Students of Franklin Sherman High School pose in front of the building in 1917.
Photo Courtesy of MCC
Most of the more than 10,000 people who are expected to come to McLean Day this year can only ever remember the festival being produced by the McLean Community Center (MCC). However, for years after it began in the 1900s, McLean Day was the "step-child" of many community organizations before it was officially adopted by MCC in the 1970s.
The first festival of its kind to be held in Fairfax County, McLean Day started in 1915 as a fundraiser for Franklin Sherman School. The first "McLean Day" was sponsored by the McLean School and Civic League, with the support of the McLean Volunteer Fire Department. It was held in an open field adjacent to the school. The purpose of the event was to raise funds for various school and community projects. The first festival went on for several weeks, unlike the one-day festival held today.
In the early years, the festival was held on the Saturday preceding the Democratic Primary in August, which made it as popular with political candidates seeking office as it was with the local residents. Attractions included carnival games, a baby show, dancing, performances and a lot of homemade refreshments. A favored event was the "jousting" tournament. Men, dressed as knights from the Middle Ages, rode horses at full gallop while attempting to place a lance through a tiny ring. The winner had the privilege of crowning his "lady" "Queen of Love and Beauty."
While much has changed over the years, McLean Day’s success is still due to the support of the community. Many McLean-based, civic organizations participate at some level every year, such as McLean American Legion, Post 270, McLean Historical Society, Chesterbrook Residences, McLean Rotary Club, the Safe Community Coalition and Redeemer Lutheran Church.
After MCC was established in 1975, the event was held at the Center. In 1989, after teaming up with many community groups, including the McLean Business & Professional organization (now the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce), the Center moved McLean Day to its current location, Lewinsville Park, to increase the attraction and interest in the community. As the festival creeps nearer to its 100th year, the union between MCC and the McLean Day festival has clearly been a success as McLean Day is as vital, strong and well-loved as it has ever been.
McLean Day 2012: Celebrating Our Hometown will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, at Lewinsville Park, 1659 Chain Bridge Road. The event is free and open to the public.
The festival will be held rain or shine. For more information, contact the Center at 703-790-0123, TTY: 711, or visit: www.mcleancenter.org/special-events.