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The World's Invited for Tea

It's a bit early for the queen, but don't tell the ladies of Sweet Monday.

They're throwing a tea party — an enormous tea party.

In mid-May, the wacky women who meet the first Monday of every month to partake of tea and whatever their quirky leader, Kim Newlen, has cooked up (a recent theme: "Man-I-Cured" Monday, complete with Jell-O and jelly beans) will attempt to break the world record for the world's largest tea party.

The record was set in Singapore a few years ago. According to Guinness World Records, that party drew 7,121 people in 2001.

A bit daunting for a group of tea-sipping socialites, you say? Tsk, tsk. The group — officially named Sweet Monday, Women's Socials on a Shoestring … And Tied to a Generous God — has a willing sponsor, Ukrop's Super Markets. And the club's already rented the University of Richmond's Robins Center for the occasion. All the paperwork is in with Guinness. And Newlen says she'll be bringing her pink hat with the candles.

"We always light the candles on my head on Sweet Monday," Newlen chirps. "We usually sing happy birthday to all of us."

The group started 10 years ago when Newlen got bored with retirement. She had worked as an English teacher at Collegiate. An outgoing person, she found herself feeling lonely. So she started inviting people over for tea in her West End home. Before long, the parties were drawing between 30 and 70 people every first Monday of the month.

Devoutly religious, the ladies would sip their tea, munch cakes and read Scripture. Before long, the parties were everywhere. After a radio interview a few years ago, other Sweet Mondays started up across the country, even across the globe. Today, there are more than 56 similar clubs registered as Sweet Mondays and countless others. "We just heard from New Zealand last week," Newlen says.

Michele Rhudy, a public relations executive who heads the marketing committee for the May 16 event, has been filling out gobs of paperwork for Guinness in order to make their record official.

"They come back to you with an approval and some rules," Rhudy says. "We have to document the quantities of food consumed."

The free party is open to the public 7-8:30 p.m., May 16. For more information, call 754-4333. — Scott Bass

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