Once again the dismal skies parted, and the sun came shining through. It's become an expected omen at the Gerald Hyland Lobsterfest.
For the 13th year, this Mount Vernon District fund-raiser for Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland was graced with good weather and the usual overflow crowd of supporters and well-wishers. "It has never rained on this event," Hyland said.
Although the morning hours were overcast and the wind bore down with bone-chilling intensity, the afternoon festivities at the Justice Snowden Farm on Parkers Lane proved to be the usual success of transported New England neighborliness.
"This was our largest and most successful Lobsterfest so far," Hyland said.
"One year it actually rained right up to the 1 p.m. kickoff. Then the clouds parted, and the sun came out," he said.
As usual, the $35-per-head-paying lobster-lovers were treated to fresh, 1 1/2-pound Maine lobsters flown in that morning. The savory shellfish were complimented by a cup of Gerry's secret-recipe, homemade clam chowder. The 700-plus attendees consumed nearly 850 of the North Atlantic delicacies, and countless hot dogs for the non-seafood lovers.
The event also raises money by auctioning various items ranging from house painting to a selection of "Gerry's Goodies." That would be items composed of pickled watermelon rind, spiced pears, plum preserve and other palate wonders prepared by Hyland himself.
Again, the grand raffle prize was "an enormous lobster" of approximately 12 to 14 pounds. Each attendee had a chance to win through the stub of his entrance ticket.
When Hyland took to the flatbed trailer to thank everyone for attending, he reminded them of his favorite topic, the saving of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital. He told them, "This morning we had a very successful rally to save Mount Vernon Hospital. And, we are going to save it. You can go to the bank on that."
FOR THE SECOND year in a row, another of Hyland's primary causes was on display at the Lobsterfest. It was, and is, the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center to be constructed at the site of the former Lorton Prison.
"We've got demolition going on as we speak," said Tina Leone, executive director, Lorton Arts Foundation. "It is being done by the Wrecking Corp. of America."
It is being assisted by GDC Trucking, Clear Cut Services and Rainwater Land Fill, according to Leone. "Wrecking Corp. has supplied a five-man wrecking crew for the work. It's worth about $100,000 to us," she said.
"Now that we've been formally approved by the county, we have the ammunition to really go out and raise funds," Leone said. "We need to raise approximately $5.5 million for initiation of preservation and renovation of the buildings," said Neal McBride, Foundation secretary/treasurer.
Leone and McBride estimated a total of $10 million-$12 million will be needed to complete the initial phase of the Arts Center. "If we put in a theater, that will take another $5 million," Leone said.
"But, it's not necessary to have it all completed before the artists can actually start using it. We hope to have artists in and working by the end of 2004," she said.
BEING DEMOLISHED is one building and five modular trailers, according to Leone. It is the intent of the Foundation to restore the other buildings within the 41.4-acre site. "It has significant value as an architectural and cultural landmark," they explained.
The foundation was organized in October 2001 to promote and support the arts in Lorton, Fairfax and neighboring counties and the commonwealth of Virginia. A primary goal of that mission is to preserve, renovate and reuse the Lorton Complex's Workhouse facilities as a unique and interesting arts campus.
Among those in attendance were state Sen. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (D-36th), state Del. Kristen J. Amundson (D-44th) and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Katherine K. Hanley.
Joining Hyland at the microphone, Hanley thanked all those present for supporting Hyland and reminded them it would be her last time to speak to them as chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
Hanley is not running for re-election to the Board. She has decided to challenge U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D) to represent the 8th Congressional District.