By Rhonda AppleFebruary 24, 2011
The cold morning was not a factor Monday, when thousands of visitors took advantage of the holiday away from work and school to celebrate Presidents Day at Mount Vernon, Va., home of America's first president, Gen. George Washington. In celebrating Washington's 279th birthday, visitors received a special gift - free admission to the estate and gardens and the opportunity to watch performances by members of The Old Guard.
The day's events officially were underway with the armed forces full-honor wreath laying ceremony at Washington's tomb. The color guard procession marched down a winding cobblestone pathway flanked by saluting Soldiers from The Old Guard dressed in revolutionary-era uniforms. As colors were posted, a wreath was placed at the tomb followed by a sharp salute from Maj. Gen. Karl R. Horst, commander Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, and Ann Bookout, regent, Mount Vernon Ladies Association.
"It is an honor to be here this morning to present a wreath at President Washington's tomb on behalf of the president of the United States," said Horst. "It's wonderful we have good weather and so many people are here to take advantage of this wonderful event. It's a privilege for the Military District of Washington and The Old Guard to be here today."
Following the wreath-laying, everyone walked to the bowling green near the Washington mansion. Washington portrayed by Dean Malissa, joined Horst, Bookout and Caressa Cameron, Miss America 2010, at the reviewing stand.
After Cameron sang the national anthem, Washington extended appreciation to everyone in attendance in recognizing his birthday. "A civil servant can ask for nothing more than the esteem and the approbation of his fellow citizens. I must tell you that today my cup runneth over," Washington said.
Bookout told the growing crowd of spectators about the wreath placed at Washington's tomb. "I'd like to thank General Horst and President Obama for being such an important part of this special day of celebration and to thank the Military District of Washington for its long time support of George Washington and his Mount Vernon home," she said.
Everyone enjoyed a patriotic salute to Washington on the bowling green. The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps performed in uniforms patterned after those worn by the musicians of Washington's Continental Army. Following the performance, a demonstration was performed by The Commander in Chief's Guard, members of Company A, 4th Battalion and 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), wearing Revolutionary War-era uniforms, also patterned after Washington's Continental Army. The demonstration included weapons and tactics of the time, including firing "Brown Bess" muskets loaded with black powder.
Melissa Wood, media relations manager for Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, estimated about 6,000 people were in attendance for the performance. Following the tribute to Washington, guests enjoyed time chatting with the first president and enjoying a free day at Mount Vernon Estate.