Story and Photos By Amy Falkofske
Whether you’re entertaining friends in your backyard or reuniting with family far away, summer is undoubtedly the most popular time to gather. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, life can seem like one big celebration. And many Prince William residents will be celebrating this summer.
Around the Pool
Interior designer Maria Loveless loves to entertain, and she has the perfect backyard for it. Her Manassas home sits on about three-quarters of an acre with a big yard and a pool.
She doesn’t worry about hosting large events. “I don’t fear. I’ve had as many as 200 back there before,” Loveless said.
Born and raised in Greece, Loveless said that entertaining is just a part of who she is: “My grandmother had a house full all the time. There were some days there was a reason, some days there wasn’t, so it became second nature. I have entertained as long as I can remember.”
In May, Loveless held a happy hour with about 25 ladies to open up the pool. She also leads a local Meetup group, Décor Design and More, and frequently has the members to her home. She said she also plans to host a lot of informal events on Saturdays and Sundays for friends. She and her husband, Tom Larsen, usually host one big themed event each year. Last year, they held a pig roast, which was a big undertaking, but a huge success. Their big event for this year is yet to be determined, but will probably take place in August or September.
Loveless’s skills as an interior designer come into play when she’s putting a table together for an event. She says it’s just like putting a room together because you are working with color schemes and spacing. She also points out that decorating and entertaining are parallel to one another. “My artistic background plays into it,” she said.
Regardless of the effort she puts into the preparations, Loveless believes the success of a party is measured by how much those in attendance enjoy themselves. “As long as you have fun, it’s a success,” she said.
Bristow resident Kate Myers loves to entertain as well. Her home is such a hub of activity on the weekends that her husband, Ryan, and her two daughters, 7-year-old Marianna and 3-year-old Ellyn, will frequently ask who is coming over each weekend.
“On Friday afternoon, my husband will say, ‘Who are we going to have over this weekend?’ and we’ll invite 10 couples over, and suddenly, we’re having a fire pit and s’mores, and the kids are playing,” Myers said.
Myers says she has acquired many of the items needed for entertaining and keeps the house ready to have company over. “I’ve got a lot of entertaining stuff on hand, and then we head to Costco to get the big bulk stuff, so I get large packs of paper plates and 500 cups at a time.”
For Myers and her husband, entertaining has become an alternative to an expensive night out. It’s also how Myers stays connected to people in her New Bristow Village neighborhood. “I’ve lived here for almost a year now, but being a stay-at-home mom, I don’t get out much, so I bring the parties here.”
The Myerses are currently building a bar in their basement and plan to open it with a big party, possibly at the end of August with the beginning of the football season. Myers says she is definitely planning on hosting some kind of event for Labor Day as well.
On a smaller scale, she hopes to establish what she calls “porch parties,” an event that she participated in frequently in her old neighborhood. These parties are held once a week and are low-cost and low-maintenance. Rotating hosts provide a snack for the kids, and everyone else brings a dish to share and their drink of choice.
Yearly Sojourn to Myrtle Beach
Manassas City resident Valerie Burke travels to Myrtle Beach, S.C., every year during the same week each summer. Her parents, her uncle and her aunt collectively own five timeshares in the same building. Every year, three generations of her family gather for a week of fun and relaxation.
The tradition of going to Myrtle Beach every year was started by Burke’s grandmother, Hazel Jones, and has evolved over the years. It started with her uncle, who bought the first timeshare and began inviting people to go with him. Then Burke’s parents bought a timeshare as well. Her uncle and her parents now own two each, and her aunt owns one as well. Though Jones is no longer living, the tradition continues, and it’s the first special occasion Burke puts on her calendar at the start of a new year.
Burke and her husband, Doug, share the exact same birthday, and it usually falls during the beach week. They also celebrate their wedding anniversary during that time on the years that he goes with her.
For the first cousins in Burke’s generation, there is always one night out without the kids. This year, they plan to go to an escape room that will have a theme, such as a deserted island, and they will have to solve a puzzle to get out of the room.
Every year Burke’s uncle brings a large jigsaw puzzle for everyone to work on together when they’re not relaxing on the beach or by the pool.
“It’s a really nice time to be on your own and not be on your own. You have an option. If you need alone time, you get alone time. But there’s always a home base on the beach. There’s usually a home base by the pool, and the kids can go back and forth,” Burke said.
