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Contrasting Colors

In Richmond, celebrating the new regime.

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Doused in fur and sparkles, four women representing the Carver and Newtown-West neighborhoods, including Barbara Abernathy and Theresa Massenburg, relaxed on a bench in the lobby of the convention center, people-watching while they waited for Gov. Tim Kaine to arrive.

"We've known Tim since he first got into politics," Abernathy said. She was looking forward to change, she said — in roads, crime and better housing.

"My two grandsons volunteered," Massenburg said. So had the women. Now they'd come ready to celebrate, arriving before the doors opened at 6. They deemed the party a success.

"We can tell by the people with the smiles and the laughs, and the hellos — lookin' good," Massenburg said.

You could tell, too, by the things people were willing to overlook, even if they had put down $100 for a ticket. In a crush of people, a man tried to balance a tiny black plastic plate, stabbing at a tiny helping of salad and pasta. Long lines led to drinks ranging up to $7.50 for a cordial (the most popular drink of the night, one barkeep estimated, was a gin and tonic).

No one seemed to mind the lines, prices and crowds.

"It's a whole new world," said Taras Mytkalyk, 16, a student from Ukraine with the Future Leaders Exchange Program. He'd traveled from Pennsylvania for this night, he said, in part because Kaine supported the program.

Mytkalyk had at least one experience to write home about, after asking a tall blonde with a tiara, Miss Virginia Teen USA Samantha Casey, to dance.

"He's got guts, huh?" said Casey, who was charmed by his line: "Will you do me the privilege of dancing with me?"

"She told me that she couldn't dance," Mytkalyk said, still beaming 45 minutes after his brush with the beauty. "But she's an amazing dancer."

"He was so excited about it," said his friend Gala Kondratova from Russia.

By the time Kaine had danced with his wife, Anne Holton, the soul band Right On, in glorious glittery purple getups, had taken over. The lights and fog machines were rolling, and the music was pumping with songs such as "My Girl" and "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch." The crowd spilled off a giant dance floor. To the side, Kaine was caught, encircled by a throng of outstretched hands and cameras.

Richmond City Councilwoman Delores L. McQuinn said she'd been waiting for this night for a long time, to see Mayor Kaine become Gov. Kaine. He's sensitive to the issues of Richmond, she said. "He will be able to work with us in a phenomenal way."

GRTC buses shuttled guests back and forth from the convention center to the free-parking areas. It was something to see downtown alive with people, I remarked to the bus driver. Yes, she agreed — "for good things." S

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