Fenty Bash To Feature D.C. Food, Funkiness

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 5, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and his wife, Michelle Cross Fenty, are throwing their first public party tomorrow, and it will be anything but low-key.

The 15,000 people who scooped up free tickets are expected to attend the biggest and most extravagant mayoral inaugural ball in decades. Fenty has raised $611,300 for the black-tie-optional celebration at the Washington Convention Center, according to a donor list released yesterday.

Michelle Fenty has been the architect of the event, which will feature 125 arrangements of white flowers, including roses and orchids, donated by local florists, said Mafara Hobson, the mayor's spokeswoman.

The mayor's wife also came up with the idea to have "ward rooms," which will offer a flavor of each of the city's eight wards, Hobson said.

"We want to reflect the diversity of the city," she said. "Volunteers from each ward were called upon to design each room."

Guests will be treated to 60 buffet tables and performances by soul singers Kenny Lattimore and Anthony Hamilton, jazz pianist Marcus Johnson, performance group Step Afrika and Chopteeth, a local 14-piece Afrofunk big band. Chuck Brown, the godfather of go-go, has been invited, Hobson said.

Six additional food stations will feature dishes donated by area restaurants -- Georgia Brown's, Chef Geoff's, Mie N Yu, Clyde's, Indique, and Busboys and Poets, the latter a favorite spot of Fenty's for breakfast and lunch meetings on 14th Street NW.

Food, soda and water will be free, but there will be a cash bar.

The celebration was originally scheduled for Tuesday night but was postponed until tomorrow in deference to the memorial services for former president Gerald R. Ford.

Michelle Fenty, whose parents are from Jamaica, also had a hand in tomorrow night's musical playlist.

Chopteeth, a three-year-old group that also dabbles in James Brown funkiness, has added tunes to its repertoire to please the mayor's wife, said Tom Carrico, the group's manager.

"We're going to play a reggae number and a ska number at the request of the first lady," he said.

The event is on track to be the biggest inaugural ball since Sharon Pratt welcomed 6,000 guests to Union Station for her $500,000 party in 1991, and it will be five times as large as Anthony A. Williams's 2003 kickoff for his second term.

Williams held a low-key affair for 3,000 at the Old Post Office Pavilion, but, as with Fenty's event, the tickets were free. At previous inaugural balls, most guests had to pay at least $35.

Fenty is offsetting the costs with funds from 86 contributors, including the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, real estate developers and businesses that have contracts with the D.C. government.

Fenty earned a reputation as a grass-roots candidate not only for his 18 months of relentless door-knocking, but also because he amassed a large campaign fund filled with checks written for $25 or $50.

Staff writer Elissa Silverman contributed to this report.

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