By Logan C. Adams,Jessie Bonner,Kathryn Fiegen,Glenn Omanio,Lauren Rivera and Joe Rominiecki
WASHINGTON – President Bush,first lady Laura Bush,Vice President Cheney and his wife,Lynne,toured nine inaugural balls Thursday night,six of them held at the city's new convention center. In between visits from the first couples,ball goers celebrated the day's events.
Scripps Howard Foundation Wire reporters attended several of the parties,and have the following stories to tell:
Clocks stopped for 60 seconds at the Texas-Wyoming ball when the dance-averse President George W. Bush dipped and swayed with his wife,Laura,as a military band played “I Could Have Danced All Night.”
The Texas-dominated crowd threw up loud cheers as the presidential couple waltzed next to Bush's sister,Doro,who danced with Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
The tuxedo-clad Bush addressed thousands of guests in the ballroom saying,“We love freedom in the USA,and we will make America to be as free as possible to every citizen.”
Bush left the ballroom after less than 10 minutes. Many guests then scrambled to the exit while other ball-goers filled the dance floor.
President Bush arrived at the Patriot Ball about 9:20 p.m. He spoke briefly and thanked Ohioans for their work,then danced with his wife,Laura.
Everyone in the crowd tried to get a snapshot.
“Everyone put their arms up. I think I got a picture with somebody's arms in the way,” said Deirdre O'Sullivan,31,a Transportation Security Administration employee from Washington who is originally from Ohio.
She said she had heard Bush speak before but it was still a thrill.
“It's still really cool. He exudes energy and vitality,” she said.
Her mother,Rosemarie O'Sullivan,70,attended her first inauguration but worked extensively with the Republican party in Ohio. The ball was mainly for Ohioans.
“I heard him speak so many times in Ohio,I fell like he's a friend. He has that gift of speaking to a crowd and you think he's speaking to you,” she said.
After Bush spoke,a large portion of the crowd moved to the dance floor to enjoy the rest of the evening.
“We put him over the top. This is a really nice payoff for the people who worked so hard,” said Kim Gabay,26,an employee of he Ohio Republican Party.
At the Liberty Ball,attended by Floridians,as soon as everyone heard the announcer call for cell phones to be turned off,they rushed to the stage,and sure enough,the president and first lady appeared.
Responding to a question he overheard,Bush said,“Yeah,Dick Cheney will be working tomorrow. That's why he's the vice president.”
One of Cheney's lines during his ball appearances was that he couldn't stay longer because the president expected him at work early Friday.
Madison O'Connnor,7,of St. Petersburg,Fla.,tapped her foot on an empty dance floor as the Stars and Stripes Ball got underway.
Madison said her mom helped her pick out her long navy blue dress with black flowers on it and put up her hair.
Her father,Patrick O'Connor,45,said they could only get two tickets to the ball,so Madison's mother had to stay at the hotel.
“We decided to make it a daddy-daughter thing,” O'Connor said. “When Bush won,I said,‘Were going to go to the ball.' And she said,‘Good,I get to pick out a dress.'”
As Marine Sgt. Adrian Ambe,29,who is originally from Nairobi,Kenya,but now lives in Virginia.,stood in the ballroom,people raised their glasses to toast him and several women asked to be photographed with him. He had marched in the parade and was given ball tickets.
He has served two tours in Iraq and is headed back next month.
“We left a lot of unfinished business. We're looking forward to finishing our assignment,” he said.
Looking around the ballroom,Ambe said,“Inauguration is a good time for the troops. We always take pride in doing the inauguration,not only because it's in front of the president,but because it's in front of the people.”
Because many streets in the city were blocked for security,thousands of people attending the nine inaugural balls were expected to ride the city's Metro system,which was to remain open until 3 a.m. to get everyone back to their homes or hotels after the balls ended at 1 a.m.
At the Red line platform at the Metro Center station,inexperienced passengers crowded the center while ignoring the ends,even after the train pulled up. Nearly everyone on the platform was wearing tuxedos and ball gowns.
The train operator tried to bring order,asking the riders to use all the doors multiple times. His efforts proved futile,and the train went through several stations with very crowded center and front cars while those in the rear remained half-empty.
As a bottleneck formed at the up escalator at Union Station,site of the Freedom ball,a man turned to his preteen daughter and said,“Sara,lift up your skirt.” He grimaced after realizing what he had said. “I hope I never say that again,” the embarrassed father said as others on the escalator laughed.
The night would not be complete though without the usual flair and fanfare of ball-goers whose Lone Star look outfits easily rivaled those of a Hollywood awards night – cowboy hats and boots with the men's tuxedos and sequined gowns and dangling diamonds for the women.
Lynette Moore,44,wore her “patriotic” all-blue gown. A coat decorated with stars and stripes draped her body and a white cowboy hat perched on her head. “I devised this gown myself,and I think it fits the occasion,” said Moore,of Dallas.
Another Texan,Marilee Doud,47,described her beige bodice as “simple but elegant.” She brought three members of her family in the party including her daugther,Dory,28,who wore a pink silk gown with dipping necklines and matching brooch.
But men were usually spared of the problem of dressing up,said Emmette Flynn,45,a physician in San Angelo,Texas.
“Ladies surely had long hours of dressing and fixing their hair. Mine is just a normal tux,” he said.
Compared to 2001 inaugural ball,this year's party was more sedate and spacious,said Dory Doud,who now lives in Wyoming,the vice-president's home state. “This is definitely bigger,more festive and food and wines are flowing. Protesters,however,are more vocal this time,” she added.
At the party,waiters bore trays of appetizers,amd reporters were cordoned in one area unable to mix with guests unless they were accompanied by burly escorts with walkie-talkies in their hands or blue tooth earpieces in their ears.
But another four years for Bush in the White House has made many Texans miss their two-time governor. They said the president is always welcome to come home to Texas.
“Texans really love the president,and we are his avid followers. I am sure he misses the friendly people there,” said Sandy Denton,62,of Dallas and a member of the Republican Women's Club there.
Flynn said the Texans are very supportive of Bush. “A Texan is always a Texan wherever he goes,” he added.