To all the some 200 friends and supporters of the News-Press who showed up at our annual holiday party last week, we say thank you for the love and affirmation that your presence represented.
It was our 22nd annual, but it was perhaps the best of all. Certainly, there has seldom been one with such a robust turnout – the throngs emptying every one of the scores of boxes of delicious Ledo Pizza and other eats – and never one with so many musically-talented students from our local George Mason High School pouring into the venue to set up as a Big Band Era-style jazz band. There were 27 students there to entertain everyone, and they repeatedly drew comments of high praise.
Our favorite scene was the 99-year-old Walter Mess, the founder of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and only one of many “A-List” local celebrities on hand, tapping his toe seated by the high school band as it was blaring. Undoubtedly the venerable Mr. Mess recalled many good times when he danced to such music when it was all the rage 60 or 70 years earlier in his life.
The band, including its instrumental and vocal soloists, entertained the likes of State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple and State Del. Jim Scott, six members of the Falls Church City Council (the seventh sent her regrets in advance that she had to be out of town), including Mayor Nader Baroukh and Vice Mayor David Snyder, Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields and Assistant City Manager Cindy Mester, members of the Falls Church School Board, Planning Commission, Economic Development Authority and scores upon scores of local civic activists, business leaders, educators and other friends of the News-Press.
The annual holiday parties are often an occasion for mini-reunions of former News-Press staffers, too, especially those who, beginning in the early 1990s, came to work part time as high school students. One, of course, started as a high school senior in 1996, and for the last decade has been the paper’s managing editor, our Jody Fellows. Others, such as Peter Laub, who first came to work as a high school sophomore wearing a Superman shirt, have gone on to distinguished careers, as well. Laub is now an English teacher at George Mason High. Also showing up last week were Lucas Hardi, Adam Chandler and Michael Cary, the latter home from a stint in Argentina. A fascinating book could be written about the exploits of our long roster of former News-Press proteges.
Aside from the music, the most pleasing sound at the annual News-Press holiday parties has always been the din, the active jabbering of all the people with each other filling the room with a special kind of noisy warmth that all the considerable holiday decorations provided by the venue host, the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, as beautiful as they were, never match. The parties are holiday classics.