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Old Town Ushers in August

The city celebrates the Irish, recognizes George Washington’s Fire Company and takes a trip back in time.

Saturday, Aug. 2, is the day to be in Old Town Alexandria. There will be something for everyone -- from Irish dances to fire engines, old and modern, to model trains, to a trip back into 18th century Alexandria.

Beginning at 9 a.m. and running until 2 p.m. the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association will hold its annual Friendship Firehouse Festival celebrating the historic Fire Company's 234th Anniversary. This free popular family event will take place in the 100 block of South Alfred Street between King and Prince streets.

It celebrates the special role firefighters have played throughout history, especially those of Friendship, which is known as George Washington's Fire Company. In addition to food and entertainment, the festival features a collection of antique fire fighting equipment as well as a display of modern apparatus courtesy of the Alexandria Fire Department.

Festival participates have the opportunity to tour the Friendship Firehouse Museum. The building was originally constructed as an operating firehouse in 1855. It was remodeled in 1871 and then restored to its original design and condition in 1992.

The first floor Engine Room showcases historic fire fighting equipment, including hand-drawn fire engines, leather water buckets, axes, and sections of early rubber hose. The second floor houses exhibits of the Friendship Fire Company, Alexandria's first fire company, formed in 1774.

Now a philanthropic organization focusing on fire and life safety activities, the association remains active in community events, including the George Washington Birthday Celebration and Parade. Each year the birthday celebration commences with a breakfast sponsored by the association which spotlights the parade Grand Marshal.

FOR MODEL TRAIN enthusiasts, "Railroad Days" returns to The Lyceum, Alexandria's History Museum, 201 S. Washington St., on Aug. 2 and 3 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. It is free.

Sponsored by The Potomac Division of the National Model Railroad Association, the display, on the second floor of the museum, features HO gauge trains journeying through miniature towns and scenic hills and valleys. It is operated by a state-of-the-art digital command system.

In addition to the scale model operating display, Railroad Days features a hands-on Thomas the Tank Engine area for toddlers and a display of Lego toys and trains. Whistle Stop Hobbies, located at 150 S. Royal St., will be on hand to discuss the fun and excitement of model railroading as well as Operation Lifesaver, a national railroad safety program.

HISTORY BUFFS can experience 18th century living at Gadsby's Tavern Museum on August 2 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. during the free Gadsby's Tavern Day. This event also enables participates to learn about educational volunteer opportunities.

This year's Tavern Day Open House will include continuous tours of the historic site by costumed guides coupled with the opportunity to learn colonial dances as enjoyed by George and Martha Washington and others. Light refreshments will also be served.

Gadsby's Tavern was a favorite spot of Washington prior to and following the American Revolution. It was the center of political and social life in Alexandria as well as the new Federal City of Washington.

Tavern keepers John Wise and John Gatsby hosted balls, performances and meetings. One of the tavern's most famous social events was Thomas Jefferson's Inaugural Ball. It is located at 134 N. Royal St. across from Alexandria City Hall.

THE ANNUAL IRISH FESTIVAL opens at noon in Waterfront Park, at the foot of Prince Street. Food, arts and crafts, and entertainment including the Boyle Irish Dancers, the City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums, and more will entertain you until 7 p.m. This is one of the City’s Ethnic Festival series. It is co-sponsored by the City’s Department of Recreation. Parks, and Cultural Activities, and the Ballyshaners. For more information contact 703-838-4844 or <a href=http://www.alexandriava.gov.> www.alexandriava.gov</a>