It's not a secret that I love attending parties. Actually, I almost like giving them as much, the only deterrent being that there's so much more work involved than just showing up and being a bon vivant. So when the kind folks at Spangler Candy Co. informed me of the 100 th year bash, I made sure I found my dancing shoes.

Let's face it, what's a party without the key essentials: good food, plenty of booze, good music, and a host of personalities.

Having interviewed and chatted with Dean Spangler during the past couple of years, I figured he was the kind of fellow that would ensure all those essentials were in place. Knowing his strengths, Dean wisely left those details to his wife, Ann, and Diana Moore Eschhofen, the company's marketing manager.

And while the drive from Chicago's Edison Park neighborhood to Bryan, Ohio, took a wee bit longer -- thanks to ongoing construction in the Windy City -- it was well worth the time to rediscover Small Town and Rural America.

But once we checked into the Holiday Inn Express off of Interstate 80, just a Dum Dum's throw from the Indiana/Ohio border, there wasn't any need to worry about traffic. Taking Route 15 to Bryan, Ohio and then to the Orchard Hill Country Club, once again reinforced how pleasant a drive in the country can be.

A few turns here and there and we came upon the country club, appropriately festooned with a large white Genghis Khan-like tent gracing the grounds. A welcoming committee ushered us into the club, and once inside the banquet hall, my wife, Basia, and I began exploring. Looking quite the dandy in his elegant tuxedo, Chairman Emeritus Greg Spangler greeted guests coming to the anniversary bash. I re-introduced myself and the company's long-standing leader, now retired, welcomed us warmly.

We continued on and begin exploring. One of the first things that caught our eyes were the wonderful little square vases with carnations and Dum-Dum mixing sticks brightening the tables (Diana, there may be one missing from your inventory).

As we scanned the room, several television monitors displayed an ongoing Spangler video depicting the company's history and current operations. And right smack dab in front of us, a huge, and I mean, huge, Spangler shrimp stand beckoning guests to grab and dip.

Dare I go on, but I must. We checked out the two sumptuous dessert tables separated by a multi-decked birthday cake, several food stands, including a sushi table, and, of course, the well-tended and well-supplied beer and wine bar.

Being a wannabe wine snob, I sauntered over to check out the selections. Well, even though I am no Robert Parker, the high-end labels were out tonight. After some casual sipping, Basia and I were ready to venture outside and check out the tent area.

But before we left the banquet room, a "walking table" happened to cruise by.

Call me sheltered if you'd like, but I had never seen a "walking table" before. Rather than get into a debate about who's worldly and who's not, I simply explain the walking table concept: it's a server that's dressed up as a round serving table. More importantly, that table's filled with hors d'oeuvres.

At first, it's kind of strange picking up edibles from someone's costume, but you quickly get past that novel experience. Bruschetta in hand, the missus and I continued out of the banquet hall, onto the outdoor balcony, then down the steps toward the tent.

There, several tables were laid out on the perimeter. A stage touting the evening's entertainment, a dance band known as the "Images" from Cleveland , promised some "high steppin'".

The large portable parquet floor encouraged folks to strut their stuff. A cheese and bread stand in front of the parquet floor was there to help replenish those who needed a bit more energy to bust a move.

Our program guide indicated that Ohio's governor, Bob Taft, great-grandson to President William H. Taft, would say some remarks at 7 p.m. Yes, he's actually part of that illustrious Ohio family and a two-term governor.

Luckily, my good friend, Pat Hurley, former Candy Industry Kettle winner (class of 2000) and director of technical services at Spangler, introduced me to the gov. Interestingly, he's not running for another term . Taft that is, not Hurley-- having decided to focus on educational issues come January 2007.

Ohio Senator Mike DeWine also was there, congratulating Dean and everyone at Spangler for their contributions in ensuring the company's success in a truly competitive and global environment.

There were quite a few folks at the affair, about 500-plus, but some of my more memorable discussions included Bob Huzniec, Hershey's senior staff scientist, and his wife, Ann, as well as Rich Brown and his wife, Terri, from Michigan Sugar Co.

To top off the gala, all guests leaving the 100 th centennial bash received a book detailing Spangler's century of progress. Entitled Sweet Century and written by local historian William Culbertson, it proved to be the ideal favor. Next month, my conversations with Tom and Scott Ward from Russell Stover Candies.