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Portraying George Washington, George Moore of Newton talks with Noelle Gagnon, 4, of Portsmouth, who is dressed as a young Martha Washington Saturday at the American Independence Museum in Exeter. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Washington wished a happy birthday in Exeter

EXETER — Dozens stopped by the American Independence Museum's Folsom Tavern Saturday to wish a happy birthday to George Washington, aka Newton resident George Moore.

&#';It's a pleasure to portray George Washington,&#'; said Moore, 83, a Baptist minister who has been playing the role of the first President at historical reenactments and celebrations for decades.

President George Washington stopped at Folsom Tavern for breakfast on Nov. 4, 1789, during a tour of New England. Today's federal holiday celebrates Washington's birthday.

&#';I like George Washington because he was the first President,&#'; explained Alec Wallace, 9, of Derry. His younger brother, Grayson, 6, was impressed with a collection of colonial guns on display.

&#';They are really shiny, are they made of gold?&#'; he asked.

The boys were there with their grandparents; their father, John Wallace, is serving in Afghanistan.

Although Washington consistently ranks at the top of lists of American's most-loved presidents, Moore said the myth sometimes overshadows the man.

Washington never hurled a silver dollar across the Potomac River, which has an average width of about 1,500 feet. And he never chopped down a cherry tree only to valiantly admit to the damage.

&#';That story was invented by an itinerant book peddler and preacher who wrote a biography of Washington that didn't sell very well,&#'; said Moore.

William Moss of Marlborough, Mass., joined Moore for the party as Washington's aide de camp.

&#';They were wonderful people who seemed to have had a higher level of honor and esteem than today's politicians and leaders,&#'; said Moss.

While Moore and Moss were downstairs greeting guests, children and parents explored the upper floor of the tavern, where birthday cake was being served and Washingtonian crafts were being made.

Aurora Vose, 8, of Deerfield, decorated a small, felt, purple heart, a military honor first awarded by Washington in 1782.

&#';The original purple hearts were made of cloth,&#'; said Sara Morin, a Folsom Tavern volunteer who also was showing kids how to write messages in invisible ink.

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