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Q&A with Leah De Lane: Party-goers experience the ambiance of a ‘speakeasy’ during Prohibition

Second annual Prohibition Party raises funds for MH Historical Society

Published in the May 25 – June 7, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Staff Report

Photos by Susan Brazelton Nancy Reynolds, Leah De Lane and Kathy Sullivan dressed in period garb.

Photo by Susan Brazelton
Nancy Reynolds, Leah De Lane and Kathy Sullivan dressed in period garb.

The Morgan Hill Historical Society last year put together a “Prohibition Party” to introduce people to the Villa Mira Monte site who might never have thought about visiting the community’s history park. The event was so popular with guests that the historical society decided to make it an annual fundraiser.

Nancy Reynolds and Leah De Lane serve as co-chairs of the Prohibition Party. We asked De Lane how the idea for the event came about and why it’s fun for people to participate.

What is the Prohibition Party and how did the idea for an event like this get started?

The Prohibition Party is a unique and fun way to raise funds for the MHHS and all its wonderful programs. MHHS Board Member and Prohibition Party Co-Chair Nancy Reynolds came up with the idea last year and it was a huge hit. So we knew we had to repeat it this year with many new surprises in store. We recreate the speakeasy experience for our guests at Villa Mira Monte where they can enjoy an evening of dining, dancing and maybe even imbibing at the historic Hiram Morgan Hill House and grounds.

Photos by Susan Brazelton Revelers dance the night away at last year's Prohibition Party.

Photo by Susan Brazelton
Revelers dance the night away at last year’s Prohibition Party.

What are some of the fun stuff that happens at the Prohibition Party (the stuff that you can reveal, of course)?

All the hip guys and flappers that have tickets will be given the secret password to get past our bouncers (a couple of real palookas) at the hidden entry door. They will feast on exotic foods popular during the Prohibition era and imbibe on giggle water to their heart’s content. The Zinfandel Stompers will keep the dance floor hopping with their Dixieland jazz tunes throughout the night. Don’t worry if you don’t know the steps because professional dance instructors will be on hand to offer lessons so everyone can get their Charleston on. Amazing silent auction items and “fortune” boxes with surprise winnings will be featured as well. Many other surprises await our guests this year and tickets are limited so we encourage you to get them soon.

Prohibition was a 13-year experiment in America where alcohol consumption was intended to be limited. Will alcohol be served at the Prohibition Party, and how?

Alcohol was illegal during Prohibition but there was a huge demand for it so there was still plenty of it available. It’s always fun to have things that you’re not supposed to! Frequenting a speakeasy was one way to get your illegal alcohol, although it was commonly positioned that you would purchase a “ticket” to see the “blind pig,” a type of carnival sideshow creature, perhaps. Your drink would be a “gratuity” for your ticket purchase. Let’s just say that our guests will be extended every courtesy afforded speakeasy goers of the day, including an array of vintage cocktails and other enticing adult beverages served up by our embalmers, er, bartenders — as a gratuity for their blind pig ticket purchase, of course.

Do you encourage people to get into the role of the Prohibition period, such as dressing up as “flappers” (women) or Jay Gatsby (men) and why?

While costumes are not mandatory, we certainly encourage them to get into the spirit. With the popularity of this time period right now with TV shows and movies like “Downton Abbey” and “The Great Gatsby,” it’s pretty easy to put a look together. It also helps you get into character in a way. Last year we were amazed at the array of outfits that our guests were sporting. It was really impressive and created such a fun atmosphere. So don’t be a wet blanket. Have some fun with your look.

Why might you encourage people (21 or older, of course) to attend the event?

It’s a unique event that offers our guests a fabulous way to help the Morgan Hill Historical Society raise funds while having an incredibly fun time. The funds raised help support our mission to preserve and share the history of Morgan Hill and its environs to inspire a sense of community. There will be lots of fun things to do at our Prohibition Party, so you will be entertained all night long. It simply will be “the bee’s knees!”