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Thousands Attend Old Town Festival of Speed & Style in Alexandria May 21

Tom Kuester poses with his car. (Photo: Evan Kelmar)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Glistening cars, old and new, lined the streets of Old Town Sunday, May 21, for the fourth annual Festival of Speed and Style. Around 100 of these beautiful machines, handpicked by a team of curators, were displayed for all to see. Internationally acclaimed judges, some of whom were just off a plane from Naples, assembled in the square to deliberate on who deserved which award. To the average viewer, however, it was clear that anyone would be thrilled with driving any of these elegant cars off the lot.

The Festival of Speed & Style is a relatively new event. But it has succeeded almost instantly. It started in 2019 and drawing over ten thousand attendees. The festival now brings more than 15,000 attendees to the area. It has gained prestige among the elite East Coast car circles. Both drivers and onlookers travel great distances to attend.

The award ceremony. (Photo by Evan Kelmar)
The award ceremony. (Photo by Evan Kelmar)

As its name suggests, this tradition is not just a car show but also a fashion show. This year, the festival’s theme was “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” chosen by Monte Durham, one of the event’s organizers and consultants. Durham told The Zebra the theme was chosen because “they wanted something a little vintage, like the cars, a little racy, like the fashion and overall, just plain classic.”

Art by Tom Kuester. (courtesy of the Old Town Festival Style and Speed)

Supporting ALIVE! and The Campagna Center

The car show is a fundraiser for two nonprofits in Alexandria: ALIVE!, an organization dedicated to fighting poverty and hunger, and the Campagna Center, which serves children and families in need. Burke & Herbert Bank, the banner sponsor of the event, as well as Yates Automotive and several others, have contributed significant funds to both.

More than just money, the causes have received immense visibility from the event, says Mary Eileen Dixon, President of ALIVE! Three years running, the car festival brought in new volunteers to the organization, which depends on more than 900 volunteers each year.

Del Ray Psych and Wellness Dr. Subir Jossan, Dr. Eleni Boosalis, and Dr. Lauren Fisher. Yates Automotive Sponsors: Loren and Jason Yates flanking Burke & Herbert Bank Sponsors: Jane Petty and Rachel and H.B. Swoope with Joe Collum and Walter Clarke. (Photo by Lucelle O’Flaherty)

The High-Octane Ball

The High-Octane Ball, presented by Yates Automotive, provided another fundraising opportunity. Hosted at the Bell Haven Country Club the night before the festival, the gala offered a night of dining, dancing, and silent and live auctions. Fun prizes like rides in World War II fighter planes and paintings of vintage cars matched the event’s theme. It was a great excuse to dress up and let loose in a luxurious setting.

John Sethian receives the “Rolling Sculpture Award” for his 1952 Jaguar X20. (Photo by Evan Kelmar)

Historic Cars

The cars all have histories, some racing at Goodwood in England, some at Le Mans in France. John Sethian, the “Rolling Sculpture” award winner, sat with his 1952 Jaguar X20. He explained that maintaining these cars can be challenging but worthwhile. His car, a British Racing Green, has undergone a lot of maintenance since its purchase.  Not the most comfortable car to drive or ride in, given its original seats and unassisted steering, preserving the integrity of the original design is essential.

“The event is getting better every year,” said Tom Kuester, the artist behind the event’s promotional materials,

. Ryan Myllenbeck, founder and chairman of the festival, added that it takes thousands of volunteer hours and a large team to make the event possible. Though  looking the faces of onlookers as a Ferrari V8 engine roars to life is proof that the time and energy spent are well worth it.

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