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Embracing Birthnight Celebration

Guests enjoy dinner, dancing, auction and raffle.

There was no shortage of food and wine at the George Washington Birthnight Celebration Supper and Ball, which was held Sunday at Mount Vernon Estate.

It began early in the evening with a Patron’s Reception at the residence of James C. Rees, executive director, Mount Vernon Estate. There, guests enjoyed cocktails and dined on baked brie, smoked salmon, crab puffs, sausage puffs, fruit and cheese and assorted canopies.

Guests then meandered over to The Mount Vernon Inn, where they and other guests enjoyed the spirits and delicacies of the inn. They were welcomed by the 18th Century Friends of George Washington. General George Washington and Mrs. Washington arrived and greeted everyone and then the American Originals Fife & Drum Crops played.

Before dinner, guests had time to view the silent auction items and listen to instrumental colonial music. The Rev. Dr. Donald Binder, Pohick Church, gave an invocation remembering the strengths and attributes of George Washington.

Supper followed. First served was a mesculin green salad with artichoke hearts, feta cheese and red and yellow cherry tomatoes.

The entrée was a plate of herb crusted beef medallions with béarnaise sauce and stuffed shrimp; sage roasted potatoes; and ancho-buttered broccoli. Accompanying the entrée was the traditional tomato cobbler and homemade breads and colonial crackers. A note accompanying the menu said, “The foods served this evening were available in the time of George Washington — either grown on the plantation or imported. Visitors to this country were pleasantly surprised and delighted by the variety of food available to the residents and their guests at Mount Vernon.”

PEG DUNNIGAN, CO-CHAIR of the event, said that they had 245 guests; the maximum that the inn can hold. Not only was the event was sold out, but there was a waiting list as well. She didn’t have a count yet of how much money was made, but said, “I’m thrilled that it turned out so well.”

Stavroula Alachnowicz, who chaired the events, spoke to guests as they gathered again after dinner. She said that it was “an honor to greet General Washington — a great general, great president and great neighbor.”

She went on to say, “I’m happy to say that the proceeds from this event and other projects from 2004-2005 will go towards the restoration of the Gardener’s House. We’re happy to take on this project, knowing the General’s love of gardening, and appreciate everyone’s attendance and support with the auction and the raffle.”

Rees spoke briefly, acknowledging that this event had never sold out before. He then introduced Gay Hart Gaines, Regent, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Gaines was elected in October 2004, as the 18th Regent. She was also appointed to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) Board by President Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the Board of CPB for a term of six years.

“She climbed the ladder faster than anybody I know,” Rees said. “She was on more boards, raised more money and was the kind of ambassador who traveled all over the country explaining to people why we have to worry about losing George Washington.”

Gaines said that she had heard of the Birthnight Ball for years, but that it was “far more festive and far more fun than I imagined. I love the fact that Neighborhood Friends are responsible for every aspect of this event.”

Rees then led the crowd in several Hip-Hip-Huzzah toasts — with Madeira — to Washington, to Gaines, to Alachnowicz, and to Peg Dunnigan. Washington cut the birthday cake, which was one of about a dozen assorted cakes provided by Hollin Hall Pastry Shop. The silent auction closed, raffle winners were announced, and guests spent the rest of the evening dancing to the music of The Rod Tompkins Group.