An Inside Look at The Old Town Festival of Speed & Style

An Inside Look at The Old Town Festival of Speed & Style

Old Town Festival of Speed & Style

-Liesel Schmidt

Cars, like fashion, are celebrated for their design, their elegance, and their style. Their sleek lines, their performance, and their speed are all things that make people take notice, making them the object of envy and desire. Much the same way, fashion turns heads and incites passion all over the world.

Created in 2019, the Old Town Festival of Speed & Style, presented by Burke & Herbert Bank, has brought the two together, celebrating the beauty and form of each in a way that also celebrates the elegance and style of Old Town. “We wanted to create a unique non-profit event that commemorates the speed, performance, and elegance of exotic cars paired with the style and fashion of London, Paris, Milan and New York, all while highlighting the heart and spirit of the community of Old Town,” says Rick Myllenbeck, founder and chairman of the event. “At the same time, we want to host a highly unusual and compelling event in Alexandria to increase business for shop owners, raise money for charity, and elevate the stature of the city on the global map. In doing this, we are bringing together exquisite cars and car enthusiasts, fashion, art, music, and style to create a one-day festival of good energy and fun as well as generating widespread interest and visibility for Alexandria, drawing crowds to its restaurants and shops, and appealing to new visitors.”

Taking place Sunday, September 5, 2021, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the 200 to 400 blocks of King Street and the 100 blocks of North Royal and North Fairfax Streets, the event requires a great deal of planning and logistics to pull off. “The organizing committee of The Old Town Festival of Speed & Style has been meeting on a weekly basis for over four years, first to create the festival and then to orchestrate it,” Myllenbeck explains. “This required creating a detailed plan, recruiting volunteers who are car people and who love the community, and meeting with a lot of city and business leaders to share our vision and have them understand our intent. We have also met with Alexandria’s Special Events Committee on numerous occasions to gain their approval, in addition to meeting with many organizations in the area to seek sponsorship money so that we can pay for the expense of hosting such an event. We also sought to form relationships with city organizations such as Visit Alexandria so that we could get on their events calendar and leverage their social media connections.”

Clearly, the organizing committee is deeply committed to seeing the event come to fruition, and Myllenbeck is highly appreciative of their work. “They are a remarkable group comprised of exceptionally talented individuals,” he says. “We have business leaders, successful entrepreneurs, communications specialists, a world-class artist, and people who love cars who are also exceptionally organized and motivated. Remarkably, the organizing committee has stayed together—despite the event being cancelled three times due to COVID—and continues to be focused on delivering another spectacular event that ultimately benefits the local community. It has been a true blessing that the team stuck together through one of the most devastating experiences in our lifetimes and never wavered in their commitment to do something incredibly special, like producing The Old Town Festival of Speed & Style.”

As one would expect, the event promises to be spectacular. Featuring nearly 100 rare and exotic supercars and motorcycles from around the world as well as dazzling array of glamorous fashion elements and events, the Old Town Festival of Speed & Style is far from just another car show. “We are a Festival that brings together high-performance vehicles from the golden age of motoring to share with the public, while also celebrating their stunningly elegant designs that make them essentially art on wheels,” says Myllenbeck. “To underscore the style and elegance of the cars, the festival will also feature a fashion demonstration at the intersection of King Street and Fairfax Street in which male and female models who will be dressed, tailored, and groomed to a very high standard and paired with six exotic cars.”

It is their focus on style, elegance, and fashion, in fact, that differentiates the Old Town Festival of Speed & Style from any other car event on the East Coast. “We depict the class, lineage, and attitude which represents Old Town Alexandria and the fashions that permeate our gorgeous waterfront city,” says member of the Style Element Committee Chelsea Frank. “We aim to express the greatest fashions from local and international shops represented alongside King Street as well as some unique pieces that we Alexandrians have in our closets just waiting to be showcased. We will be piecing them together to create a completely styled, editorial look ready for the runway. From national franchises to our cherished quaint boutiques, we pair Old Town's upcoming trends with unique automobiles and our local beautiful talent.”

