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Dancing with the Drifters on the Canal


"This whole thing is taking me back to the fraternity parties of my youth," gushed more than one reveler at the June 12 Richmond Canal Gala on the riverfront. Even before the phalanx of servers set out 900 plates of filet mignon stuffed with cornbread and pinenuts, couples were rushing onto the dance floor with a sentimental vigor that could only be accompanied by The Drifters belting out "This Magic Moment" and a string of hits from the 1960s.

Partiers danced through the wheat berry and asparagus salad, they ignored the white chocolate swans filled with raspberry mousse, they set aside the unending glasses of Burlwood Chardonnay, and they danced with jubilation, celebrating their collective pasts and, more to the point, the opening of Richmond's newest tourist attraction. Party chairman Lilliboo Rawles Cronly wore a black beaded dress and carried a walkie-talkie, which was set aside only briefly to dance with her husband. Jack and Tricia Pearsall, Moira and C.T. Hill, Charlotte and Marvin Watts, Audrey and Morton Eggleston, and a swirling crowd of like-minded couples packed the floor and later spilled out to a second tented dance spot near the river.

Tourists in T-shirts watched from the sidewalk as ladies in long gowns and men in dinner jackets stepped into low-slung canal boats for tours of the riverfront. "My Girl" and "Up On The Roof" wafted into the evening air, great blue herons flew overhead, trains and trucks rumbled past, and the high-density chattering of an animated crowd made for an unusually cacophonous and picturesque event beneath the downtown expressway. The gala was an unqualified success for the Historic Richmond Foundation and the Richmond Historic Riverfront Foundation; these groups raised a substantial sum and toasted A. Howe Todd and Paul Murphy for envisioning the project. Sa'ad El Amin sent his regrets, and Robert E. Lee was a no-show.

And where were you?

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