Some people have a flair for entertaining — not only for preparing meals that delight, but providing entertainment that leaves their guests gushing compliments. Sally Bocklage has such a gift, and it was on display last Friday evening when she and her husband Paul hosted an intimate farewell dinner for the National America in Bloom judges, Katie Moss Warner and Melanie Menachem-Riggs.
The volunteer judges arrived in Washington on Wednesday for a whirlwind two days of tours, interviews and evaluations of everything in our community from floral display to landscaping to environmental efforts.
There are a number of criteria to be considered in this prestigious program so a lion’s share of work had to be done by the judges while they were here. But they also had time for fun, and they found it at the Bocklages’, as evidenced by the laughs and warm conversations around the table, out-of-towners easily mixing with guests.
Katie said at the conclusion of the night that she and Melanie felt as if they’d been in Washington much longer than they had — already felt close to those in our community and considered many to be new-found friends.
Sally is the Washington in Bloom co-chairman. I didn’t know much about the program, or have any idea of who might be at the dinner, but I looked forward to learning more. As usual I was running a bit late, and I didn’t have the exact address of the Bocklages with me, but I did know the approximate location, and the street. I parked and walked along the sidewalk noticing a home with a beautifully landscaped yard.
“That has to be it,” I thought, but suddenly two teenage girls came dashing out the front door. I rang the doorbell anyway. Sally answered and ushered me into a stately living room with turn-of-the-century furniture that looked like it had come straight from the set of “Meet Me in St. Louis.”
The dining room carried through the theme, delicate English, flowered china set on gold chargers, gleaming silverware and a delicate floral arrangement in the center of the table in shades of pink, lavender and white.
As if the food weren’t enough — salmon with dill sauce, a colorful array of salads, chicken with fruit salsa, and a cake with fruit for dessert — there were surprise guests. Sally announced Colleen and Kristina’s entrance with a Loretta Young flourish. It seems the entertainment was about to begin.
We sat in awe as the darling, animated girls made change after change of clothing in a period fashion show featuring dresses and elaborate hats that had belonged to Paul’s aunts, who had long ago lived in the Bocklage home. On outfit No. 2, I realized these were the same high school students who’d darted out the front door earlier in their flight to get a forgotten item of clothing.
The America in Bloom judges hadn’t been treated to a show of this kind before — a question I asked them as we sat transfixed by the handiwork on display, the gossamer fabrics, covered buttons, intricate beading, velvet rosettes and more. The young models didn’t wear their finery with slump shoulders or downcast looks. They carried themselves confidently, arms linked, smiling all the while, ladylike models who did the outfits proud, as well as their hostess Sally, and Wanda, one of the guests and Colleen’s beaming grandmother.
It was a delightful evening, and all left the Bocklage home grateful for having been treated to such a lovely night. Driving away with my car windows down, I heard the judges laughing and talking as they walked down the street to their hotel, as comfortable as two old shoes in a town they’d just arrived in.
Katie and Melanie might forget a bit of what they saw here in Washington, but they’re sure to remember the hospitality they were privy to. I know I will.