WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is drawing an A-list of performers for his inaugural festivities, including a massive gala expected to draw more than 35,000 revelers.
Katy Perry, Smokey Robinson, Usher, Alicia Keys and Brad Paisley are among the stars planning to sing at Obama’s inaugural galas Jan. 21 and a children’s concert on Jan. 19. Also signed up are Marc Anthony, Stevie Wonder, John Legend and the cast of “Glee.”
The concert and the two official inaugural balls are being held at the Washington Convention Center over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend when Obama begins his second term. The performers join top talent already announced for Obama’s signing ceremony Jan. 21 on the West Front of the Capitol, including Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor.
Other event performers include pop-rap foursome Far East Movement, Grammy-nominated pop-rock trio fun., R&B boy band Mindless Behavior, rapper Nick Cannon and youth gospel choir Soul Children of Chicago. Inaugural organizers aren’t saying yet which performances will be at which convention center event.
While Obama has cut the number of inaugural balls lower than any president since Dwight Eisenhower was first sworn into office in 1953, the two celebrations will be elaborate. The larger of the events, simply called The Inaugural Ball, is expected to draw more than 35,000 in a reflection of the quadrennial demand in Washington to toast the president in person on such a historic day.
The Inaugural Ball is being held across all 700,000 square feet of the Washington Convention Center’s five exhibit halls, which four years ago held six separate balls.
The second event is the Commander In Chief’s Ball, a tradition started by President George W. Bush to honor the military. Doubling in size from four years ago to about 4,000, it’s being held on the third-floor ballroom of the convention hall a mile from the White House. Tickets are free for invitees, including active-duty and reserve troops, Medal of Honor recipients and wounded warriors.
Demand has been high for entry to the two official affairs. Inaugural planners offered a limited number of tickets to The Inaugural Ball for sale at $60, and they sold out quickly Sunday night when Ticketmaster accidentally sent out an email ahead of time announcing they were available. Inaugural organizers are trying to stop a swift scalping business for the tickets, which have been cropping up for sale online.
That’s even though city officials are predicting a drop in attendance to 600,000 to 800,000 for the inauguration this year compared with 2009, when a record 1.8 million crowded onto the National Mall to see the first black president sworn into office.
Those who can’t get into the convention hall with the Obamas can still carouse into the night at several unofficial balls across Washington. And members of the president’s staff will get their own chance to celebrate with the president, with a staff ball planned for the day after the inauguration. Last year, the private affair was reportedly quite a bash, according to one attendee, with rap star Jay-Z singing a riff on one of his hit songs, “99 Problems but George Bush Ain’t One,” to the delight of the throngs of young staffers who worked so hard to turn the White House Democratic.
More tickets to The Inaugural Ball will be on sale, but not to the general public. They will go to campaign volunteers, community leaders, elected officials and other invitees, as well as donors being asked to contribute up to $250,000 individually or $1 million from corporations to pay for the festivities. Invitees will be sent an email in the next few days with personalized Ticketmaster account information they can use to purchase up to two tickets.
The Inaugural Ball’s halls extend across two floors, so the president and first lady plan to spin on the dance floor of each level. At the Commander In Chief’s Ball, the president and first lady plan to continue the tradition of dancing with members of the military.
Inaugural planners said the cut in the number of balls was to reflect tough economic times and minimize the burden on law enforcement, other security personnel and Washington residents. But could it also be an effort to give the president some relief from having to dance to the same song over and over again all across town on an already exhausting day?
President George W. Bush didn’t hide his annoyance after his second inaugural at having to repeatedly sashay around to a musical medley that included “I Could Have Danced All Night.” Could have, but did not: He and first lady Laura Bush danced for a cumulative total of just 8 minutes, 54 seconds across 10 galas.