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Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 01/17/2013

Looking for an inaugural ball ticket? Still plenty on sale for unofficial balls


Jim and Christine Green dance at the Texas State Society Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball in 2001 at the Marriott Wardman Park. (Lucian Perkins/The Washington Post)

There are plenty of unsold tickets for inaugural parties — which, depending on your perspective, is either kind of a bummer or a hidden blessing.

Not, of course, the president’s inaugural balls at the Convention Center: The few tickets available to the general public were snapped up in just hours; as many as 40,000 people are expected to cram into the two official balls.

But tickets for dozens of other inaugural-themed parties and galas are still available, which reflects less interest in President Obama’s second inauguration — or could be a gift for party-goers looking to have a good time.

“Big isn’t always better when it comes to parties,” said PR veteran Lynda Webster, offering the glass-half-full spin. “Sardine-style where you can’t move, eat or drink is no fun. So I think people this year are going to have a better ball experience, no matter where they go.”

Webster’s team is helping market the 2013 Black Tie and Boots Ball Saturday at the Gaylord Resort. The ball was sold out during the Bush years; this time, organizers have moved 4,800 of 6,000 tickets ($250 and $275) — including 1,000 in the past three days. A quick scan of the larger unofficial inaugural bashes showed that only Sunday’s Peace Ball (with activists Angela Davis, Ralph Nader, and Julian Bond and a price tag of only $135) and Saturday’s Indiaspora Ball ($250) have sold out.

So organizers are getting innovative (or desperate): The first Brewers Ball at ChurchKey bar is trying a Happy Hour special: Buy three $150 tickets, get one free. Tickets for the Green Ball at the Newseum Sunday popped up on Groupon — $400 seats are now going for $250 “to ensure members of the green community of all ages groups and demographics have access to this important event,” said spokeswoman Sahar Wali. Earlier this week, we reported about the “Ambassadors Ball,” which had deployed robo-calls.

Competition is especially stiff given that there seems to be a new gala coming every hour. Only announced Tuesday, Priscilla Clarke has just six days to sell Sunday’s “The Dream Moving Forward” gala at the Howard Theatre with Jamie Foxx, Patti LaBelle, Angela Bassett, Cicely Tyson, and Dick Gregory — and a wax figure of Obama.

Her strategy? “E-mail blasts, social media, radio ads, networks and word of mouth,” she told us. “There’s always a risk factor. We know we’re up against time.”

Clarke told us about half of the 1,000 tickets ($200-$500) are sold; her stars are using Twitter and Facebook to move the rest. Until then, it’s a 24-7 effort to fill seats. “Tuesday, I get to sleep,” she said.

Earlier:

Inaugural balls: Our guide to the official bashes, unofficial parties and too-good-to-be-true pitches, 1/8/13

‘Ambassadors Ball,’ new kid on inaugural party scene, tries robo-call ticket sales, 1/15/13

From the Capitol to eBay, the hunt for tickets to Obama’s inauguration is fierce, 1/17/13

For many presidential inaugurations, the second time is not the charm, 1/15/13


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