Marching with the mayors at Scottish Walk


As the mayors of Alexandrias four European sister cities whisk into town this weekend for the 37th Annual Scottish Walk, I thought we might ring up the respective editors of their hometown dailies and get a handle on what they might be missing back home.

Alexandria has been twinned with the cities of Dundee, Scotland; Helsingborg, Sweden; Caen, France and Gyumri, Armenia, since the 1990s, and the sister city relationship sees delegations visiting between the cities on a regular basis, with exchanges of students, musicians and choirs common.

This summer Mayor Bill Euille took a delegation to Helsingborg, then jetted over to Dundee for a fierce soccer match between some Alexandrians and some Scots. This weekend, Euille will be exchanging gifts with his counterparts and dedicating a new sister cities conference room at City Hall.  

Were delighted and honored theyre coming, Euille said Monday during a planning meeting at The Campagna Center, host to this weekends festivities. We plan on rolling out the red carpet for them. Well, everyone except the mayor of Gyumri, Vardan Ghukasyan, who’ll be represented in Alexandria this weekend by the Armenian ambassador. Lots happening back home.

Turkey and Georgia have just announced an elaborate new rail line which bypasses Gyumri, and Ghukasyan feels it may further isolate his landlocked city. Over in Helsingborg, home to one of Europe’s largest ports, Danish truckers were blocking bridges to protest fines for mandatory rests, and Swedes were being urged not to hoard food.

Near Caen, editors at Ouest-France tell us a fiery train crash injured 40 people. News was much slower in Dundee, where editors at the Dundee Messenger tell us the Aberdeen Coastguard rescued a five-year-old girl who was carried out by the tide whilst playing with friends.

Alexandria will feel like an welcome respite from a world full of worries this weekend. Dundee’s Lord Provost, or mayor, will especially feel right at home, with Celtic concerts, gingerbread teas, Scotch tastings and a Christmas Walk through Old Town featuring 100 Scottish clans. The kilt-clad dancers and bagpipers will be led by longtime Walk participants, Sen. and Mrs. John W. Warner, this years Grand Marshals.

Weve had unprecedented support for the parade this year, said Tara Carter, co-chair of this years Scottish Walk Weekend, which has raised $90,000 in corporate donations and another $40,000 from in-kind sponsors. This really helps the programs here.

The Campagna Center operates seven key programs for 1,500 underprivileged city children, including child development classes serving low-income families (known as Head Start), and after-school, tutoring, mentoring and other academic enrichment programs. All of our families will be full participants in this weekends events, said Karen Hughes, Campagnas president and CEO. Our mission is to bring the children into them.

Saturdays parade at 11 a.m. has a new route this year, beginning at Wilkes and St. Asaphs streets, wrapping around Queen and Fairfax streets and ending at City Hall. We ticked some people off with this new configuration, Hughes admitted. We did not exactly know that people actually bought their houses because of the parade route.

Susan Braswell spent the first 18 years of her marriage fully devoted to raising her two children. Holidays were always a special time, because Braswell, 40, had a reputation among friends of being a shutterbug par excellence. Her Christmas card photos would capture her kids in a way that was something between Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz.

This factoid about Susan is all the more extraordinary given that she’s a completely self-taught photographer, who turned professional free-lance in 2004, and holds her first open house at her new Old Town studio this Saturday, Dec. 1.  
Encouraged by her husband and friends who kept begging to hire her, Braswell set up shop in a studio at 705 King Street. Her lush photographs of kids being angels or going about their mischief adorn the exposed brick walls of her spacious, warmly-lit loft. The purpose of the studio was to have a destination to see the work in person and to have consultations, Braswell said. I love what I do. I especially like opening up the pictures from a session and saying wow, look at these.

Cindi Santiago, a local attorney with two fraternal twins, came to Braswell two years ago after her boys were born, and has used her to chronicle their earliest years, both birthdays and holidays. We had her do a photo of the boys when they turned one and we were thrilled with her work, Santiago said. Shes absolutely brilliant at capturing that split second which captures their spirit and personality, which isnt easy to do.

Braswell is now helping to take Ethan and Gabriel into the competitive world of child modeling, building their portfolio and arranging shoots. Her photos are not only beautiful but they’re fresh and have an artistic look to them, Santiago said. Her camera is her paint brush.