DanvilleSanRamon.com

Living - October 5, 2007

Danville hosts 'Animal House' parade

Famous John Belushi role reprised for school fundraiser

by Geoff Gillette

There are a lot of things one might see on any given night on St. Helena Drive in the Greenbrook Neighborhood of Danville. A parade, complete with prom queens, togas and a "Deathmobile," doesn't usually fall on that list.

But such was the case when a group of Greenbrook Elementary School families held an "Animal House" party as part of a fundraising effort to support the school.

Last spring, six families banded together to offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a part of John Landis' classic comedy, right in their own neighborhood. The party created some of the highest bidding of the night during the school's annual auction and once it was sold, the planning got under way.

It all culminated on a Saturday night in September when the families who bought the party arrived at the Gamma Beta Rho Sorority house (actually the home of Greg and Kelly Sharkey). The "pledges" all had to wear beanies and go through hazing before taking part in the Faber College Homecoming Parade.

Lea McSweeney, one of the planners, went throughout the neighborhood in the days beforehand and left fliers for the residents, asking them to help make the parade special by coming out and waving at the group as it marched by. So on Saturday night, several dozen residents were out on the sides of the road for the event. It was an extraordinary effort, which even featured members of the Charlotte Wood Middle School music program providing a marching band to complete the scene.

Of course the icing on the cake was the appearance of the Deathmobile. A black Suburban decorated with fangs and towing an actual float. Those familiar with the movie will remember that the float held an occupant. Dennis McSweeney filled in for the late John Belushi as Bluto Blutarsky, popping out of the cake-shaped float in full pirate regalia and leading the partygoers into the "cafeteria" of the Delta House.

"It was a great night. There were lots of costume changes, and some surprises," said Lea McSweeney. "I think everybody had a lot of fun. It was fun for us to do it."

While this group of party planners - which also includes the Letts, Simonich, Esch and Teevens families - has earned quite a reputation as throwing the party to bid on at the school's annual auction, the Animal House party was very likely their swan song.

"A lot of our kids have moved on to Charlotte Wood, so we're going to have to start doing things there," said McSweeney.

Looking around at all of the toga clad people laughing and chatting in front of her "frat house" she laughed and said, "But we are definitely going out with a bang."

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