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Nothing like gathering several hundred of your closest supporters to rekindle the fire in a candidate’s belly.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, before a crowd packed tightly into into a tent erected outside the stately home of developer Chris Donatelli and wife Karen, delivered on Saturday night his first campaign oratory since winning all 142 precincts in the 2006 general and primary elections.

After the crowd sung “Happy Birthday” to the now 38-year-old chief executive, Fenty delivered thanks and remarks with a note of passion LL has rarely detected in Hizzoner’s voice over the past year. He pumped up his accomplishments as mayor, at one point highlighting that morning’s Washington Post editorial praising his work on the juvenile justice system.

“I’m so proud of that,” he said, before spending the bulk of his time talking up his efforts to reform public education. “If you watch 60 Minutes or the NewsHour With Jim Lehrer or read Newsweek or the Atlantic Monthly or now Time magazine,” he said, “you know that in Washington, D.C., education is our No. 1 priority.”

He shared the stage with his closest backers on the council: Muriel Bowser, David A. Catania, Jack Evans, Jim Graham, and Yvette Alexander (LL hesitates to call her a close backer, but she was there).

In the crowd were other top Fenty brass, including schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, school construction czar Allen Lew, Chief of Staff Carrie Brooks, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Neil Albert, and Chief Technology Officer Vivek Kundra. That’s not to mention the hordes of business big shots—-Board of Trade CEO Jim Dinegar, to name just one.

The biggest celeb of the evening—-besides Time cover girl Rhee—-was probably Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson III, who attended with wife Monica hours after his team’s 73-49 victory over American University. “Of course I support the mayor!” he told a star-struck LL (who, full disclosure, is a Hoya Hoop Club donor).

VIPs had gathered inside the Donatelli home—-aka the Owl’s Nest—-earlier in the evening before the main event opened in the tent. Fenty volunteers collected names from attendees—-and contributions from the many who came prepared. (“Turn your checks over to Ben,” Fenty told the crowd, referring to campaign treasurer Ben Soto.) Fenty finance guru John Falcicchio declined to provide a tally of the proceeds thus far; Fenty 2010 will file its first finance report on Jan. 31, 2009.

Outside, across the street from a gaggle of valet parkers keeping warm in a tent, stood a group of megaphone-equipped protesters. When LL arrived at about 7:30 p.m., they numbered about a dozen and were chanting, “Public property is not for sale/Adrian Fenty is for sale” as drivers waited along Chesapeake Street NW for parking; they were gone when LL departed before 9. He will direct you to Indymedia’s coverage of the rabble-rousing—-in particular, their must-listen interview [MP3] (if you can call it that) with an exasperated Evans.

At least one protester checked out the scene inside. His take, as recorded by Indymedia’s microphones: “Good food, good music, but a bunch of lies.”

Ah, yes, the food: Guests were treated to gratis soft drinks and plastic cups of wine and goodies served by On the Fly’s “smartkarts”—-in what the local vending community could take as a jab. Selections included tacos and Cajun catfish sliders served with “Adrian’s mumbo sauce or traditional tartar sauce and lentil chili.”