February 2, 2018 10:41:07 AM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
On the day before Scott Reed was to leave his home in West Point to travel to Washington, D.C. to help a group of 150 volunteers decorate the White House for Christmas, he was hurriedly working on decorations at a client's home.
Reed, owner of Petal Pushers Florist in West Point, admitted the honor of being chosen to help decorate the White House came at a cost.
"The week of Thanksgiving," he told Columbus Exchange Club members Thursday at Lion Hills Center. "It's about the worst time of the year to be away from my business."
Reed spent that last day at home tying bows for the decorations on a client's home, wondering what kind of work he would be assigned once he got to the White House.
"After I tied about my thousandth bow, I remember saying, 'Lord, whatever it is, please don't let me have to tie any bows at the White House.'"
Wouldn't you know it, but on the first of the four days Reed and the volunteers spent working on the decoration, a woman named Carol, a member of his little team of volunteers approached him.
"She told me that Mrs. Trump has velvet ribbon for the tree we were decorating that had to be tied a certain way," he said. "Velvet ribbon is not easy to tie. She said she needed someone with experience.
"So my first day, I sat there with all this blue ribbon, tying bows all day long," he added. "I just told myself, 'I'm tying bows at the White House.'"
Fortunately, his work was not confined to tying bows.
"It really was a great experience," Reed said. "I met so many people and it was so interesting to get a little sense of what the White House is like behind the scenes from listening to the White House staff and some of the other volunteers who had helped decorate before."
Landing the gig
Each year, volunteers are chosen to decorate the White House for Christmas. Since first learning about the opportunity 10 years ago, Reed was eager to participate. After applying as a volunteer in January 2017, he was selected from a group of more than 980 applicants, getting his notification in October.
The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group prepared the decorations at a warehouse in Maryland while the second group was given the job of putting the decorations up at the White House.
"I didn't know which group I would be in at first," Reed said. "So I was happy to be in the group that actually got to go to the White House."
Aside from the first day of bow-tying monotony, it turned out Reed landed a plum assignment -- decorating the Christmas tree in the Blue Room.
"That's the room where the official White House Christmas tree goes in," he said. "It was 18 feet tall, the only tree that is from floor to ceiling. There are 56 Christmas trees in the White House, but this is the only one that isn't purchased. It's a gift from the Christmas Tree Growers' Association."
As Reed worked, he learned from others who had helped decorate the White House previously, including a 92-year-old man who was helping decorate for the 37th consecutive year.
"What I learned is that while all first ladies choose the decorations, some are more involved than others," he said. "Mrs. Trump was very, very involved. I was amazed. She picked every ribbon, every ornament and had very specific orders about how we did the job. For example, she didn't want any wires or ornament hangers. Everything that went on the tree had to be tied. She also didn't want anything hanging. They all had to be tied directly to the branches."
Reed spent four days at the White House. The most memorable moment, he said, was on the last day, which he spent hanging ornaments for every state and U.S. territory, each decorated with its state or territorial seal.
"Another thing Mrs. Trump insisted on, something I didn't even think about, is that at least one ornament from every state or territory had to be hung at eye level," Reed said. "She said she didn't want anyone to see the tree and not see their home state or territory and think it had been left off. I thought that was pretty great."
Although leaving his business for to help decorate the White House during one of the busiest times of the year was difficult, Reed said he'd do it again.
"As bad as the timing is, if I had the chance again, it would be pretty hard to turn down," he said.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]