Slip into your sleekest Texas tux or slinkiest sequined dress, a pair of python-skin cowboy boots and, if you can get away with it, a cowboy hat. It's time for a grand old party -- the 55th Presidential Inauguration.
The country has put the W back in Washington and lots of folks want to celebrate. Sure, we're here for serious swearing-in ceremonial stuff. But the hand-on-the-Bible part will only take a couple of hours, max. That leaves plenty of time for dancing, parading and indulging. All of the official balls and many of the not-so-official ones will be hard to get into. But where there's a will to celebrate, promoters find a way. Here is a sampling of the week's events:
On the eve of his inauguration in 2001, President Bush put his best foot forward as he and wife Laura attended the Black Tie & Boots Ball. This year's event was held last night.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais -- AP)
The Nine Official Balls|
The Presidential Inaugural Committee is hosting nine official balls tonight, from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.:
Constitution Ball, (Arkansas, American Samoa, Connecticut, Georgia, Guam, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, West Virginia, Wisconsin) at the Hilton Washington.
Freedom Ball, (Alaska, Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan and Diplomatic Corps) at Union Station.
Independence Ball, (Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state) at the Washington Convention Center.
Texas-Wyoming Ball, at the Convention Center.
Liberty Ball, (Florida) at the Convention Center.
Democracy Ball, (Arizona, California, Kentucky, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah) at the Convention Center.
Patriot Ball, (Ohio) at the Convention Center.
Stars and Stripes Ball, (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) at the Convention Center.
Commander-in-Chief Ball, (for military and their families) at the National Building Museum.
The festivities began on a serious note. On Tuesday afternoon, TV staple Kelsey Grammer hosted a patriotic musical show, "Saluting Those Who Serve," at MCI Center, featuring Miami singer Gloria Estefan and country crooner John Michael Montgomery. That evening, the official Youth Concert organized partly by first daughter Barbara Bush -- the older-by-moments twin of Jenna -- was held at the D.C. Armory. Teeny-bopper favorites Hilary Duff and JoJo were featured, as were 3 Doors Down and "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard. Other events on Tuesday night included Backstage: The Preview Party, hosted by the Texas State Society, and the Bluegrass Ball presented by the Kentucky Society of Washington. Both were at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.
Republicans were in full flower yesterday. A brunch, hosted by the chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, was at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in the morning. In the late afternoon, the committee sponsored a "Celebration of Freedom" at the Ellipse, near the White House. A variety of entertainers, including country star Kenny Chesney and the Radio City Rockettes, performed. Fireworks followed. Last night featured a trio of candlelight dinners -- at Union Station, the National Building Museum and the Hilton Washington. If you coughed up $100,000 or more to the re-election campaign, you probably knew about these affairs. On Wednesday night there was also a parade of parties. The Wyoming State Society threw a wingding for Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne, at DAR Constitution Hall. Former senator Alan K. Simpson was tapped to do the emcee honors and music was provided by the supersonic pedal-steel guitarist Robert Randolph and his Family Band. The New York Times calls Randolph "the next Jimi Hendrix." The Entrepreneur's Opportunity Inaugural Ball was at the Republic Gardens on U Street NW. Performers included rappers Doug E. Fresh and Biz Markie.
The Texas State Society Black Tie & Boots Ball at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel kicked out the jams to seven stages of music performed by the likes of Lyle Lovett and Asleep at the Wheel.
The Illinois Presidential Inaugural Gala 2005 was at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Buffy and Bill Cafritz, Phyllis George, Ann and Vernon Jordan, and Kelly and Robert Dayall had an inaugural supper at Cafe Mozu at Mandarin Oriental Hotel. In the later hours, the Next Generation of Republican Leaders sponsored a "Late Night in the Green Room" at the Wyndham Washington Hotel. Musical guests included a group named Mr. Greengenes. Here's a sample from one of their songs, "Shotglass":
Put the quarter in the cup -- C'mon and hurry up
Things are moving 'long y'all and I can't miss
(Off with the bra!) You better do what he says Miss
Damn! I thought your shirt was too tight
Hey, are those things real? Let's hope the rest ain't cellulite
For real! And let's step to the wall.
The Big Day starts with a prayer service sponsored by the presidential committee at St. John's Church. Meanwhile, protest groups of various dimensions are planning to stage demonstrations. The entertainment program for the noontime swearing-in ceremony begins at 10 a.m. with selections from the United States Naval Academy Glee Club, the United States Marine Band and the Alcorn State University Concert Choir.
After the ceremony, the inaugural parade will begin to move along Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Republican Party's Web site, www.gop.com, reports that more than 31,000 different inaugural parties will be held around the country today.
Here, in the late afternoon, the American Legion's Salute to Heroes veterans' banquet and inaugural ball will be at the Capital Hilton. The National Coalition of Technology in Education and Training will gather at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Around suppertime, the Florida state delegation party will have a sit-down dinner at the National Museum of the American Indian. Guests are invited to dinner, then a post-ball party from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. that will feature the music of Duck Soup, which bills itself as the "Unofficial Band of the PGA Tour."
There's a plethora of sanctioned balls -- divided by state -- tonight. At the Convention Center, the Stars and Stripes Ball will be for folks from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania; the Patriot Ball is for Ohio; the Liberty Ball for Florida; there's also the Texas-Wyoming Ball; the Independence Ball for Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and Washington; the Democracy Ball for Arizona, California, Kentucky, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah.
The Constitution Ball will be held at the Hilton Washington for Arkansas, American Samoa, Connecticut, Georgia, Guam, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The Freedom Ball at Union Station is for Alaska, Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan and Diplomatic Corps. And the Commander-in-Chief Ball at the National Building Museum will honor the American military. According to the Presidential Inaugural Committee's Web site, www.inaugural05.com, the balls will begin at 7 p.m. and end at 1 a.m.
The Veterans Presidential Inaugural Ball at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel will be hosted by Larry King and singer Tony Orlando. Former first lady Nancy Reagan and comedian Dennis Miller are slated to attend. The event will be simulcast in Branson, Mo.
A bunch of states and independent groups are throwing their own blowouts. The Michigan State Society, for instance, is celebrating at the National Museum of American History; the Entertainment Ball, featuring the Presidents of the United States of America -- the rock group, not the real men -- and the eNaugural.com Ball -- starring J. Geils and Gonzo's Nose -- will both be at the Wyndham Washington Hotel. George Washington University's Inaugural Ball is at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Wounded members of the armed services will be honored at the Heroes Red, White & Blue Ball at Mellon Auditorium. Michael Bolton is scheduled to sing.
Plans for counterprogramming balls also abound. The Americans for Democratic Action Counter-Inaugural Gala will be at the Washington Court Hotel. ReDefeatBush is billing its blast as "the world's first CounterInaugural Ball" at Dream on Okie Street NE. The Environmental & Clean Energy Inaugural Ball will be at Sequoia Restaurant.
The Black Cat club presents Noise Against Fascism, featuring a performance by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Billionaires for Bush is holding a tongue-in-chic Re-Coronation Inaugural Ball at Platinum nightclub on F St. NW.
After hours, the Creative Coalition's Ball after the Ball -- featuring Macy Gray -- will be at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, and the Recording Industry Association of America's party, featuring 3 Doors Down, will be at the H
O club. The Inaugural Event of Georgetown will be held at the City Tavern Club on M Street NW. Part of the proceeds will go to help victims of the tsunami.
And if you have a little too much fun, remember: There is another prayer service -- by invitation only -- at the National Cathedral tomorrow at 10 in the morning.