Ann and Rick Dorman (Photo: Steven Halperson)

By William Kehoe and Joseph Shumard

In 1983 Alexandria became home to Ann and Rick Dorman. At that time, they were both working for large trade associations in Washington, DC and had expertise as organization managers and planners. But by 2000 they were ready for new challenges: Rick staretd a non-profit management consulting firm and Ann started her own events planning company. They wanted to be more involved in the Alexandria community so they began to search for a local project where they could make a contribution.

At the same time, the City of Alexandria was looking for a way to keep the floundering program, First Night Alexandria afloat. This New Year’s Eve program had gone on for five years and was part of a nationwide program of alcohol-free celebrations. The concept was started in 1976 and reached a high of over 250 communities participating across the country. But the program in Alexandria was very close to ending because it could not maintain financial viability.

After being dark in 2000, the Dormans agreed to manage this event beginning in 2001, and they have been doing it ever since—16 years. They devised a unique structure for the organization: a public/private partnership. This provides for funding support not only from the City of Alexandria but also from the business entities that benefit from the enterprise as well as the community at large.

First Night Alexandria has succeeded beyond the expectations of most doubters. In the beginning, attendance was 5,000 at 15 venues featuring 100 performers. In recent years, attendance has grown and is consistently over 10,000. In 2016 there were 29 venues with 163 performers. The Dormans are responsible for hiring performers, arranging venue hosts, marketing, developing corporate sponsors, and coordinating with city agencies and law enforcement to make the event safe and enjoyable.

It established in the Washington Region as a very special event that is not to be missed. The city's marketing arm, Visit Alexandria, hails it as a signature event for the city. More folks attend First Night Alexandria than any other performing arts event in the city.

The venues range from store fronts and churches to corporate conference rooms, and include a variety of activities to entice singles, families, visitors, date-night revelers, and a host of other fun seekers to a night of celebration. These include jazz bands, rock & roll, blues, rockabilly, magicians, dramatic acting and more, all of whom perform for audiences ranging from a dozen to hundreds. The acts are repeated 2-3 times to allow the rotation of audiences from venue to venue. In addition to the evening performances, several daytime activities have been implemented including a very popular Fun Hunt game, book readings, and activities for young children. All of this is orchestrated by the Dormans in a schedule that takes months to develop.

The success of this enterprise has been such that excess proceeds have made it possible for First Night Alexandria to make donations to the music programs at Hammond, George Washington and T.C. Williams schools. The Battle of Local Stars has provided exposure and support for talented youth. Additionally, donations have been made to local scout troops who provide manpower during the day. While the Dormans are well known for their efforts with First Night Alexandria they are also involved in many other Alexandria activities. Most recently Ann was the fundraising chair for the Alexandria Police Department’s Fallen Officers Memorial, now on display outside Police headquarters.

Ann serves on the boards of the Alexandria Police Foundation, Old Town Business & Professional Association and is an ex-officio representative to the Visit Alexandria Board. Ann is a graduate of Leadership Alexandria and both are graduates of the Alexandria Citizens Police academy.

Rick was a founding member of Leadership Alexandria as well as its second chair and the first program committee chair that created its engaging and memorable program. It developed relationships throughout the city that still produce collaborations today.

Rick chaired the National Harbor Collaborative to help position Alexandria to take advantage of the development soon to appear across the Potomac River. As a result of these activities we have the King Street Trolley, many City dock improvements such as lighting, directional signs and the “historical” wall painting to name just a few.

Rick has been active in Alexandria as the Chair of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, 2-year chair of ACPS’ Budget Advisory committee and represents his neighbors on the T.C. Williams Community Advisory committee.

The impact of Ann and Rick Dorman on life in Alexandria should probably be measured in truckloads. Their generosity and service are almost overwhelming…and legendary.

Living Legends: The Project
The mission of Living Legends of Alexandria is to identify, honor and chronicle the lives of individuals who have contributed to the community in an exemplary and lasting way that has significantly impacted the quality of life in Alexandria and serves as an inspiration to others. For information, to volunteer, become a sponsor or nominate a future Legend, visit www.AlexandriaLegends.org or contact AlexandriaLegends@outlook.com.