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Sunny Skies Bring Out Holiday Crowds in Alexandria
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Sunny Skies Bring Out Holiday Crowds in Alexandria

Stay-at-home restrictions to be lifted May 29.

The eastbound lane in the 100 block of King Street was closed to vehicular traffic in an effort to allow pedestrians more room to practice social distancing during the Memorial Day weekend.

The eastbound lane in the 100 block of King Street was closed to vehicular traffic in an effort to allow pedestrians more room to practice social distancing during the Memorial Day weekend. Photo by Janet Barnett/Gazette Packet

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Del Ray residents Greg Forbes and Steven Littlejohn enjoy a picnic May 23 in Founders Park.

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Shoppers browse sidewalk racks of shoes at Comfort Shoes in Old Town May 25.

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Christelle and Pablo Carito with baby Julian at Founders Park May 23.

The skies were too sunny, the weather too tempting as scores of people flocked to Old Town over the Memorial Day weekend despite the city’s stay-at-home order that is technically still in effect amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is too pretty a day to waste it at home,” said Kevin Mamon, who gathered with close friends in Founders Park May 23. “A lot of us just graduated from George Mason [University] and just want to get out. We try to plan something like this every two weeks…we aren’t really afraid of the virus among ourselves.”

In addition to restaurants offering takeout meals, several non-essential businesses along King Street were open even though Alexandria has yet to enter Phase One of Virginia’s reopening plan. That is expected to begin May 29.

“Reopening is a difficult decision,” said Imagine Artwear owner Carol Supplee, who was in her shop but not officially reopened. “There is a set of tasks to think about and prepare for. We cannot get this wrong.”

Crowds thronged to tourist spots like the waterfront and local parks, most without masks or practicing social distance protocols even though the eastbound lane of the 100 block of King Street was closed to vehicular traffic in order to allow room for pedestrians to spread out.

“We’ve been at home for almost nine weeks now,” said Patricia Carrada, who was enjoying ice cream with Riccardo Capparelli and their son Lorenzo Capparelli. “We work from home but try to get outside and get some sunshine as much as possible.”

Del Ray residents Greg Forbes and Steven Littlejohn enjoyed a picnic in Founders Park for the second weekend in a row.

“We’ve been following the social distance guidelines,” said Forbes of their weekend picnics. “Last weekend was the first time we really got out. Today was another gorgeous day so we grabbed some take-out from a local restaurant and came here. This park is really spread out – it makes me feel safe, but we still get to watch people and just be outside.”

Along with other local business owners, Supplee is focusing on her reopening plans.

“We will have much of our inventory spaced apart,” Supplee said. “We will have directional signs and a separate way in and a separate way out of the store. We will move our checkout desk closer to the exit. We will have steamers in place to steam anything that will require sanitizing. And it goes without saying that we will have plenty of extra face and hand sanitizer. Nonetheless, how are we going to know when we’ve done enough?”

If the last two weekends are any indication, visitors will descend on tourist destinations and local businesses once the lifting of restrictions becomes official.

“This is our new way of spending a Saturday night,” Forbes said of his picnics in the park. “It’s not a bad thing. The world is quieter now – we get to picnic and watch the sunset.”