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Ambassadors and deputy ambassadors representing 20 countries received a taste of the Old West recently when they attended an old-fashioned church picnic in Virginia's countryside.

The diplomats and their families swung to the "Virginia Reel"; ate chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs; rode ponies; played shuffleboard; climbed aboard a stagecoach for photographs; and left hours later with a hot cinnamon all-day sucker and lots of smiles.The day was organized to give the diplomatic corps a chance to get to know Church members better, to learn more about the Church and its history, and to have an enjoyable day in the country.

"This old-fashioned picnic enabled the ambassadors and their families to experience the American pioneer lifestyle," remarked Beverly Campbell, international affairs director for the Church.

"There are so few opportunities for diplomatic families to participate together in the formal life of Washington. It's a delightful way to introduce new members of the international diplomatic community to the Church and to continue those relationships that we have begun."

The setting for the picnic was the Marriott Ranch, nestled in the rolling hills of northern Virginia - a little more than an hour's drive outside the bustle of Washington, D.C. As each guest arrived, western neckerchiefs were handed out to add cowboy flavor to the day's activities.

"I'm proud of the religious freedom and tolerance that exists in my country and have allowed for the growth over the past decade of your Church, which has been a true friend to our people," said Ambassador Emmanuel Pelaez of the Philippines.

One diplomat from Ghana was so thrilled with his ride on a stagecoach that he asked for an enlarged picture to share with his friends at home with whom he had dreamed as a child of visiting the "Wild West."

A guest from Sri Lanka added a blend of cultures on the hay ride as she joined the group in her native costume, neckerchief around her neck, and a lovely parasol, typical of her country, over her shoulder.

"This was one of the most beautiful days my family and I have spent in Washington," remarked Peru's Ambassador Robert Maclean. "The Mormon people were warm and as generous as anyone can imagine."

Richard Marriott, executive vice president and vice chairman of the board of the Marriott Corp. and a Sunday School teacher in the Potomac North Ward, Washington DC Stake, commented: "This gathering has produced more goodwill than countless Washington meetings. Today was a great success."

The event, sponsored by the LDS International Women's Committee of Washington, D.C., was attended by ambassadors and deputy ambassadors from Australia, Botswana, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Ghana, India, Madagascar, Namibia, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sweden, Thailand, Uganda, Yugoslavia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Chairmen of the event, Eleanor Colton, Joy Korologos and Sue Huguely, agreed that a depth of understanding and goodwill was generated and many warm friendships were established at the outset of the event.