- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 10, 2007

The party was for a serious cause, but the mood — at least for some of the younger guests — was slightly tongue-in-cheek at the Children’s Hearing and Speech Center’s ever-preppy country barbecue.

While many of the guests sauntering onto Villa Firenze’s sweeping lawns Thursday night were gray-haired, plenty in the 400-plus crowd were under 40 and flaunting their pinks and greens with a grin.

Griff Jenkins, a Fox News contributor, accepted compliments on his very bright Lilly Pulitzer green-and-yellow floral jacket, while his friend Nels Olson sidled up in Lilly pants patterned in patchwork pinks, blues and greens. “These guys are always trying to outdo each other,” explained Mr. Olson’s wife, Kristen, rolling her eyes.

Other men sported pink shirts paired with blue blazers, khaki pants with blue striped shirts, and even one pair of maroonish-pink pants embroidered with little blue martini glasses. Ladies tended to sundresses, with a few adding hats.

The Nantucket garden wedding look has predominated since the first barbecue on these same grounds in 1965. That was when Polly Guggenheim Logan, a founding member of the Children’s Hearing and Speech Center at Children’s Hospital, owned the property and hosted the event for her circle of wealthy friends. It eventually attracted friends of friends, board Chairman Devereaux Phelps said, “and here we are 40 years later.”

The Italian Embassy, which now owns the property, continues as the party’s patron, although this year Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta was in Italy for President Bush’s visit and unable to attend.

Organizers hoped to net about $50,000 to help care for the center’s lower-income patients. Dr. Sheela L. Stuart, the center’s director, said many children need financial help and, thanks to this barbecue, they’re able to receive quality care.

The first calls to dinner were largely ignored due to the well-stocked bars. It wasn’t until the sun began to set that the bulk of the crowd headed toward the buffet of pulled pork, ribs, cornbread and coleslaw, settling around tables covered in white and adorned with little candles and thick bunches of roses (not your usual Texas barbecue, to be sure).

Wendy Makins, the driving force behind party planning every year, said her goal is to keep the event lively by attracting a young crowd (tickets were $100 for guests 35 and under, $175 for their elders). “It’s probably two-thirds the younger generation now,” she noted, pointing out relatively new members of the committee that included Starr Sears, a slender blonde wearing a black Moschino dress decorated with pieces of dried pasta sewn down the front.

“If I didn’t wear it here,” the gung-ho Mrs. Sears noted, “where would I wear it?”

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