March 2, 2011

Inaugural festivities cut back, jazzed up

The director skips the poetry, alters the music and promises other twists, and the formal ball is out.

By Rebekah Metzler rmetzler@mainetoday.com
MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA - There will be no poetry read at next week's gubernatorial inauguration for Republican Paul LePage. No chorale singing, either.

Instead, organizers promise a mix of interesting twists and entertainment during the inauguration ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and the reception that evening.

"We're trying to make it a little more interesting to the Maine people who are attending, especially the people who are going to view it on television, so that it's not completely dry," Brent Littlefield, LePage's senior political adviser and inaugural director, said during a briefing with reporters Thursday.

"You'll see a slight variation from what you've seen in the past," he said. "For instance, we're not going to have poems being read, and when you see singing, it's not going to be chorale-style, dry singing."

Instead, Littlefield said, inaugural attendees will hear the stylings of the 195th Army band of the Maine National Guard and the Downeast Brass, among other performances. The Downeast Brass performed during LePage's summer whistle-stop campaign on the Maine Eastern Railroad.

The inauguration will be held at the Augusta Civic Center; the reception will start at 7 p.m. Both events are invitation-only. Littlefield said invitations were extended to about three times as many people as the building's capacity.

"We anticipated it being a smaller crowd than in the past because it is a Wednesday morning," he said, "but we've been pleasantly surprised that we are at or above previous attendance levels," with more than 4,000 people already saying they will attend.

Littlefield declined to provide a list of invited guests, but said a list of people who made monetary donations to the transition effort will be made available later.

He said LePage will not make any major policy announcements during his inaugural speech.

"This is going to be a continuation of the broad discussion of the big challenges ahead; you'll hear the same themes that you heard through the campaign," Littlefield said. LePage will not use a teleprompter, he said.

"He doesn't use speech notes very often; he likes to speak to folks personally -- (but) there will be a written speech," Littlefield said.

LePage will be joined onstage during the inauguration by his wife, Ann, his five children and other important people in his life, including Bruce Myrick of Lewiston, who will offer brief remarks.

Myrick's family was one of two in Lewiston that sheltered LePage when he was homeless during his youth.

Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, will swear in LePage as governor during the ceremony, which is officially a joint session of the Legislature. All lawmakers are expected to attend, as are members of the judiciary and other dignitaries, including tribal representatives.

In a break with tradition, LePage has asked outgoing Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, to attend the event. Baldacci agreed, and will be joined by other past governors, Littlefield said.

LePage had the inauguration scheduled early in the day so he could have a reception the same day and get right to work, Littlefield said. In the past, the ceremony has been held in the evening, with an inaugural ball the next night.

"It's not hyperbole; he is very interested in going to work," Littlefield said. "He wanted to make sure we had everything done in one day if we could."

Officials at the Augusta Civic Center said the inauguration is expected to last about 90 minutes, leaving about five hours to transform the building for the evening reception, which will include a cash bar and passed hors d'oeuvres.

"We've got to push the bleachers in, pick up all the floor chairs and then set for the reception," said Dana Colwill, director of the civic center.

LePage declined to have a formal ball, opting for a reception instead and saying a ball was not appropriate, given the state's fiscal troubles.

The reception will feature lobster, however, thanks to a donation from Linda Bean, who owns several lobster-related businesses, including a processing plant and eight lobster restaurants.

"A Maine company is donating some lobster, so at least we'll have some traditional Maine grub at the reception," Littlefield said. "We will have some music there, but there's no dance floor; there's not going to be any strobe lights."

Though he could not provide specific numbers, Littlefield said he is sure LePage's inauguration and reception will cost far less than previous inaugural festivities.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

rmetzler@mainetoday.com

 

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