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The 1940s in full swing at Leesburg’s Oatlands

Doc Scantlin’s Palmettos stand by as the flamboyant Chou Chou interacts with the audience at Oatlands Fabulous 40s Party. Times-Mirror/Anna Harris
The wine was flowing and the band was swinging Aug. 30 at the Fabulous 40s Party at historic Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg.

More than 125 guests flocked to the event, some wearing modern clothing, others dressed in the garb of World War II.

“Oatlands is the most elegant, beautiful place in Northern Virginia,” said Oatlands Executive Director Andrea McGimsey. “So you put these elements [our food and drink partners, Dance King Studios and Doc Scantlin] together in the setting of Oatlands? And you've got one amazing shindig.”

Last year, Oatlands hosted the 1920s themed party reminiscent of “The Great Gatsby.” While glamour marked the feel of that event, this year the party took a more laid-back approach.

“We went very simple this year,” said Regan Reedy, Oatlands programing and collections coordinator. “And that was a big discussion over how that would be done because you want to go glamorous for the 40s. It's very Hollywood … But it's also the war years, so the compromise was going simple.”

Next year, Oatlands plans to host a 1960s party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the house and grounds being donated to The National Trust for Historic Preservation by the Eustis family in 1965.

At this year's party, shining chandeliers lined the top of the large white tent covering the converted tennis court that served as party central. Throughout the evening, heels clacked against the black hardtop dance floor in front of the band as dancers gradually overcame their shyness.

The event might have felt more like a USO canteen party thrown for World War II soldiers to give them a chance to socialize and dance. But it was given a glitzy twist with the addition of Doc Scantlin's Palmettos.

The smooth crooner with the pencil stache, Doc, was accompanied by a brass band and his wife, Chou Chou, who lit up the room with her girlish voice and red sequined showgirl costume.

Fabbioli Cellars and Willowcroft Farm Vineyards served wine in the true spirit of Epicurience Virginia, while those favoring mixed drinks and spirits were satisfied by Catoctin Creek Distillery. Magnolias at the Mill kept a table lined with roses stocked with fine finger foods.

A host of characters attended the event. Audrey Hepburn made an appearance. The Audrey impersonator, Maria McVoy, and her husband, E.J., were among those frequenting the dance floor.

Also at the event was Takesha Meshé Kizart, an award-winning world-class opera singer. Oatlands hopes to host a masked ball at the end of October as a benefit concert featuring Kizart.

The dance floor buzzed with activity. Some were just learning swing with the help of Dance King Studios while others were old pros.

Vicky and Joe VanMater showcased some graceful moves. Vicky VanMater is a Virginia ballroom dance champ and member of the board at Oatlands.
And Joe VanMater is an Olympic-level ice dancer. They've been dancing together for 25 years.

“[Events like this] bring the community here,” said Joe VanMater. “People don't realize how amazing [the property is] and all of the history behind it … It's a real treasure … Oatlands stands as a beacon for how beautiful Loudoun can be.”

Brass band sounds drifted up to the mansion on the hill nearby, where the party's guests could view the inside.

The night raised both awareness and funds for the property's continued preservation. And being safe-keepers of properties like Oatlands is important for the county and the commonwealth, according to Elizabeth Wall, tour guide for the plantation since 1999.

“It keeps our history alive,” she said. “Otherwise we'd lose it all … It's wonderful to have a piece of history like this … Gosh there's a lot of history here.”

Click here to read more on Epicurience Virginia.


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