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Chuck and Mary Kay Nabit's holiday partyIn the mere three years of its existence, the holiday party thrown by Baltimore financier Chuck Nabit and his wife, Mary Kay, has become a “can’t miss” for those lucky enough to be on the guest list. It’s an evening of good food, good company … and a few surprises, Chuck’s specialty.

“We like surprises,” he says with a grin. However, last year’s surprise wasn’t planned so much for the Nabits’ 150 guests, but for one of its hosts. With Mary Kay’s 40th birthday landing the day before the shindig, Chuck turned the event into a huge surprise party for his wife.

OK, so maybe the folks who arrived to put up a tent in the back of the house gave away that a little something was up, but Mary Kay knew her husband well enough not to ask.

“I had an inkling, but I didn’t peek,” she says.

Little did she guess that inside that tent would be a bandstand, dance floor and an 8-foot-long ice bar, with “Happy 40th Birthday, Mary Kay” carved on the front. The pre-carved ice blocks for that bar presented some complications that the birthday girl was unaware of.

Chuck and Mary Kay Nabit's holiday party “At 6:30 [a half-hour before the party was set to start], they’re saying, ‘The ice isn’t here, the ice isn’t here.’ And I’m saying, ‘Well, go to the Farm Store and get some,’” Mary Kay recounts. Chuck explains that the delivery of the carved ice from Richmond, Va.,  was delayed by that day’s rainstorm and traffic problems. “It rained and rained. And [as guests started to arrive] they’re dragging in these big chunks of ice to build the bar,” he recalls.

Chuck also had a little fun in publicly teasing his (younger) wife about her age. There was a large inflatable Grinch suspended above the front door, with a sign that read “Mary Kay turns 40!”

“You see, the [Dr. Seuss] character turned 40 last year, too. So, I was in good company,” she says, laughing.

And those bottles of private-label hot sauce that featured a photo of Mary Kay and “Happy 40th Birthday, Red Hot Mama” on the front? “The theme was fire and ice, because she runs hot and cold,” he says with a chuckle.

“That’s not why,” responds Mary Kay with a smile.“He just liked it.”

“OK, I just liked it,” Chuck admits.

Chuck and Mary Kay Nabit's holiday partyThat theme is also why Chuck planned another surprise— a large raw bar that featured jumbo shrimp, lump crabmeat and an oyster shucker … in addition to the large holiday spread put out by one of the Nabits’ favorite caterers, Carlton & Co., which included sliced tenderloin, lobster medallions and crab dip.

Another unique addition to the party was painter Laura Swytak, who set up her easel in a corner of the large front hall. She watched guests mingle, painting all evening, and by the end of the night, the Nabits had a work of art commemorating the celebration.

But Mary Kay’s favorite surprise was the band her husband had brought in for the evening: Eturnity, a 10-piece New York City-based rhythm and blues group.

“I didn’t miss a song. I was on the dance floor the whole night, because I felt like the band was my present,” she explains.

So, how are they going to top it this year? They aren’t.

“We decided to take a break this year, rather than trying to outdo ourselves,” he says.

“It makes it more special when it’s not an every-year occurrence. But, we’ll likely do it next year.”

That is sad news to many of the Nabits’ friends. Except that it gives Chuck a whole extra year to come up with some new surprises.

Chuck and Mary Kay Nabit's holiday party

The Party Line

occasion: Chuck and Mary Kay Nabit’s annual holiday party and Mary Kay’s surprise 40th birthday party.
theme: “Fire and Ice.”
venue: Cedarwood, the Nabits’ North Baltimore home.
decorations: Fresh flower arrangements on ice pedestals, carved ice sculptures, strings of white lights.
guest list: 150 friends and associates.
special touch: The Nabits hired artist Laura Swytak to paint a rendering of the party as it was in progress.

Selected Fare

> Jumbo shrimp
> Lump crabmeat
> Freshly shucked raw oysters
> Beef tenderloin
> Lobster medallions
> Crab dip

Plan

event planning: Anne Berman, 410-243-4500
catering: Carlton & Co., 410-484-6110
birthday cake: Snickerdoodle Bakery, Hampstead, 410-239-6077
band: Eturnity; book through Grabow, 972-250-1162
artist: Laura Swytak, 410-234-8089
tent: Loane Bros. Inc., 410-823-6050
ice sculptures: Ice Kristals, Manassas, Va., 703-369-7374
parking: Courtesy Parking Service, 410-593-9990

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