First Lady's Luncheon

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18,000 all-American-grown flowers took center stage<br />

at the 105th <strong>First</strong> Lady’s <strong>Luncheon</strong> in May.<br />

A Floral Fete<br />

for the <strong>First</strong> Lady<br />

By Debra Prinzing<br />

Photos by Susie & Becky Photography; susieandbecky.com<br />

At a gala event in Washington, D.C., where<br />

more than 2,000 influential guests gathered<br />

in a famous hotel ballroom, luxurious<br />

floral arrangements expressed a fitting sentiment:<br />

to honor America’s first lady with the<br />

freshest, most gorgeous American Grown Flowers<br />

designed with exquisite attention to detail.<br />

Kelly Shore, of Petals by the Shore in Damascus,<br />

Md., one of a team of three lead designers<br />

who volunteered their creative services, says<br />

the experience was unforgettable. “Because we<br />

were showcasing American Grown Flowers, I<br />

wanted to include the incredible variety that<br />

U.S. flower farms produce. I wanted people to be<br />

blown away. I wanted them to say, ‘Whoa! This is<br />

American Grown?’”<br />

For the second year, flowers and foliages from<br />

domestic family farms adorned more than 170<br />

tables and cascaded across the VIP head table at<br />

the <strong>First</strong> Lady’s <strong>Luncheon</strong>. The annual event to<br />

recognize America’s first lady is staged by members<br />

of the bipartisan Congressional Club and<br />

raises funds for charities supported by the Congressional<br />

Club, like Southeastern Guide Dogs<br />

and Partnership for Drug Free Kids, who received<br />

funds from this year’s luncheon.<br />

floristsreview.com<br />


The Congressional Club event dates back to<br />

1912. According to luncheon committee member<br />

Betty Ann Tanner, whose spouse is former Rep. John<br />

Tanner (Tennessee’s 8th District, 1989-2010), floral<br />

décor has always played a role in the festivities,<br />

“from the ladies 105 years ago making big poppies<br />

out of tissue and crepe paper to having a local florist<br />

or a florist from the chair’s home state make all the<br />

flower arrangements, to even having an assembly<br />

line for a couple of years when Congressional Club<br />

members made the flower arrangements.”<br />

This year’s decorating committee co-chair with<br />

chair DeDe Walsh (spouse of former Rep. James<br />

Walsh, New York’s 24th District, 1993-2008), Betty<br />

Ann says American Grown Flowers elevated the<br />

décor to a new level.<br />

<strong>Luncheon</strong> chair Carolyn Yoho, whose spouse is<br />

Rep. Ted Yoho (Florida’s 3rd District), delivered a<br />

personal message to <strong>First</strong> Lady Melania Trump and<br />

the other guests in the room, saying, “These beautiful<br />

flowers that you see on your tables were grown<br />

right here in the United States. And I would like to<br />

encourage everyone, including the White House, to<br />

support American Grown Flowers.”<br />

Co-designer Christy Hulsey, of Colonial House of<br />

Flowers in Statesboro, Ga., became teary-eyed while<br />

listening to Carolyn’s remarks. “I realized what we<br />

had just done and that there’s a possibility that the<br />

first lady could use American-grown flowers. That<br />

was the defining moment for me, to realize why we<br />

were there and what we were doing for Americangrown<br />

flowers.”<br />

In addition to Kelly and Christy, Margaret Lloyd,<br />

of Margaret Joan Florals of Montecito, Calif., rounded<br />

out the core design team, all of who are members of<br />

Slowflowers.com. Other volunteer florists and flower<br />

farmers traveled to Washington, D.C., in early May to<br />

assist the designers, working from two hotel conference<br />

rooms to create the arrangements.<br />

“The American Grown Flower farmers have<br />

been integral to making the last two <strong>First</strong> Lady’s<br />

<strong>Luncheon</strong>s beautiful, elegant events,” says Jennifer<br />

Messer, president of the Congressional Club and<br />

spouse of Rep. Luke Messer (Indiana’s 6th District).<br />

“Simply put, the flowers are exquisite and abundant,<br />

and the growers and designers have become central<br />

114<br />


to the Congressional Club’s <strong>First</strong> Lady’s <strong>Luncheon</strong> team. We<br />

so greatly appreciate the tremendous contribution.”<br />

Spearheaded by administrator Kasey Cronquist, the<br />

Certified American Grown program currently enjoys participation<br />

from more than 50 farms across the U.S. Despite<br />

the demand for their flowers during the busy Mother’s Day<br />

season, member farms donated their best varieties for the<br />

<strong>First</strong> Lady’s <strong>Luncheon</strong> décor. “This is about giving American<br />