Adding even more dazzle to the festival is a replica of First Lady Jackie O’s iconic wedding gown, which will be on display during the event. “This wedding dress always makes the list of the most top 10 iconic gowns, and it has always been a huge hit whenever it’s displayed,” says the gown’s owner, Monte Durham, of Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta fame and owner of Salon Monte. “What makes it so stunning are the details and volume—there are 50 yards of Italian silk taffeta in the skirt alone.” Made by Ann Lowe, a Black American designer from Clayton, Alabama, this spectacular gown will soon be going on loan to the First Ladies National Historic Site.

Setting the stage for this memorable event will be a brief operatic performance as well as spectacular art from local artist Tom Kuester. “As a designer that illustrates his own work, I’m used to having my designs and illustrations displayed in front of clients and in the media,” he says. “Unfortunately, designers—myself included—have moved toward faster digital renderings that have very little individuality; so providing the Speed & Style Festival with artwork gave me an opportunity to again draw by hand, something I hadn’t done in more than twenty years.

Conceptually, the drawing is simple: Place a variety of interesting cars in front of City Hall and create a composition that expresses the event. Once upon a time, I wanted to become an automotive designer, and GM offered me a job straight out of college, so drawing cars is in my DNA.”

Taking place the night before the festival kicks off, the King Street High-Octane Ball reinforces the style element even further. “Alexandria has been looking for a reason to get dressed up for quite some time, and the High-Octane Ball delivers on that desire,” says Elizabeth Myllenbeck, Style Element Co-Chair. “With a dress code of black tie; fun formal; formalwear from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s; or racing-themed attire, we expect all attendees to have a blast. They will enjoy cuisine provided by local restaurants; sample top wines, beers, ciders and seltzers; take part in a live auction and enjoy the live music. And—of course—the venue. The ALX Community building right next to the Torpedo Factory provides an expansive view of the Potomac, which also underscores the Style theme.'

“We were very intentional when we named our hyperlocal coworking spaces ALX Community,” says ALX Community owner Kelly Grant. “Our dedication to being more than a workspace shines through again in our sponsorship of many locally loved non-profits like Speed & Style that donate proceeds after expenses to local organizations.”

Also scheduled the night before the festival is a VIP reception at Principal Gallery. “We’re incredibly honored to be hosting a welcome VIP reception for the sponsors and volunteers to thank them for their support in making this 2021 Speed & Style event possible,” says owner Michel Marceau. “It is a fun, lively and unique family-based event that really promotes a great sense of community. I love the energy this festival brings to our downtown streets!”

A 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation chartered to donate funds to both local and national charitable organizations, the 2021 Old Town Festival of Speed & Style, presented by Burke & Herbert Bank, will donate proceeds to ALIVE!—the largest private organization addressing the needs of Alexandria’s less fortunate—and the USO of Metro Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, which is the largest chapter chartered by the USO. “We are very thankful to everyone involved with the Speed & Style Festival,” says Lisa Marie Riggins, Executive Director of the USO’s National Capital District. “We will use the proceeds for programs and facilities that support military families from enlistment through the last day a service member laces up their boots.”

As the largest sponsor of this free, community-wide event, Burke & Herbert Bank is proud of the ways that the festival highlights the community and benefits organizations that so greatly serve local needs. “Our sponsorship of the Old Town Festival of Speed & Style is a great way for us to support our local community and assist neighbors in need,” says David P. Boyle, President and CEO. “By bringing thousands of car and fashion enthusiasts to Old Town, the festival will fuel business for local restaurants, boutiques, and merchants, helping to ensure the ongoing vitality of our hometown. Plus, proceeds from the festival will go to two local non-profits—ALIVE! and USO Metro Washington-Baltimore—to help them in their great work. I see this as a win-win.”

From the beautiful fashions walking the streets and runways to the stunning cars on display, the Old Town Festival of Speed & Style is sure to make your heart beat just a little bit faster—and make you fall in love with Alexandria even more.

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