- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 4, 2003

Sheila Johnson tends to do things in a big way, so it was hardly surprising that the Black Entertainment Television co-founder, horsewoman and hotel builder claimed the biggest, tallest and most gorgeous Christmas tree at the first annual Georgetown Festival of Trees reception Wednesday night.

“It’s so tall and magnificent,” the mink-swathed multimillionairess said upon first encounter with her 12-foot fir in the main lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel. “I love the color.”

Of 15 trees up for adoption (to benefit the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Hospital), Mrs. Johnson’s was the only one available at the $10,000 “sponsorship” level, and she seemed delighted with the acquisition, even though it will never see yuletide in her Middleburg, Va., home. The Bradlee Florist-designed Victorian-style tree, festooned with immense tassels and bulbs, Santa and elf marionettes and Punch and Judy figures (all in red) will remain behind for use next year; the ornaments will be auctioned to raise additional funds for the cause.

Organizers were hopeful that the smaller, standard-size trees (decorated in nutcracker, teddy bear, pet, antique toy and other themes) would sell as well, at a mere $5,000 apiece. For those not in the fat-wallet set, other, lesser-priced options were available at 40 nearby locations, all designed and donated by neighboring shopkeepers under the auspices of the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID).

The merchants had much to celebrate as they drifted toward the hors d’oeuvres and kir royales offered by hotel manager Chris Hunsberger in the Garden Court. After all, business is booming, with many of the shops expecting a record Christmas season this year. Construction finally is finished on M Street NW after 21/2 years of noise, mess and no-parking signs. Best of all, the event for Children’s Hospital was a success.

As well it should have been. As BID Executive Director Ken Gray noted, “Children’s is one of the few hospitals in the country that never turns away a sick child.”

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