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Happy Birthday Alexandria

"Own" a piece of the City by "bidding" on July 13

One week after the nation honors the 232nd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with traditional July 4 celebrations from sea to shining sea, Alexandria once again shows its independence by celebrating its own 259th birthday on Saturday, July 12. That is if Mother Nature cooperates.

Scheduled from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Oronoco Bay Park, 100 Madison St., the annual localized celebration features a performance by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, with Maestro Kim Allen Kluge conducting. Their performance this year highlights the "Big Band Sound" of the 30's and 40's.

Following the concert, attendees will be treated to a fireworks display over the Potomac River. In the event of inclement weather, only the fireworks will be rescheduled for Sunday, July 13, at 9:30 p.m.

The other high point of the celebration will be the presentation of the 2008 Park and Recreation Commission's CIVIC Awards to "unsung volunteer efforts of Alexandrians who are involved in their communities and who have provided a valuable service to Alexandria in meeting, recreation, park or cultural needs." The awards will be presented by Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille at 7:30 p.m.

Other activities and their times include:

4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. - Community Exhibitors and children's activities with food and beverages available

6 p.m. - Jazz performances by the Vaughn Ambrose Quartet

8 p.m. - Distribution of birthday cake by the Mayor and members of City Council

8:30 p.m. - Performance by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra

9:30 p.m. - Grand Finale fireworks display culminating with the symphony orchestra playing Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" with cannon support from the United States Marine Corps', Basic Training School, Quantico, Va.

Oronoco Bay Park has lawn seating and attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. Although food and beverages will be available, everyone is welcome to bring their own picnic. However, no grilling is allowed.

Visitors not in walking distance are encouraged to take the Metro Yellow or Blue lines to the King Street Station and board the King Street Trolley, DASH or Metro buses to the park. The new free King Street Trolley will operate on an extended schedule for those returning to the King Street Metro Station.

The last trolley will depart lower King Street at 11:45 p.m. For DASH schedule information call 703-370-DASH or visit dashbus.com. For Metrobus schedule information call 202-637-7000 or visit wmata.com.

For those driving, parking is available in a number of parking garages and lots scattered throughout Old Town within easy walking distance of the celebration site, including the municipal garage under Market Square Plaza. Its entrance is from the 100 block of North Fairfax Street.

THIS YEAR’S CELEBRATION will continue on Sunday, July 13, with the recreation of a 1749 public land auction at Market Square beginning at 2 p.m. The public is invited to enter into the "bidding."

All bids must be placed with "pound notes." Successful bidders will receive commemorative deeds, according to the Office of Historic Alexandria, under whose aegis the event is taking place.

To participate in the auction, bidders are asked to embrace the bartering spirit of the 18th century and bring non-perishable food items to be donated to Alexandria's food bank, ALIVE. Bidders will receive five pounds for every food item donated. For those preferring the more modern approach, donate $2 in lieu of a food item and receive pound notes.

Alexandria was officially established on May 11, 1749, by an act of the Virginia Assembly. Its boundaries were from Oronoco to Duke streets and from Royal Street to the Potomac River, according to the Office of Historic Alexandria.

Local surveyor John West, Jr., laid out the town's boundaries. On July 13 and 14, 1749, the people had the opportunity to bid on 84 half acre lots. That scene will be reenacted on July 13.