Area residents and tourists filled the 100 block of South Alfred Street Saturday to celebrate Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association's 231st Anniversary. This year's festival also marked the debut of Alexandria's new Town Crier.
With the customary "Hear Ye! Hear Ye!" William North-Rudin officially opened the annual event honoring the establishment of one of the nation's first volunteer fire companies. Established in 1774, it is known as "George Washington's Fire Company."
Held at the historic firehouse and museum, 107 S. Alfred St., which was erected in 1855, the festival celebrates the role firefighters have played in the nation's history. It is also an part of a historical interpretive project sponsored by many of Alexandria's museums designed to link the city's many historic sites.
"This is an opportunity to celebrate our history. Our firemen and police are very important to us. And today's festival serves as an educational experience as well as a way to have fun," said Mayor William D. Euille.
Joining him in welcoming the crowd were Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper, City Councilman Rob Krupicka, Alexandria Fire Chief Gary Mesaris, and Director of the Office of Historic Alexandria Jean Taylor Federico.
"What's really great about this event is that this fire company was founded by volunteers. And, anytime I have a chance to promote volunteerism I'll be there," North-Rudin said. In addition to recently being named the city's new Town Crier, he also heads Alexandria's Volunteer Bureau.
In addition to the food and band, attendees were treated to a fire prevention demonstration by the National Fire Sprinkler Association, as well as being able to board various Alexandria Fire Department vehicles and tour Friendship's museum, which houses antique apparatus and equipment dating to the Colonial Era. A part of the various refreshments was a large cake marking the organization's anniversary.
Each child attending the festival received a free "fire chief helmet." For the adults there were craft booths and displays by various Alexandria merchants and services.