PRINCE GEORGE – They often say time flies when you’re having fun. While that’s certainly true, some people say it flies even faster when you’re in love, and before you know it, half a century has passed.

As testament to that, the regional heritage center will be displaying an elegant exhibit aptly called 50 Years of Love in Prince George County.

The center’s executive director, Carol Bowman, explained that while, the state of Virginia is having its 50 Years of Love in honor of its 50th anniversary of the logo “Virginia is for Lovers,” the center is holding its version of that theme, showcasing local couples who’ve been together for 50 years.

Bowman explained that she and Martha Burton, Petersburg’s tourism director, generated the idea and worked out the details together.

The exhibit pays special tribute to married couples who’ve been together for 50 years or more, and will display loaned pictures, memorabilia (including cake-toppers, champagne bottles, etc.) and wedding attire.

So far, said Bowman, 13 wedding dresses have been contributed to the exhibit, each one telling its own elegant story. Beautifully displayed, the dresses look as new as the day they were originally worn. The oldest dress dates back to 1942, just after America entered World War II because of the attacks that previous December in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

That particular wedding dress was worn by a bride named Mary Jane Sluka, soon to be married to Joe Mika Jr. in the Slovak Baptist Church.

“That’s the church near Food Lion (located on Rt. 156), the little brick church,” said Bowman.

At the base of the dress are two special items. The first is a black and white photo of the young couple, smiling with joy at the beginning of their journey together. Next to the photograph is the floral headpiece worn by bride.

Every dress has a story, and Bowman pointed out that Mary Jane Sluka’s had a metallic silver thread woven into the scrollwork around the waist. Another dress on display, explained Bowman, was handmade.

Another piece on display is a tradition not common these days, a “going-away” suit.

“A bride used to go with her bridesmaids, get out of her gown and she always had a wedding suit,” stated Bowman, adding the bride would travel to the honeymoon in her going-away suit.

The grand opening for the public was April 28, and the display will be open until June 15, Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

By Chai Gallahun, Staff Writer
The Progress-Index