King George News

Cathy Dyson writes about King George County. You can email her at

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Group’s New Year’s Eve party: ‘All about a cozy fire, food and family

Here’s a group that likes to celebrate New Year’s Eve as far away as possible from the bright lights and noisemakers, rowdy revelers and ritzy restaurants.

The Friends of the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail prefer to gather around a bonfire and roast chestnuts —and maybe steam some spiced shrimp, deep-fry a turkey or cook a little chili. They talk and tell stories by firelight as children and dogs scamper around, without fear of breaking anything or making a mess.

“Our party is a lower-key affair,” said Dave Jones, group president. “We are all about a cozy fire, food and family.”

When midnight approaches, the group of friends will ring in 2012 with others who love the great outdoors. They do all this at a place that’s dear to them: the trail itself.

People start arriving about 6 p.m. at the campground area, off State Route 610 in King George County, and they eat, drink and be merry until about 2 a.m.

“Consider it a tailgate party without the game,” said Warren Veazey.

No one seems to know if the woodsy gala started four or five years ago.

Paula Van Alstine jokes that the amount of spiked cider and hot chocolate they consumed on New Year’s Eves past must have caught up with them. She and Jones pointed out they’re certain to have designated drivers on hand.

Bruce White said the party began as a way for volunteers to celebrate making the trail useable again—after two years of clearing trees and other débris from the old railroad bed.

He’s in charge of the bonfire, which heats the crowd and the outdoor cooking gear. Revelers set up a canopy over the food, and have a fire ring and picnic table.

“The quiet atmosphere allows for everyone to hear each other, talk, see the stars, enjoy Mother Nature in a very safe environment,” White wrote in an email. “No stress, no crowds, no noise, no crazy people.”

There’s also a costume contest, and Van Alstine is certain this year’s “Pajama Party” theme will be even funnier than those in the past. She envisions the frilly and the flannel, worn atop layers of long johns and sweat pants.

Van Alstine also liked “Tropical Days” last year, when she wore a snorkel and flippers, along with coat and gloves, and tried to maneuver around the dirt and gravel on the trail.

Because most people who attend enjoy the great outdoors and their little piece of it, they don’t need to be reminded of the real reason they gather.

“No lights around make you appreciate the woods and stars and how small we are,” Veazey said, “on a night that is made for reflection as well as renewing friendship and fellowship.”

More information about the Friends group is available here.