Burke cherishes spending this time with family members she doesn’t get to see very often: “It’s beautiful because I get to spend one-on-one time, or even group time, with the different generations. I really love talking to my aunts and uncles and my mom’s cousin. Then it’s so much fun to watch the younger generation. It keeps us close. It gives us something to look forward to every year.”
Once-in-a-Lifetime Trip to Italy
Teacher and Manassas resident Andrea Barbuzza will enjoy her summer this year by spending two weeks in various parts of Italy. Barbuzza is an Italian-American who has lived and studied in Italy. Her husband was born in Italy.
During their stay in Italy, Barbuzza will travel with her family to Rome, Palermo and Termoli. Part of that time will be spent in a villa that her dad rented in Tuscany where he will host a family get-together. It’s also where they will celebrate her son’s 16th birthday.
“It’s a mix of sightseeing and seeing family on my husband’s side and meeting long-lost relatives from the old country, but then also my immediate family, my sister and her family, my brother, my step-brother and my parents. We’re all going to be there in the villa,” Barbuzza said.
The Barbuzzas normally only travel to Italy for weddings and funerals, so this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They will get to visit with family that live here in the U.S. that they don’t get to see often, and they will also meet family members living in Italy for the first time.
While in Termoli, Barbuzza will get to meet her paternal grandmother’s family for the first time. During the trip, she’ll also get to meet her niece’s children, who are two and three years old.
Barbuzza is the only one in her immediate family, besides her husband, who speaks Italian, so she’s looking forward to being able to converse with the Italian side of her family. “I’m looking forward to practicing my rusty Italian skills until I get really good, and then I’ve got to go home again,” she joked.
Staying Close to Home
Bristow resident Damon Holmes will take his wife Irene and their five children to two family reunions this summer, one on his father’s side in Baltimore and one on his mother’s side in Tysons Corner.
The reunion on his father’s side is only in its third year and is the smaller of the two. There will be about 20-30 people there.
About 150 people will attend the reunion on his mother’s side. That one is held every other year and has been going on for about 25 years.
Though Holmes’s family reunions are both close by geographically, he’ll get to see family members from all over the country. They’ll be coming from Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey and California.
His father’s family reunion is a simple get-together; a one-day event to just sit around and chit-chat and play games. His mother’s reunion will be a weekend-long event featuring a big activity on Saturday and then a big breakfast on Sunday morning.
Holmes is looking forward to the opportunity to catch up with family members he doesn’t normally see. “It’s great to be able to visit with them and see exactly how they’re doing, how they’re aging, how their businesses are doing. It’s great for everyone to get back together,” he said.
Whether you plan to stay home and just enjoy the more relaxed pace of summer by the pool, or go on the trip of a lifetime, Loveless points out the importance of people taking time to get together. “In today’s society, people need to stop, take a breather, smell the roses, gather up friends and just have a good time,” she said.
Tips for Successful Entertaining
When it comes to entertaining guests in their homes, Maria Loveless and Kate Myers have got it down to a science. They both agree that asking guests to bring a dish to share instead of trying to prepare all of the food yourself is the way to go. Here are a few other tips that Loveless shared to help you make your summer gatherings successful.
- Create a list of people who you want to invite and get the word out either through word of mouth, Facebook or other avenues.
- Have the space in your backyard to accommodate all of the people you want to invite.
- Make use of your pool if you have one. Also include any outdoor games you might have such as bocce, horseshoes, croquet or corn toss.
- Have great music playing, typically something that’s blood-pumping and loud enough that people can dance to it, but not so loud that it’s drowning out conversations.
- Include kids by having games that they can play. If you have a pool, make sure an adult is always watching the pool area, so you don’t have any accidents.
- Start planning about a month before for large parties and about two weeks before for smaller parties. If it’s a big event like a graduation party, you can even start dropping hints to potential guests a few months ahead of time.
- If it’s an outdoor party, make sure the yardwork or any other outside work needed is done.
- Have different areas or stations for people to gather; for example, a food table, a drink table or different game stations.
Amy Falkofske ([email protected]) is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Bristow with her husband, two boys and two Beagle dogs. She has a Master of Arts degree in film/ television from Regent University.