those who spot him can go inside to register to win the shopping spree prize. Not only will Alex have on his tam and scarf but also he will be sporting a gold medallion around his neck.
"We have all the business organizations in the city working together to make this a success." said Jo Anne Mitchell, president and CEO, ACVA. "This is all about bringing people to the city. Yes, there is the shopping, but we want people to experience the whole city."
She said, "The city manager listened to us and said that if we could come up with a plan we all could agree upon the city would give us $125,000 for the promotion." The money will replace the free parking which has been offered over the holiday season since 2001.
"IT'S NOT JUST GOING to be Old Town that's decorated for the holidays. It's going to be the whole city. This is going to be a tremendous success," Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille said.
The season kicks off with the city's tree lighting ceremony at Market Square Nov. 26 beginning at 7 p.m. This is followed by Alexandria's 34th annual Scottish Walk Weekend hosted by the Campagna Center. It all starts at the Center, 418 S. Washington St., on Friday night, Dec. 3, with the traditional "Taste of Scotland" Open House and Christmas Bazaar.
Saturday morning, Dec. 4, the annual Scottish Walk Parade, co-sponsored by Campagna Center and the St. Andrews Society, gets underway at 10:30 a.m. in the historic district of Old Town. This is followed by a tour of historic homes and the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights on the Potomac River at 5:30 p.m.
Serving as this year's Parade Grand Marshall will be National, World and two-time Olympic Team Gymnast Courtney Kupets. She will be accompanied by "Alex," — the live one — in his tam, scarf and medallion.
The parade features more than 100 Scottish Clans, pipe and drum groups, Scottish dancers, and Scottie dog and other canine groups. Kilts in a wide array of clan tartans are the attire of the day throughout the City.
Also, on Dec. 4, the Potomac West Business Association will sponsor "Holiday on the Avenue" along Mount Vernon Avenue in Alexandria's Del ray shopping district, according to ACVA. This is followed the next weekend, Dec. 10-12, by candlelight tours of several City historic attractions.
Just down the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the first President's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens will host holiday festivities throughout December. Other special holiday events can be enjoyed at Gunston Hall and Woodlawn Plantation, all in a colonial, historic atmosphere.
IN ORDER TO ENCOURAGE a festive holiday ambiance throughout the City, ACVA is sponsoring a city-wide Business/Resident Decorating Contest with the theme "A Scottish Holiday." The winners will be announced at the opening ceremonies for Alexandria's First Night celebration Dec. 31.
Businesses and residents are encouraged to use electric candles in windows and plaid ribbon in their decorating themes. All those that decorate their homes and businesses are automatic participants.
Local business organizations and civic associations will be asked to submit their top three candidates to ACVA@FunSide.com no later than Dec. 22, 2004. These semi-finalists will then be submitted to a committee composed of representatives from all participating organizations.
Winner in each category, business and residence, will receive a gift certificate prize of $100 for first place; $75 for second place; and $50 for third place. Businesses and residents must agree to permit photos to be taken and used in promoting the 2005 campaign.
As an added enticement to spend the holidays in Alexandria, the "Dash About" free shuttle bus makes getting to and around the City easier and economical. It runs every 15 minutes on Fridays from 7 p.m. to midnight; Saturdays 10 a.m. to midnight; and Sundays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. from the King Street Metro Station to Market Square along King Street, with stops along the route.