CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's made a list, checked it twice, and soon West Virginia politicos will find out if they've been naughty or nice.Invitations soon will be in the mail for the five holiday parties Tomblin and first lady Joanne are hosting this year at the Governor's Mansion.The yuletide fetes have become an annual tradition at the state's executive residence.The invitation-only, black-tie-optional affairs attract about 2,000 partygoers each year. Guests are typically members of the state's political elite, including elected officials, lobbyists and political constituents.The festivities kick off Friday, Nov. 30, with other parties following Dec. 1, Dec. 8, Dec. 13 and Dec. 15. The events are slated to begin at 6 p.m. each night, Tomblin communications director Amy Shuler-Goodwin said.The last couple of governors held four parties each year. Tomblin opted for five last year.The decision wasn't to give Tomblin another night to rock around the Christmas tree. It was because the Tomblins had a smaller hall to deck.Starting in 2007, Gov. Joe Manchin started throwing parties in what became known as the "governor's party tent" - a 4,000-square-foot white plastic structure tacked onto the west side of the Governor's Mansion.The $126,000 tent became a permanent, visible addition to the Capitol grounds during the Manchin years - much to the chagrin of some in Charleston's chattering class.
In 2011, Tomblin made the executive decision to pull up stakes on the tent. Critics rejoiced.Last year's round of holiday parties was held in a smaller, 2,000-square-foot temporary tent in the mansion courtyard - mostly out of sight to passersby.The smaller tent meant fewer people could attend each party, so the fifth event was added to accommodate the invitees.Governor's Mansion staff put up this year's tent this week. It was rented from A-to-Z Rentals in Huntington at a rate of $6,125 per month.The tent will remain in the mansion courtyard until March 15 to allow for additional receptions during next year's legislative session. The total rental cost is $24,500.Lucky party attendees will be treated to finger foods and hors d'oeuvres prepared by the Governor's Mansion staff.
The Streetplayers, a band from Tomblin's native territory in Logan County, will perform at each of the parties. The band, which plays a mix of classic rock, soul, R&B and funk, has played at Tomblin's election night victory parties in recent years.As they have in the past, the Tomblins are asking attendees to bring non-perishable food items for food banks.Goodwin said the Tomblins are putting an added emphasis on the donations this year, given the effect the June 29 derecho and Superstorm Sandy have had on food banks statewide."That's more important than ever since a lot of the food banks across the state, if you call them, their shelves are sitting empty," she said. "The guests at the mansion last year were very generous, and we anticipate that again this year."