Stanley, VA

Page County Democrats host education-focused dinner and dance

Tracy Leicher
Local farmer and business owner Tony Villa emcees a live auction at the Page County Democratic Committee's annual event.Photo byTracy Leicher

STANLEY, Va. – Members of the Democratic Party of Page County, Virginia (DPPCV) held their annual fundraising dinner on Wednesday, May 24 with approximately 115 people in attendance.

This year's event theme, “Hats off to Educators,” focused on academics, and featured a four-course meal, auction and dance.

The gathering, held at Shenandoah Woods Cabins, Lodges and Wedding Venues on an especially balmy spring evening, was made possible by substantial volunteer hours and monetary donations from local businesses and individuals.

According to Page County Democratic Committee (PCDC) Chair Skip Halpern, Page County Democrats host the annual event not only as a fundraiser to support the committee’s work throughout the year, but also to set aside time to rally, socialize and relax.

Some might expect a political gathering to have at least a hint of negativity towards those on the opposite side of the aisle. Instead, speakers at the DPPCV dinner chose to share positive, encouraging statements, honoring Democratic party members, and the non-partisan goal of consistently improving the public education system.

The Honorable Anne Bright Holton, a lawyer and judge who served as Virginia’s Secretary of Education from 2014 to 2017, was the event's featured speaker.
The Honorable Anne Holton addresses attendees at the Page County Democratic Committee annual event.Photo byTracy Leicher

After a brief welcome by Page County Treasurer Penny Gray, Holton approached the podium and thanked those in attendance for their continued efforts in electing Democratic leaders and making the dinner and dance possible.

Referencing the evening’s theme, Holton smiled and said, “Education is where my heart is.”

Holton, who is married to United States Senator (and former Virginia Governor) Tim Kaine, is also the daughter of Virginia’s 61st governor, Linwood Holton. In 2017, Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed Holton to the Virginia State Board of Education. She is currently a George Mason University professor.

Noting her strong support of a positive academic environment for students and teachers, Holton spoke of the importance of unity.

“Parents and teachers should be able to work together,” said Holton, “so all children feel school is a welcoming, supportive environment where they can learn.”
A program and place setting at the Page County Democratic Committee's annual event.Photo byTracy Leicher

Attendees were invited to take seats at tables displaying elegant place settings as Page County High School Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) members served a four-course meal.

Diners enjoyed a experience that began with salad and soup prepared by the FCCLA, and pasta entrees prepared by Italian restaurant, Mamma Mia, of Shenandoah. As a cheesecake dessert was served, FCCLA State President Manuel Coronel Cardoso addressed the crowd, followed by Committee Chair, Halpern.
FCCLA Virginia State President, Manuel Coronel Cardoso, addresses the crowd at the PCDC annual dinner.Photo byTracy Leicher

Halpern shared the committee’s mission, projects and recent accomplishments – both partisan and non-partisan. Public school teacher Kristin Vaughn was named the evening’s Community Member Honoree, and was commended for her years of service and dedication to public education.

The DPPCV recently launched a scholarship fund to support local 2023 high school graduates. Student qualifications included enrollment in a post-graduate tech school program, community college or 4-year college, and demonstrated financial need.

The scholarships, funded by tax deductible contributions from individual citizens, were paid directly to the Page County Public Education Foundation and awarded based on nonpartisan criteria.

The winners of the two $2,000 scholarship awards were Will Ramos from Page High School and Alex Heglar from Luray High School. Asked to stand as each of their names were read, they humbly obliged while thunderous applause filled the venue.
Skip Halpern and Anne Holton (center) stand with scholarship winners Will Ramos and Alex Heglar and their mothers.Photo byPCDC

Following dinner, attendees enjoyed a live auction emceed by Tony Villa and Leah Pence. A dance concluded the evening’s events.

The PCDC Dinner Committee, consisting of Suzanne Grant, Penny Gray, Lori Painter and Leah Pence, donated more than 580 combined volunteer hours to make the dinner, dance and auction a success.

According to its website, the DPPCV exists to facilitate and encourage the full participation of Page County citizens in choosing their elected officials and controlling their political destiny.
A Page County Democrats banner overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains on May 24, 2023.Photo byTracy Leicher

Any resident of Page County who adheres to the principles of the Democratic Party is automatically a member. For those interested in donating time, serving on a committee, or attending future meetings or events, follow @PageCountyDems on Facebook, visit, or email

Said Halpern, “We’re more involved than ever with our local community, from the scholarship program, to protecting the Shenandoah River, to supporting local nonprofits — even while we continue supporting candidates for local office.”


WRITER’S NOTE: This article is a report of events of the May 24, 2023 Page County Democratic Committee dinner and should not be viewed as a political advertisement or endorsement.

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