Congress had been gone for weeks before trickling back into town Wednesday for the latest lame-duck session. A few hundred congressional aides celebrated the triumphant return of the resurgent Republican Party by getting their fill (and then some) of food, drink and plush collectibles at the National Bison Day reception.
The annual soiree, which took place in Dirksen, attracted scores of staffers and interns but few lawmakers. Projected guest speaker Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., turned out to be a no-show, but event organizers noted that Rep. José E. Serrano, D-N.Y., managed to swing by for a bit.
By the time this roving reporter penetrated the herd, the promised bison sliders and gourmet meatballs had been devoured. The food basically gone (save for a lone bowl of broken, pathetic-looking potato chips), partygoers turned their attention to sucking dry every last bottle of Budweiser and Bud Light bartenders could fish from icy bins.
“It’s way too wobbly. It would probably only take one person to knock it over,” a visibly buzzed guest estimated while eyeballing the evening’s oversized star attraction.
The meeting room was otherwise packed with advocates for this cause or that.
Some worked to line up support for a proposal declaring the mighty buffalo a national treasure.
Others hawked educational materials — Ray the Buffalo is the protagonist of a 2013 children’s book encouraging kids to stay active — aimed at actual youth and the perpetually young at heart.
(Watch your back, Ellis the Elephant!)
Their cries appeared to be falling on deaf ears, considering that this crowd had different marching orders in mind.
“What are you doing? We need as many of them as we can get in the office,” one toy aficionado chided a fellow staffer who had casually tossed his complimentary stuffed buffalo onto a nearby table. Several attendees appeared to share the browbeater’s enthusiasm; we spotted people with two and three cute, cuddly, mini bison jammed into purses, messenger bags and bulging coat pockets.
Others seemed utterly fascinated by the prospect of posing for goofy photos.
No one could resist.
Not office personnel.
Not even the catering crew.
Perhaps the most surprising development was the relative calm surrounding the bourbon-tasting station.
“I think I would like that on a cold winter day,” a bourbon neophyte proclaimed after taking her first nip of Buffalo Trace’s small-batch whiskey. “Tasty!” concurred her previously skeptical companion.