We bought the B&B in March, a few days after my fiance’s birthday. The house was a wreck. No one lived here for 23yrs, and we undertook a complete renovation. He was quite a bit older than me (13yrs) and had been married before. His ex-wife was a manipulative and mean woman who “ran off” all his friends. I was determined our life, our home, would be open and welcoming to his friends. Every guy needs man friends, right? During the renovation, one of his buddies wandered by and casually mentioned, “Hey, it’s a shame you’re almost finished, we should have had another one of OUR birthday parties BEFORE the house was all fixed up.”
Now, I grew up in different cities, not in the same small town. Thus, I was unfamiliar with the history, the “lore”, the stories of their wild days in their 20’s. Yet, I learned five of them all had birthdays close to each other and those birthday parties were legendary. I made a mental note………. and decided to throw a birthday party for husband and his buddies the following year.
We opened in 6 months, September, and were married in December, with the reception at the house. By the time the next March rolled around, I had several big parties under my belt and a staff which was ready for anything. BUT this was a personal party – not a client party, …… and it was a blowout.
But I had a problem.
While the guys were all wild as hell in their youth, they had grown up. NOW….. they all went to church, paid taxes, went to rotary….. stuff like that…… NOW…. they were all upstanding members of the community. One owned the biggest lumber company within 30 miles. One was the head of a 50 man architectural firm, a prominent southern firm. One was the Mayor and a zillionaire. One owned a 7K acre farm and worked his way up to Pres of the MS Cattlemen’s Association. AND, one was my husband, who owned a large construction company. They were all in their 40’s (I was 32) and the idea of another “wild” party might damage a few reputations. It is a small town, and people do gossip. So….., I made up rules for the party.
Those who read here, Q Treepers, know me well enough to know, I don’t like rules. Daughn’s rules for the party went as follows:
- There will be no pictures taken at the party.
- If you buy a new “outfit” for the party, we will know, and you won’t be invited back.
- If you talk about the party, hit on someone else’s wife, or spread gossip, we will know, and you won’t be invited back.
- This is our one event, once per year, where we all get to have fun. So, have fun.
- Come hungry, we’re cooking!
With 5 locally prominent guys and one massive birthday party, the guest list became unmanageable. I decided to print up an “announcement” and ran off 300 sheets on the printer, giving each guy 50-60 announcements to send to whomever they wanted. Easiest way to solve that problem. Most of the guys knew the SAME people = duplicates. I figured half would come, with a guest, and we would have, at most, 100-250 people for the party. Right?
The party was scheduled for the first weekend in March. I swear, I could write the Farmer’s Almanac when it comes to predicting the weather. Usually, I’m pretty good. Without fail, in our little town, the weather for the first weekend in March is absolutely perfect. Around March 4-10th, we get our first break of spring. It’s 72 degrees, and glorious weather after a long (6-8 weeks) winter. Everyone throws on their flip-flops and shorts. We come out of hibernation. It’s a perfect weekend for a party.
At 5:00pm, we had 3-4 inches of snow on the ground. In the south, if it snows, everything comes to a standstill. It wasn’t sticking on the streets, sidewalks, and driveway, but my husband was devastated. He paced in front of the big window in the parlor, “No one is going to come to my party.” He looked like a sad little kid.
I said a little prayer and hoped for the best, because we were READY.
We planned the party for a month, which meant the anticipation had time to build. People made travel plans and the party grew. I heard rumblings, “Hey Daughn, is it okay if I invite……”, to which I always said, “Sure, the more the merrier!” And people did make travel plans.
The word went out. They came from everywhere….. They brought more friends….. and they brought food. The staff and I had cooked for three days……. but the food…. the food was overwhelming and the generosity of others was humbling.
Husband’s cousins came in from Milwaukee. These were the Harley Davidson cousins. They rented a truck, and brought 180 cases of beer, and a few kegs of craft beer, 10 EXTRA kegs…….. in case we ran out. They brought with them their best friends, who owned the biggest catering company in Wisconsin (catered for Bill Clinton when he hosted the Governor’s Assoc/ did 50K people at golf tournaments, etc), and they brought more brats, salamis, and cheeses, than I’ve ever seen in my life. They also brought THEIR grill they used for golf tournaments. They all stayed at Mother-in-law’s house.
Some of my old, but very dear, and very wealthy, gay friends decided to come up from New Orleans. They brought 250lbs of shrimp and 25lbs of raw fresh shucked oysters. Do you have any idea how many oysters that is? OMG, it was endless. Plus, because there is no tax on liquor in Louisiana, they brought hard liquor for the party. We unloaded case after case after case of Jack Daniels, Absolute, Bacardi, a load of Tanqueray + 4 cases of Champagne……… cuz we had to toast the birthday boys. They all stayed at Grandma Della’s house.
Since the owners of the town liquor store were invited, they contributed all the “house wine”…. in pickup trucks. ……. We took over the neighbor’s garage for extra storage and the police were guarding the house…. like it was their party.
My old biz partner from Miami, who married my best friend, maid of honor in our wedding, decided to come. They brought stone crab claws and and our neighbor’s extra fridge was filled with Jewish Deli from Wolfie’s, Roast Beef… Pastrami… Corned Beef….. it was heavenly.
Then, the Cattlemen’s Assoc. boys…….. from DALLAS….. decided to come, in a Winnebago, with their traveling BBQ team. I have no idea how much beef and pork they brought with them….. it was unimaginable.
