By Rhonda Apple, Pentagram Staff WriterFebruary 29, 2012
Despite a forecast of weekend frozen precipitation, Mother Nature's gift was no snow on the ground on a crisp, but sunny morning Feb. 20. In honor of the nation's first president, Gen. George Washington, annual ceremony was held at his home at Mount Vernon, Va., for his 280th birthday celebration.
Thousands of visitors took advantage of the Presidents Day holiday from work and school to celebrate with free admission at the estate and gardens of Washington, as well as the chance to observe performances by members of The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).
The day's celebration began with the presidential wreath-laying at Washington's tomb. The armed forces full-honor ceremony included the color guard procession, marching down a cobblestone pathway flanked by saluting Soldiers of The Old Guard dressed in Revolutionary War-era uniforms. As colors were posted, a wreath was placed at Washington's tomb by President Barack Obama's representative, Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, commanding general of Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, and Ann Bookout, 20th regent, Mount Vernon Ladies Association. The wreath laying was followed by Washington's prayer for our country.
Following the wreath-laying, a ceremony was held on the bowling green in front of the Mount Vernon mansion. Washington, portrayed by Dean Malissa, joined Bookout and Caressa Cameron, Miss America 2010, at the reviewing stand.
Bookout welcomed the large crowd to the event, telling everyone Mount Vernon was the most visited historic home in America in 2011, with 1.1 million visitors. She then introduced Cameron, who sang the national anthem.
"We are here to celebrate the 280th anniversary of the birth of the father of our country, someone we revere as an extraordinary man of character and leadership," said Bookout. "We must always honor his legacy and never forget his unparalleled contributions."
Bookout reminded the crowd Washington served in the three most important roles in founding our country, as commander in chief during the American Revolution, president of the Constitutional convention and President of the United States. "He truly was, as he forever should be, first in the hearts of his countrymen."
Washington eloquently extended appreciation to everyone in attendance for recognizing his birthday and welcomed them to Mount Vernon, offering his most humble hospitality to several thousand guests.
Bookout then told the large crowd about the wreath she and Linnington placed at Washington's tomb. "I'd like to thank General Linnington 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.
Following the speeches, 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 The 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.
Following the tribute to Washington, guests were invited to meet the general and enjoyed time chatting with him as well as a day of free admission at the Mount Vernon estate and gardens.