By Garren Shipley -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- For some, it's not Apple Blossom Friday without good friends, good food and strong drinks.
And a touch of refinement.
The Men's Commonwealth Luncheon may only be in its third year, but the event at Piccadilly Brew Pub and Restaurant already has become a tradition with many at the festival.
"It's very nice. Great atmosphere," said Bob McKay, of Charlotte, N.C., who attended for the first time. "I like that people are respectable again and can dress up."
More than one man at the event took a good-natured swipe at the older, more relaxed Stag Luncheon across town.
"He turned 40 this year, year he graduated from the Stag Luncheon to the Commonwealth Luncheon," joked Ed McKay, of Winchester.
"I've been here every year, and prefer it much more over the 'stagger lunch,' added Bill Whirley, of Stephens City.
Of course, Whirley has good reason to prefer the jacket-and tie-event to its open-air cousin.
Whirley was one of several door prize winners, coming away with a $1,000 golfing package. The prize is more than enough reason to keep trying to improve his game.
"I'm more of a hacker, but I'm getting there," he said.
While most at the event were focused on relaxation, some were focused on business.
For the second year in a row, former Del. Brian Moran, D-Alexandria, a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, worked the room. Moran mingled as men in jackets and ties ate a light lunch, enjoyed various beers and cocktails and sampled a smooth but strong Kentucky bourbon.
"It's terrific to see a community come together this way and celebrate such a fine tradition," he said.
Moran is crossing familiar territory in his run for the Executive Mansion.
In 2005, all three gubernatorial candidates -- Republican Jerry Kilgore, Democrat Timothy M. Kaine and independent H. Russell Potts Jr., at the time a Republican state senator from Winchester -- worked the festival in various capacities.
Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, one of Moran's rivals for the Democratic nomination, was scheduled to appear at the Valley Health 10k run today at 9:30 a.m.
Republican Bob McDonnell's campaign said he also would make an appearance.
The third Democratic candidate, former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, was not publicly scheduled to appear at the festival.
But statewide candidates, especially those who have not made a public commitment to be at the festival, have a way showing up at the last minute and hitching rides in both the Firefighters' and Grand Feature parades.