Any Lawn resident or guest of Larry Sabato could have predicted that enjoying delicious festive French catering and being in the presence of good company would be two key elements of the reception in Pavilion IV on a recent Thursday evening. However, many did not foresee the surprise guest- or that he would look so handsome in his old age.
Half an hour into the event everyone left the warmth of the pavilion and stepped onto the Lawn with glasses in hand to watch Sabato announce the guest of the evening who would be celebrating the eve of his 269th birthday.
Women without jackets shivered slightly but did not seem to mind the temperature change as they awaited the special surprise. Two little boys no taller than three feet jumped up and down and ran from column to column in excitement.
Moments later an impeccably realistic Thomas Jefferson impersonator appeared. Jefferson scurried to greet Sabato and proceeded to give a speech about the University, speaking in Jeffersonian style and sporting a long rustic overcoat with black tights and a hairpiece.
The Crystal Ball may take center stage in the media, but to those who know him personally, Sabato never ceases pulling surprises from his top hat like Thomas Jefferson at the Pavilion IV reception. Sabato incessantly exhibits a multidimensional intelligence ranging from his carefully crafted whit and humor to his interpersonal skills and crowd-gathering abilities.
“The Thomas Jefferson impersonator definitely took the event from a 10 to a 15 by adding excitement, school spirit and historical humor” said student Kyle Knives. “It was as if the Galt statue of Thomas Jefferson in the Rotunda had come alive for his birthday.” The playful atmosphere at the reception mirrored the mood at the Crystal Ball event. Laughs filled Pavilion IV just as they filled Wilson Hall two days before; Sabato had simply replaced his red and blue etch-a-sketches and Magic 8 Ball with a live, 268-year-old prop. “Everyone just seems to love Thomas Jefferson,” said Sabato in a sarcastic tone. Thomas Jefferson’s popularity, arguably on the same level as Sabato’s, could be seen throughout the evening as the young and the old alike followed him around with curiosity in their eyes. A professional photographer hired to document the event snapped shots with her wide foot-long camera. Whether or not he had planned to stay the full two and a half hours, Jefferson hopped around all night, conversing with guests and nibbling on the French appetizers. Sabato turned to me at the end of the evening and made a joke about the impersonator stunt. “An unnamed guest who already left said that we ought to all get pictures with Mr. Jefferson tonight because there might not be a 270th birthday,” he said. Moreover, Sabato’s multidimensional intelligence shines in a rainbow of different colors: his perceptive sense of humor, his ability to teach interpersonal skills, his inclination to produce widely comprehensible political analysis with a playful political spin, and his ability to construe accurate, objective electoral predictions like at the Crystal Ball.