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Independence Day At The General's Home

July 4, 1775, was the first full day of a 43 year old Virginia country gentleman and soldier's role as Commander of the Continental Army. He had taken command the day before in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

There were no bands playing, no jubilant crowds cheering, no phalanx of flags waving. In fact, as history has noted, this Virginia plantation owner did not make a particularly auspicious start against the world's greatest military machine of that time.

But, as with any endeavor, it is not the start but the finish that counts. That finish occurred at Yorktown, VA, with such overwhelming success that the Virginia plantation owner, surveyor, and soldier, went from military Commander to this newly formed nation's first, and only unanimously elected, Commander In Chief.

Each year, on this nation's birthday, July 4, those accomplishments of George Washington, as well as his vision and those of the founding father's of these United States is celebrated with the annual "Red, White and Blue Concert" by the National Concert Band of America on the Bowling Green of Washington's Mount Vernon Estate. That will occur again this coming Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Entitled "An American Celebration," the day also features military reenactments; a special wreath laying ceremony; free birthday cake for all in attendance, while it lasts; and a visit from the "first" first couple, "General and Mrs. Washington." Gates open at 8 a.m. with all events included in the regular admission fee of adults $13, children ages six to 11 $6, and children under five free.

Event times are:

All day: General and Mrs. Washington will be on hand to greet and have their pictures taken with guests. A heightened 18th century military presence with multiple "checkpoints" will be in effect around the Estate.

9:45 a.m.: Re-enactors from the Maryland Militia and First Virginia Regiment assemble for inspection by "General Washington" on the Bowling Green. This will be accompanied by the reading of the Declaration of Independence. Guests will also be offered some of Mount Vernon's "All American" national birthday cake.

10 a.m.: Visitors are encouraged to join the George Washington Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution in a procession to Washington's Tomb for a special wreath laying ceremony. A member of SAR will lead visitors in the Pledge of Allegiance.

11 a.m.: The 80-member Concert Band of America, comprised of retired musicians from each of the United States Armed Services' bands will present the annual "Red, White and Blue Concert" on the Estate's Bowling Green directing in front of the Mansion just beyond the carriage circle. The will perform patriotic favorites, American standards and a medley of the songs of each of the military branches of service.

1 p.m.: Revolutionary War military demonstrations by the Maryland Militia and First Virginia Regiment will take place on the Bowling Green.

In addition to these specific July 4 birthday events attendees will also have the opportunity to visit Washington's "Pioneer Farm" as field hands kick off the beginning of the wheat harvest season with wheat-treading demonstrations. Costumed staff will lead Mount Vernon horses as they tread wheat in the 16-sided barn at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.

This year guests will be able to visit Washington's recently restored Distillery immediately adjacent to the Gristmill located just three miles from the Estate on Route 235. Throughout the day millers will operate the Gristmill's automated milling system transforming grain into flour. This intricate system of pullies and levers power by a large indoor water wheel won U.S.Patent #3.

The Distillery was the largest of its kind in colonial America turning out whiskey produced in five copper stills. The second floor of the Distillery contains the living quarters for the master distiller and his assistant as well as a history display of America's Whiskey Trail.

Both exhibits are available for an admission fee of $4 for adults and $2 for children 6 to 11 with those under five admitted free. Additional information on Mount Vernon Estate's "An American Celebration" is available by calling 703-780-2000; or TDD 703-799-8697; and on their web site at www.mountvernon.org.