Getting the first lady's goat New Windsor group provides symbolic gift for Mrs. Clinton's 50th

November 23, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

An invitation to the first lady's 50th birthday party would have any woman frantically wondering what to wear. The dilemma deepens when the guest also has to transport the present of honor -- a long-haired, four-legged bleating critter -- to the White House.

"I had an invitation to the White House and instructions to find a good-looking goat for a present," said Edie Sodowsky.

Sodowsky, associate director for development and education at Heifer Project International offices in New Windsor, needed mobility and comfort in her party attire.

After all, she would be climbing in and out of her Chevy S-10 pickup with a pedigreed saanen goat. The animal is typical of those the project donates to impoverished families around the world.

She opted for a practical, black pin-striped pants suit and found it most appropriate for the casual gathering of family and friends celebrating with Hillary Rodham Clinton last month.

The goat cooperated by not shedding its white hair onto its chauffeur's attire.

Sodowsky, a resident of Sabillasville in Frederick County, had less than three days to complete her "top secret" mission: locate a representative nanny that would be a symbolic but live donation to Heifer Project International in Clinton's name.

The presenters -- actor friends Mary Steenburgen, an Arkansas native, and Ted Danson -- wanted to have something tangible to show their hostess.

The real gift would be an animal caravan of heifers, sheep, water buffalo, llamas, bees, goats, rabbits and chickens that will help about 16 families become self-sufficient.

The donation is valued at $2,500.

For more than 50 years, the Heifer Project, based in Little Rock, Ark., has provided the needy in the United States and abroad with income-producing animals. Its Women in Livestock Development (WiLD) has long been a favorite of both Clintons.

Finding a goat was not difficult for a woman who used to raise them. Sodowsky chose Caprikorn Chinook's Kent State, a 5-month-old silky white female from Caprikorn Farms in Frederick County -- "a registered purebred and an excellent milk breed," she said.

Festooned in red and gold ribbons, the goat resembled a birthday gift as much as any goat can. The nanny traveled "warm and comfy" in a hay-lined dog crate that Sodowsky covered with a black tarp and placed in the bed of her pickup. The goat bleated only occasionally during the two-hour drive.

Rain, a popular marathon and a Redskins game jammed Washington traffic even more than usual, and Sodowsky arrived late for the afternoon party.

A little breathless, she pulled up to the first checkpoint, a concrete barrier around the White House.

"The armed guard came out, pointed to the crate and asked sternly, 'What do you have there?' " she said.

L "A goat for Hillary Clinton's birthday party," she answered.

The guard called ahead to the next checkpoints with orders to let "the goat lady" pass through to a large tent on the lawn.

Once the duo arrived, they "were hustled in pretty quickly and then Mary Steenburgen presented the goat," Sodowsky said. "Hillary seemed very appreciative."

After a brief photo opportunity, the ruminant guest of honor was whisked off to an undisclosed location for the duration of the party. But Sodowsky was invited to schmooze with the crowd of about 300 guests.

"I mixed and mingled at the party," she said. "It was a really relaxed atmosphere."

She met the Clintons and several celebrities, including Steenburgen, Danson and Markie Post. She found the first lady to be "genuine, warm and engaging, especially with children," she said.

"There were many children there and it was very evident in her interaction with them that children are so important to her," Sodowsky said. "All in all, it was a really great event that showed me they are real people."

Before leaving, Sodowsky "plowed through the crowd taking photos," she said.

One picture with the goat will appear in HPI's quarterly magazine early next year. The others, she has promised the White House, will stay in her family album.

Caprikorn Chinook's Kent State is back on the farm, probably unaware of her brief moment in the spotlight, Sodowsky said.

"I don't know if she finds the barnyard different now that she has seen D.C.," she said.

Pub Date: 11/23/97

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