And our staff had cooked for days, mostly Italian and hors d’oeuvres. We set up three bars. We had a formal bar in the house, hard liquor/bartenders and more food on the side porch. Horse troughs for beer and 13 tables for BBQ on the back porch and yard. The Cattlemen and Wisconsin BBQ’s were set up on a parking pad – we took over the neighbor’s house as well. I marinated half the shrimp and we boiled half.
The guys set up a fish cooker for the oysters, and we made this weird concoction – on a skewer, you start with a half-cooked piece of bacon, thread an oyster (which has marinated), thread the bacon, another oyster, more bacon, on and on, ending in bacon. Then, the whole thing is fried in a fish cooker. I stopped counting at 1000 made, and I didn’t get to eat a single one. People hovered over the fish cooker and a whole tray of them never made it into the house. Scarfed.
We had the main food set up in the dining room with desserts in the library. We moved our entire ground floor master bedroom, upstairs, so we had more room for prep – expanding the kitchen. Husband brought in two MOAR fridges and tables from the shop.
Food and CD’s with the outdoor speakers went from about 6-8pm. The birthday boys got together, chipped in, and hired a “really good band”. The band started at about 8:30pm, with the unmistakable rift of Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine”.
We set the band up in the garage, and the parking circle was a perfect dance floor. At the time, we had a 3 car garage but it did not have a garage door. So, it was like a cave. The garage is next door to the tall brick walls of the school. The echo was phenomenal. My girlfriend was at Wal-Mart, about a mile away, picking up extra sodas for mixers. She was in the parking lot and heard the band gear up…….
To combat the cooler temps, the construction/farm guys brought in “concrete heaters” or “shop heaters” which were like enormous space heaters that ran on kerosene. Somewhere along the way, a group built a LARGE bonfire in the backyard, perfect for the chill in the air.
The band was really cranking and I remember dancing so hard we were sweating, with snow on the ground. Wild, eh? I walked toward the house to take a break and check on the kitchen, when a girlfriend from Culture Club stopped me. “That was a GREAT song. What was that?”, she said. I looked at MaryLynn and was dumbfounded. How could she possibly live through the 70’s and not know about ZZTop and “Tush”? She had no idea. She was so sheltered.
I do recall sitting in the staircase hallway with my banker, shooting tequila, when four policemen walked through the back door into the hallway. His face went white. He thought we were being raided. He was a Baptist Deacon who “never drank”. No, it was shift change at the police station and those boys were hungry. I do love my police department. Sensing his nervousness, one of the detectives told him they were off duty, “It’s okay Mr. X, they put a sign up on the switchboard which read ‘Party at X House tonight. Unless there is a fire, leave them alone.”
Then, he then told me the Sheriff left town, went fishing, for the weekend of our party…… incommunicado.
We had an epic moment when the tile crew guys decided to join, and jam, with the band. They went through everything from George Thorogood to Muddy Waters. The band was HOT!
The party went off without a hitch. It was as if it wasn’t my party, or our party…… it was everyone’s party. All night long I saw people bundling trash, passing a platter, washing a dish, putting another log on the fire………., everyone contributed in big ways and small ways. There were no “guests”. It was more like a big family reunion.
There was one moment. I was standing on the back porch, looking over the rail at the crowd. Lots of people I did not know, but all good people. I had no idea how much they “needed” a party, a chance to get together, a chance to eat, drink, and be merry. It really wasn’t just a party for my husband, or the five guys. I was looking for the wallflowers, the people who were not mixing. There weren’t any.
Some say there were 1000 people here that night. I doubt it. Others said 600, another said not more than 400. I have no idea. I did count 9 judges…..
The next morning, we all arose and were kind of tired and groggy. The Winnebago crew was stirring and people were sleeping on couches upstairs, but they were all part of the party/hosts/crew and belonged here. Husband started coffee. The farmer woke up, because if the sun is up, he’s awake. He wandered downstairs and started picking at the leftover food on the dining table. The shrimp, oysters, crab claws were all gone. No telling how much meat and Italian food we went through. We did wrap and save what we could before going to bed, including those huge cheese rounds from Wisconsin.
Farmer: “Gosh, I missed this last night….”, plunging a stale frito into an unknown dip.
Husband: (wandered into the dining room) “I wouldn’t eat that if I were you”
Farmer: “Aw, a little bit of bacteria won’t hurt me…. the Jack Daniels will kill everything.”
Husband: “I’m not talking about food left out all night”, he pointed to the little cat paw prints in the dip……..
By the next morning the weather cleared and it was at least 65 degrees by 9:00am. Snow gone. Perfect weather. I saved the Corned Beef, 10lbs. of it, and we made a scratch Corned Beef Hash, 20lbs of potatoes, simmered in beef bullion (with the corned beef) and 5 dozen eggs….. and brats, for breakfast, on the golf tournament grill. The Harley crew, and the gay guys, showed up for breakfast…. with grandmas in tow.
They ate it all.
We did have beer left….. for the Harley guys….. for breakfast.
The Cattlemen said our party was, “Bigger than Dallas.”
And the gay guys made Mimosas with leftover champagne.
What a party….. with a LOT of help……. from great friends.
After everyone left, husband turned to me, “That was fun. Can’t wait ’til next year……..!”