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Mt. Vernon Celebrates Washington's Birthday

Lewis Bliss, 10, of Burke, Va., dressed in a musicians outfit from the Revolutionary War era, center, meets George Washington, portrayed by Dean Malissa, during Presidents Day activities at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate in Mount Vernon, Virginia

Feb. 22 marks first US president's 220th

This year, on Feb. 22, Americans marked the 280th birthday of George Washington, the first president of the United States.

Visitors from around the country joined in the celebration at Mount Vernon, Washington's mansion outside Washington D.C., where the 18th century met and mingled with the 21st.

Characters dressed in 18th-century garb assembled at Mount Vernon's courtyard for George Washingon's "surprise birthday party."

Philadelphian Dean Malissa, who has portrayed George Washington for years, was presented with gifts, including his favorite Madeira wine.

"Oh madam, I always enjoy my birth celebration," he says in character, "particularly when the citizens of this country are also generous in their esteem and approbation for me.”

Mount Vernon employees and volunteers like Caren Robinson, who came with her granddaughter, mingled with the visitors.

“I have always loved General Washington," Robinson says, "and I have just loved this place."

The celebration also featured cooking demonstrations.

Mount Vernon’s staff cooked George Washington’s favorite breakfast: hoecakes - corn cakes - swimming in butter and honey. Visitors were offered a taste.

"If I had this recipe, I'd love to try to cook this at home," says visitor Jody Geddes, "especially on his birthday.”

Chefs from four local restaurants created their own interpretations of Washington’s breakfast.

“I added pureed corn to give this a little more corn flavor to it," says chef Cathal Armstrong. "And we topped our hoecake with apples and cherries and pecans.”

The contemporary versions also pleased the faux president. “Wonderful, savory," says Malissa. "And your tongue tells you that there was a sweet strength to it.”

On this special day, visitors from around the country also toured Washington’s mansion, listened to 18th century music and had a photo opportunity with the nation’s founder and his first lady, Martha Washington.