"Don't move! Don't move!" shouted Cindy Doane, flitting through the long line of Republicans queuing up in front of the stone country home of U.S. Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.).
"Don't move," she begged again, fixing an eye on the likes of U.S. Sen. Paul S. Trible (R-Va.) and state Sen. John H. Chichester, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor.
Keeping the bevy of politicos in line for their introduction to the 2,500 Republicans waiting on the lush green lawn on the backside of the Warner estate may have been one of the toughest tasks this past weekend in pulling off the 9th Annual Atoka Country Supper.
For Republicans, especially Republicans running for office, this was the place to be seen: Casual campaigning on the rolling, perfectly manicured grounds of Warner's 2,000-acre Atoka farm set in the bucolic, but fashionable hunt country surrounding Middleburg.
As in past years there was a heavy dose of politics, heaping plates of barbecued chicken and baked beans and gallons of beer and wine. But this year's event seemed to have lost some of its luster. Attendance was the lowest in years -- this in the midst of vigorous statewide campaigns for governor, lieutenant governor and state attorney general.
Some, such as GOP gubernatorial candidate Wyatt B. Durrette, blamed the smaller turnout on the loss of Warner's top drawing card in past years -- his former wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor.
And while President Reagan and Vice President Bush were featured in past years, the crowd this year had to settle for Reagan's chief of staff, Donald T. Regan.
Some speculated that Atoka's novelty may be wearing off. Although it has become an event, much as the state's annual spring Shad Planking, the Northern Virginia Democrats' crab feast, and most recently Trible's Republican Gascony gathering at his family estate on Virginia's Northern Neck, some fear the Atoka Country Supper may have become too ritualized. Every year folks have come to expect the same menu, the same auctioning of Redskins tickets and vacations on the Virginia shore, the same faces.
"People might want something new and different," said Carolyn Peterson, a spokeswoman for the fund-raiser.
Those at this year's event seemed undaunted by the size of the crowd.
The Republican candidate for attorney general, W.R. (Buster) O'Brien, stood beneath massive shade trees at the foot of the front lawn, greeting party loyalists as they walked up the driveway, lined with fruit-heavy apple trees.
Many of the participants seemed less interested in gabbing with politicians than peeking into the windows of Warner's luxurious farmhouse. They stepped over flower beds to steal glimpses of the exposed-wood interiors, the stuffed animal heads leering from atop doorways and fireplaces and the richly appointed accessories.
And if the 169-year-old stone and wood house was not attraction enough, there was the huge red barn that sheltered not the usual horses and cows and hay, but a swimming pool.
When they tired of sightseeing, they sat on the lawn beneath shimmering weeping willow trees and helped devour 1,500 chickens, 3,000 ears of corn, 90 gallons of baked beans and 100 German chocolate sheet cakes.
For the food, the sun-drenched country views, the Dixieland band and the politics, participants paid $30 a plate. Officials said they raised about $57,350 from the dinner and its accompanying auction (where a pair of season passes to the Redskins' games went for $1,150).
The money, less than what has been raised in previous years, will go primarily to funding Warner's 1990 campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Dozens of candidates for lesser known offices flocked to Atoka looking for exposure and support. Candidates for the state House of Delegates sought publicity from the press and recognition from better known party leaders.
Despite all the politicians, there wasn't enough hot air on the farm to provide liftoff for the last of three hot air balloons for a mini-race above Atoka.