January 11, 2013

Around 40,000 to pack inauguration night balls

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Inaugural revelers hoping to get close to President Obama at a ball are going to have a lot of competition, with around 40,000 expected to pack the pair of parties.

While Obama has cut the number of inauguration night balls lower than any president since Dwight Eisenhower was first sworn into office in 1953, the two celebrations the night of Jan. 21 will be elaborate. The Inaugural Ball is expected to draw more than 35,000.

That's a lot of elbows around the cheese plate. And to think how that increases the chances of someone else wearing the same dress.

But it also reflects the quadrennial demand in Washington for a chance to celebrate the end of an election year and toast the president in person on such an historic day, if only from across a cavernous room packed with tens of thousands of his closest friends.

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 Commander In Chief's Ball, a tradition started by President George W. Bush to offer U.S. troops a chance to join the celebration, is being doubled in size over four years ago to about 4,000.

Tickets are free for invitees, including active duty and reserve troops, Medal of Honor recipients and wounded warriors. The increase in tickets for fighting men and women to enjoy an evening with their spouses reflects a focus by first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill, on supporting military families.

Demand has been high for entry to the balls. 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 that have been cropping up for sale online.

Those who can't get into the convention hall with the Obamas can still carouse into the night at several unofficial balls across Washington.

 

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