The evening of June 28 was disappointingly stormy. The rain stopped around 7 o’clock, but looming clouds threatened. So, when guests at the birthday party for Marlene Jones and her twin brother, Melvin, felt the ground of The Wine Market courtyard begin to vibrate, they assumed it was thunder.

But then the vibrations grew stronger and stronger. And soon Baltimore’s New Edition Marching Band, a non-profit youth group with members as young as 5 years old, danced, twirled and stomped into the courtyard, shouting and beating drums. Glittering in white satin uniforms trimmed with brilliant blue, and shaking silver and blue pom-poms, the group took the party by storm. As Bob Jones, brother to Marlene and Melvin, and chief party planner, said: “All hell broke loose.”

Guests at a Bob Jones party “come ready to be surprised,” says Susan Andrews, a family friend who helped plan the festivities. Marlene, however, certainly didn’t see the marching band coming. “She just expected a casual summer evening,” says Andrews.

It was a casual and elegant party, at least for a while. Waiters circulated with trays of cornmeal-crusted fried oysters, buttermilk fried chicken, shrimp dumplings, roasted pepper bruschetta, roast beef on crostini, meat and cheese antipasti and veggie sushi. There was an open bar with a separate wine station, and lemon squares and crme brulee for dessert.

Then the band arrived, and casual turned to crazy. Guests streamed outside to the courtyard, “standing on tables, standing on chairs,” says Bob, co-owner of Jones Lighting Specialists with Marlene. “Don’t forget, the party had already been going on for two hours. Open bar, lots of young people. Everyone was ripe.”

“Everybody was jumping in, marching, dancing, whooping, hollering, clapping their hands,” says Andrews. The birthday girl even got to hold the mace and lead the band.

After their hour-long performance, the members of the New Edition Marching Band joined the party. “It was great, like going backstage after the play,” says Bob. “The whole night was a flat-out good time.”

Anne Howard is a Style intern.

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