Plans for the 55th presidential inauguration are kicking into high gear after the holidays, and donations and requests for tickets are pouring in along with orders for inaugural paraphernalia.
"Right now, it's like right before the game, right before the Super Bowl," said Lt. Col. Bruce Alexander, spokesman for the Joint Task Force-Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, which is helping the Presidential Inauguration Committee on ceremonial aspects of the celebration. "We're burning some oil on the weekends."
The presidential committee has volunteers working 14-hour days to field inquiries and sort out ticket requests, and nearly 1,000 people have ordered vanity license plates celebrating the inauguration.
"There are many different people to accommodate, many different requests to accommodate, and our ticketing and planning people are trying to sort that out," said Kevin Sheridan, a spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. There were so many requests, in fact, that he said he was unable to say what was sold out and what wasn't.
Then there are the donations, which continued to flow during the holidays. More than $13 million has been raised for three days of events that will include a fireworks display, the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony and inaugural parade and nine balls. A dozen individuals and 30 companies and organizations contributed $5.75 million in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, according to the committee's Web site, www.inaugural05.com, which was updated Friday.
The committee has said that it would spend $30 million to $40 million and that all the money would be raised from the private sector.
Big donors on the most recent list included Ford Motor Co.; Home Depot Inc.; Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.; Marriott International Inc.; First Data Corp.; Time Warner Inc.; UST Inc., the holding company for US Tobacco Co.; and the National Association of Homebuilders. Each contributed $250,000, which is the most the committee has said it would accept.
Individuals in the large donor category included Sheldon G. Adelson and Miriam Ochshorn Adelson, who each gave $250,000. Sheldon Adelson is chairman of Las Vegas Sands Inc. and raised at least $100,000 for Bush's reelection campaign.
J. Ronald Terwilliger, Sam and Marilyn Fox, Ned L. Siegel, Duane Acklie, Alexander F. Treadell, Matthew R. Simmons, Robert Frank Pence, Marc S. Goldman, Kenneth J. Kies and Michael W. Murphy each gave $100,000.
Sam Fox, Acklie and Siegel are "Rangers," Republican donors who raised at least $200,000 each for Bush's reelection; Kies raised at least $100,000.
The commercial side of the inaugural effort also has geared up, and since the Web site went up Dec. 15, dozens of inaugural items have been added to an online store, from cloisonne key chains to embroidered sweat shirts. Items likely to be added include golf balls, coffee mugs, ice buckets and crystal glasses, a committee representative said.
"People have been asking for Bush inaugural stuff from even before Election Day," said Brian Harlin, the vendor handling merchandising for the committee and owner of GOP Shoppe of Elkridge. The most popular items so far seem to be vanity inaugural license plates, he said.
Harlan said many of the items are from previous inaugurations. "You have a rabid following of inaugural collectors who are looking for the same thing every time," he said.
Harlin decides which items make the cut. This year, he said yes to the crystal paperweight, but no to a framed photograph of the president, because the frame was made in China, he said.
"Last time, someone wanted to do a Hilary doormat, but we said no," Harlin said. "They've got to understand this is a nonpartisan event."
Those interested in attending inaugural events should call the ticket hotline at 202-314-2600 or visit the Web site.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.