Community News

PHOTOS: Alexandria’s Glitzy High Octane Ball

Doug Gleason with his Jaguar E type. Photo: Tisara Photo / S. Halperson

Alexandria, VA – On Saturday, May 18th, Belle Haven Country Club hosted the glitzy High-Octane Ball, an evening of retro glamour and philanthropy, kicking off the Old Town Festival of Speed & Style weekend. The ball promised attendees an unforgettable night of joviality, but at the heart of it was a passion to serve the community and a personal story of dedication.

Belle Haven Country Club. Guests arriving at the High Octane Ball dressed in the Austin Powers theme. Photo: Tisara Photo / S. Halperson

Now in its fifth year, the Old Town Festival of Speed & Style, title sponsored by Burke & Herbert Bank, has become one of the biggest annual events in Alexandria. The two-day adventure included a free car show open to the public, where spectators from all walks of life came together for a fun-filled day of cars and networking.

The proceeds benefit ALIVE! and Community Lodgings, two nonprofits serving Alexandria’s most in-need families.

“When we receive Christmas lists from the kids, you’d be surprised with what items they put on there. They put hygiene items, and air mattresses because many of them sleep on the floor,” said Lynn Thomas, Executive Director of Community Lodgings.   “We also work closely with ALIVE! to provide food to the families, so it’s great to have us both here,” she added, reminding guests to keep those families in need in mind when making donations during the night.

When the live auction began, bidding paddles started appearing all over the room. The first item opened at $5,000.

The High-Octane Ball at Belle Haven Country Club. Photo: Tisara Photo / S. Halperson

“When I look at the kids in our program, I see myself. I was raised by a single mom. These programs helped shape me, and I know that there is no limit to what some of these kids can do given the right support. That’s what makes events such as this one so crucial for the community,” Thomas later told Zebra Press.

ALIVE!’s Executive Director Jennifer Ayers echoed the impact of the event, praising the founders and sponsors of the Old Town Festival of Speed & Style. “Not only have their generous financial contributions helped us to meet the growing need for assistance in Alexandria but the festival and High-Octane Ball help raise awareness about the work ALIVE! is doing to alleviate food and housing insecurity in our community,” she remarked.

A live and silent auction yielded excitement and excellent results. Photo: Tisara Photo / S. Halperson

“We saw the need for essential grocery items like bread, eggs, meat, and fresh produce rise during the pandemic, and we are currently providing food assistance to roughly 20,000 people each month through our two food hubs, pop-up grocery distributions, and the network of local food pantries and children’s programs that we supply,” said Ayers, emphasizing that the only way to meet their growing need is through partnerships like the one with the Old Town Festival of Speed & Style.

The evening started with hors d’oeuvres and drinks as guests mingled in the foyer. From specially prepared cuisine to an open bar, the evening was replete with libations, live music, dancing, and cigars on the wrap-around

Lynn Thomas, Executive Director of Community Lodgings and Jennifer Ayers, Executive Director of ALIVE! Photo: Tisara Photography/S. Halperson
Rashid Afshari and Nia Hussein, CarNova, one of the event sponsors. Photo: Tisara Photo / S. Halperson
Festival of Speed co-founders Rick and Beth Myllenback. Photo: Tisara Photo / S. Halperson


Guests had various options to contribute, and many did so generously. Tables holding items for the silent auction accented the foyer, attracting guests throughout the night. Tickets for the ball started at $150, with private tables available for $2,500.

Sponsors contributed $10,000 to the ball, while the Festival of Speed also attracted many sponsors who contributed to the day.

“We want the guests to enjoy themselves. Everybody contributes a lot to this event and it’s a way of saying thank you for their donations. But in the end, it’s all about the charities and the people in our community who need support, and I know everyone who attends has the same mission in mind,” said event co-founder Beth Myllenbeck, who also extolled Belle Haven for their accommodating hospitality.

Over the whole weekend, volunteers and organizers were clearly running a well-oiled machine but it has not always been smooth sailing for the Myllenbecks and their team, who had to bring this vision to life despite setbacks.

Guests went all out to bring the Austin Powers theme to life. Photo: Tisara Photo / S. Halperson

“It took two years to take the Speed & Style Festival from an idea to what it has become today. In total, it’s been a seven-year commitment. And everyone contributing to this is a volunteer,” Rick Myllenbeck told Zebra Press. “We had to request all of this from the city, and they were very reluctant to close King Street, so it took a while to convince enough people to support this idea. At the beginning, it was just that—an idea.”

He added that their perseverance was driven by a united focus on the community, and a deep desire to create a way to make a difference.  Myllenback, a devoted fan of classic cars, started dreaming of a car festival in Old Town Alexandria.

The dance floor was rocking. Photo: Tisara Photo / S. Halperson

“I could see it very clearly. But I didn’t want it to just be about the cars. It had to mean something to the people who live here.”  The idea was to bring beautiful cars to the lower part of Old Town Alexandria, raise visibility for the community, increase foot traffic for restaurants and businesses, and ultimately raise money for local charities. “Five years on now, we’ve raised over $100,000 for local charities,” he proudly shared, stressing it would never have been possible without the steady support of  Burke & Herbert Bank.

“They have been instrumental in our success and helping us find other sponsorships,” said Myllenbeck.

(From l to r) Jason Yates, Jr. Loren Yates, and Jason Yates Sr. Photo: Tisara Photo / S. Halperson

The sentiment of philanthropic commitment and volunteerism appeared to be collectively shared by everyone in the room the Yates family, which has a long history of giving back to the Alexandria community. “We believe deeply in contributing to our community, and there are many ways to do that,” remarked Jason Yates, Sr. “All of us can play a part in whichever capacity we can. At the heart of all our businesses, we pride ourselves in giving opportunities to those who seek them. People with passion and dedication. Our commitment to supporting people at an individual level has always been one of the cornerstones of what we do. Passion and dedication are what we always look for, and you see that here tonight at this event.”

ICYMI: Over a Thousand Alexandria Bicyclists Turn Out for Bike to Work Day City Pit Stops Friday, May 17 

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button