flowers a national stage and Americans working together to<br />

advance an American-grown message,” Kasey says.<br />

Margaret was emotionally moved by the experience, especially<br />

when she saw luncheon guests admiring the lushly<br />

decorated head table. “Many of the flowers — the Cymbidium<br />

orchids, the white roses, the Gerberas — are grown in my<br />

own community of Carpinteria, Calif., just 10 minutes away<br />

from me,” she says. “Who’s in the White House will change,<br />

but the farmers who grew those flowers will still be working<br />

their lands in the next generation. I’m hoping that agricultural<br />

America continues. I don’t want us importing all our<br />

food; I don’t want us to import all our flowers. It matters to<br />

me. I want to drive down the road and know people have<br />

jobs in those flower greenhouses in my community.”<br />


• 170 centerpieces for 72-inch round tables<br />

• 16 Raquette arrangements for the runway and the<br />

62-foot-long head table<br />

• 21 volunteers, including Margie Tygart, designer<br />

Christy Hulsey’s 90-year-old grandmother<br />

• 3 days for production<br />

• 18,000 flower and foliage stems<br />

• 21 Certified American-Grown flower farms across the<br />

United States<br />


Lasting friendships have been built through the years<br />

as Congressional Club members work “shoulder to<br />

shoulder” on various causes, with their bipartisan values<br />

reflecting a positive element in today’s complex political<br />

dynamic.<br />

Founded in 1908, the original purpose of The<br />

Congressional Club was to provide a nonpartisan setting<br />

for friendships among the spouses of members of the<br />

House and Senate in Washington, D.C. Although the<br />

scope of the club and the breadth of its activities have<br />

increased over the years, its purpose remains the same.<br />

The first president of the club, Mrs. James B. Perkins<br />

of New York, and her board decided to seek a Congressional<br />

Act of Incorporation. On May 20, 1908, Mrs.<br />

John Sharp Williams, wife of the House Minority Leader<br />

who was opposed to the Act, invited her husband to<br />

lunch. While they were dining, the House of Representatives<br />

passed the Act unanimously. The Congressional<br />

Club, with 95 members, became the official organization<br />

of congressional wives. From the beginning, the<br />

club has been self supporting.<br />

An active member is the spouse of a sitting or former<br />

member of Congress, Supreme Court justice, or<br />

member of the President’s Cabinet; and once a member,<br />

always a member, upon payment of annual dues.<br />

Associate membership is open only to active members’<br />

adult children or spouses of adult children.<br />



CallaCo<br />

Dramm & Echter<br />

Eufloria Flowers<br />

FernTrust<br />

Gallup & Stribling Orchids<br />

Golden State Bulb Growers<br />

Green Valley Floral<br />

Holland America Flowers<br />

Joseph & Sons<br />

Kitayama Brothers<br />

LynnVale Studios<br />

Mellano & Company<br />

Myriad Flowers<br />

Ocean Breeze International<br />

Ocean View Flowers<br />

Oregon Flowers<br />

Pyramid Flowers<br />

Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers<br />

Sun Valley Floral Farms<br />

Top Star Floral<br />

Westland Orchids<br />


Accent Décor<br />

Armellini Logistics<br />

DV Floral<br />

Potomac Floral Wholesale<br />

Smithers-Oasis North America<br />


Kelly Shore (Petals by the Shore, Maryland)<br />

Christy Hulsey and Margie Tygart (Colonial House of Flowers, Georgia)<br />

Margaret Lloyd (Margaret Joan Florals, California)<br />

Mary Kate Kinnane (The Local Bouquet – Rhode Island)<br />

Rachel Ziegler (Floral & Bloom, Maryland)<br />

Blair Roberts (Sweet Blossoms, Maryland)<br />

Jimmy Lohr and Rose Kocher (greenSinner, Pennsylvania)<br />

Nancy and Wayne Zimmerman (Fancy Florals by Nancy, Illinois)<br />

Beth Van Sandt and Kurt Weichhand (Scenic Place Peonies, Alaska)<br />

Lisa Ruf (Goodness Gracious Florals - Maryland)<br />

Lisa Smith Thorne (Thorne & Thistle, Alabama)<br />

Ellen Seagraves (Chic Floral Designs – Maryland)<br />

Dana O’Sullivan (DellaBlooms – Maryland)<br />

Katie MacGregor (Rose Gold Events & Styling - Maryland)<br />

Elizabeth Joyner (Georgia)<br />

Lillian Brown (Georgia)<br />

Flo Fordham (Georgia) •<br />


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