Old Dominion Boat Club held its 128th Annual Flag Raising Ceremony on Sunday, May 4, at its headquarters building, 1 King St., on the Alexandria waterfront overlooking the Potomac River. The theme of this year's ceremony was "Safe Boating."
Highlighting the need for increased water safety, John Queen, flotilla commander 1402, U.S. Coast Guard, reminded the assembled crowd "in spite of the fact that deaths from boating incidents are down from last year, 90 percent of the deaths occurred while people were not wearing their life jackets and 75 percent of those boaters had not taking a boating safety course."
This admonition was echoed by Alexandria Mayor William Euille. "Boating to the unprepared can be a risky sport. Knowledge and skill are important because human error is the real threat," he said urging boaters to "boat smart" and wear a life jacket.
"The Potomac River, while a beautiful national resource, is still a body of water whose currents and depths demand vigilance and respect," added Alexandria Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper.
The ceremony began with the raising of the American flag by Commander Michael Bernacchi, former commander, United State Navy Submarine Alexandria; the Virginia State flag by State Delegate David Englin; the City of Alexandria flag by Euille; and the ODBC flag by Club President Carolyn Dabney Bell.
"The symbolism of raising these four flags together demonstrates the hundred plus years of the club's history and its willingness to take time to give back to the community," Euille said. He then issued a proclamation declaring May 17 through May 23, "Safe Boating Week."
"We are not just about boating. We are continually promoting charitable causes and community service as well as being heavily involved in various athletics and many water related activities such as sponsoring the T.C. Williams Fall rowing program," Bell said.
Also participating in the ceremony were MSgt Al Francis, U.S. Army, who presented the American Flag to the Club; the Reverend Father Robert L. Ruskamp, St. Mary's Catholic Church, who offered the blessing; and Danielle Westphall, who sang the National Anthem.
The crowd was treated to a water cannon demonstration from the District of Columbia Fire Department's Fireboat the "John Glenn" and refreshments on the lawn.