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Fairfax starts gearing up for nation's big 250th-birthday bash

'There is an opportunity for everybody to get involved and participate'
Members of the Fairfax County 250th Commission are working to produce a host of inclusive and celebratory events to commemorate the nation's 250th anniversary in 2026.

As a young man growing up in Philadelphia, Scott Stroh was thrilled with the red-white-and-blue extravaganza celebrating the nation’s bicentennial in 1976.

“I was completely immersed in, surrounded by, energized and excited by all that I was experiencing as a young boy, who even at that age was interested and fascinated by history,” he said.

Stroh, who now is director of historic Gunston Hall, is leading a Fairfax County group that for three years has been gearing up for a series of events commemorating not only the American Revolution’s 250th anniversary, but the nation’s history and people ever since.

“There will certainly be aspects of the bicentennial that will be reflected in what we’re envisioning,” he said of the developing plans. “I think the big difference is facilitating a commemoration in 2026 that moves beyond 1776 and really thinking about the ideas born out of that revolutionary movement that continue to be so important today.”

Following establishment of the American Revolution 250th Commission in the General Assembly’s 2020 session, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors that year formed a seven-member Semiquincentennial (250th anniversary) Work Group, which was led by officials at Gunston Hall in Mason Neck.

Supervisors in 2021 morphed that group into the Fairfax County 250th Commission. The 22-member body, chaired by Stroh, generally meets the fourth Wednesday of every other month at the Fairfax County Government Center.

The group held three stakeholder meetings in April this year to discuss its activities with the community.

Commission vice chairman Elliot Bell-Krasner, who represents the county’s Human Rights Commission on the body, led the April 17 virtual discussion.

The national, statewide and county 250th-anniversary groups aim to “engage Americans in designing what we consider to be the largest and most inclusive anniversary observance in the nation’s history,” he said. “This is the first that we’ve had a real opportunity to do this since the bicentennial in 1976.”

The American Association of State and Local History is compiling background information for the celebration, which will focus on the principles of the revolution, rather than just specific events, and include the story of America since, Bell-Krasner said.

The commission now is in the process of educating and organizing local history, community and civic-related groups and sites about the upcoming celebration, Stroh said.

“We’re doing a lot to increase awareness within a broad constituency base that 2026 is coming and there’s an opportunity for everybody to get involved and participate in this commemoration,” he said. “We’re also really focused on creating opportunities and providing inspiring and impactful educational experiences – not just to learn about 1776, but about the ideas, stories and people that continue to be so important in Fairfax County, Virginia and our nation.”

The commission in 2025 will unveil an interactive experience that will travel around Fairfax County and highlight significant sites and stories in the county over the past 250 years, Stroh said. The public will have the chance to “share their perspectives on what America means and should be as we look into the future,” he said.

Upcoming events in 2026 also will celebrate the civil-rights struggles and women’s suffrage, which had their roots in the 1776 revolution, Stroh said.   

The group receives financial support from the county government, but has not done any private-fundraising, Stroh said.

The commission not only had a multi-year start in the lead-up to the 250th anniversary, but its operating mandate will keep it going through June 30, 2027. Members will use their final months to demobilize, close out the books and complete the necessary reports, he said.

While the group now is producing semiannual reports and will need to present a final report to the Board of Supervisors, Stroh said he did not know if the commission would produce a book or video memorializing its efforts.

“Obviously, we hope this results in projects and experiences that transcend beyond 2026,” he said. “We hope that our work will result in some legacy projects at sites around the county that will continue to have meaning and impact.”

For more information about the commission and its activities, visit