WASHINGTON – Well more than 100 unofficial inaugural balls and events – including fashion shows,luncheons,luaus,galas,receptions,concerts,even a pajama party – are being held over the weekend to honor President-elect Barack Obama.
Held by a variety of state societies,non-profit organizations and corporations,many of these events boast star-studded guest lists and high ticket prices. Ticket packages for the unofficial events range from free to $100,000. Although many events are invitation-only,some are open to the public and have tickets available.
These unofficial parties are in addition to the 10 official inaugural balls that Obama will visit Tuesday evening.
While D.C. officials originally estimated 4 million people could attend the inauguration,most officials now believe it will be about half that. But Mark Indre,public relations director for Marriott hotels in D.C.,still expects to be busy.
Indre ,who worked at a D.C.-area Ritz Carlton hotel during George W. Bush's second inauguration,said,”We definitely expect a larger crowd due to the historic nature of this inauguration.”
Most catered inaugural events will provide heavy hors d'oeuvres or dinner,Windows Catering Company Vice President Andrew Gerstel said. Clients began calling the company in October. It had reached agreements to cater more than 20 events by early January,topping the 10 to 15 parties it caters during the average inaugural weekend.
Gerstel said Windows has retained many customers from previous inaugurations and gained several new clients. The company was still receiving last-minute calls this week,including at least one for a party for 300 guests – Gerstel had to turn that party down.
One party is what sponsors call the first-ever “Children's Inaugural Ball,” organized by the Every Child Matters Education Fund,Sunday afternoon. More than 2,000 guests have signed up for the free party; more than 2,000 individuals remain on the waiting list.
The ball will include child-friendly food along with exhibits from the Friends of the National Zoo,the National Air and Space Museum,the National Aquarium,Mount Vernon,the National Children's Museum,Ford's Theatre,National Geographic Kids and NASA.
“We wanted an event that brings public attention to the 75 million Americans between the ages of zero and 17,” said Michael Petit,the fund's president. “We're trying to ensure that there is a place at the table for them.”
Actress Jessica Alba will host another first-time event,the New Birth of Citizenship Inauguration Kick-Off,to celebrate high youth voter turnout on election day. Musicians John Legend and Maroon 5 will perform for 2,000 guests who paid $250 to get in. They will hear a new song,”Born Again American,” which emphasizes the importance of being an involved citizen.
“The evening focuses on the new birth of citizenship,continuing to become engaged,starting a movement and celebrating voter turnout and the election of President Obama,” said Brent Miller,the event producer for Declare Yourself,the non-profit group sponsoring the party.
Another option is a combined celebration of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth and Obama's inauguration,to be hosted Sunday at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Lincoln Inaugural 2.0 Ball,to be held in the same venue as Lincoln's second inaugural ball,features an exhibit about Lincoln's inauguration and inaugural balls. For $375,guests can still purchase tickets to the event,a kick-off for both the inauguration and D.C.'s months-long celebration of all things Lincoln.
Environmentally conscious individuals can look to another inaugural newcomer: the Green Inaugural Ball,which still has about 200 tickets available at $500. The Saturday evening event will feature comedian Wyclef Jean and other performers. The ball will also include an electric car,atmospheric water generators and two dresses made from recycled materials.
Guests at the Stafford Foundation's “Build Your Own Ball” didn't have to pay for their tickets. Instead,the foundation worked with national and local organizations to provide disadvantaged individuals with transportation,lodging,meals and access to inaugural events.
For $1 million,foundation President Earl Stafford purchased the package from Washington's JW Marriott hotel in October. From 300 to 500 people will participate in several events,including a Martin Luther King Jr. Day prayer breakfast and luncheon as well as a parade-watching event and an evening ball,according to Ted Kresse,who is volunteering as a spokesman for the foundation through the DCI Group,a public affairs consulting business.
The package includes three-day stays in 300 guest rooms and two presidential and vice presidential suites. The weekend also includes $200,000 of food and beverages catered by the Marriott and exclusive access to the hotel's 12th floor terrace during the inaugural parade. The 772-room hotel built a heated tent for the terrace,with chandeliers and flat screen TVs.
Other themed parties include the Obama Pajama Party ($300) hosted by actress Carrie Fisher and the Creative Coalition Gala ($10,000 for a two-ticket package; packages are available for up to $100,000). It features a list of 41 celebrities,including Anne Hathaway,Ron Howard,Spike Lee,Ashley Judd and Stevie Wonder.
Groups sponsoring more affordable “inaugural balls” include the Sikh Community Center ($150) and George Washington University ($100). Even without a Texan in the White House,the Texas State Society will hold its Black Tie and Boots ball ($225 for state society members and $300 for non-members).