Obamas to Appear at 10 Official Inaugural Balls

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By Roxanne Roberts
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

News flash! Rumors are true!

The Presidential Inaugural Committee -- trumpets, please! -- is hosting 10 official balls on the night of Jan. 20.

These, ladies and gentlemen, are the only parties where Barack Obama, Joe Biden and their wives are guaranteed to appear, albeit for a quick wave and onstage dance.

Six of the balls will be held at the glamorous, escalator-studded Washington Convention Center. The other four will be at the National Building Museum, Union Station, the Washington Hilton Hotel and the D.C. Armory. A committee spokesman confirmed the locations last night.

And? AND?

The committee did not release any further information, including who will entertain, or the theme for the big night, or, most important, how to scrounge a ticket.

Which leaves desperate partygoers and Obama celebrators pretty much where they were before: grasping at crumbs. Fear not, readers. In the absence of official information, we give you informed speculation, our expert insidery tips and a road map for attending -- or for staying far away from the giddy masses.

Tickets: Don't have one? Relax -- invitations for the balls have not yet gone out. When they do, the committee will mail fat envelopes offering loyal supporters around the country a chance to purchase tickets to all the official events. The PIC has capped the top sponsorship package at $50,000, which includes four tickets to the swearing-in, the parade, one of the balls, and any other PIC-sponsored events. No word yet how much the least expensive ball tickets will sell for, or how many will be available.

Number: Despite the clamor to be part of the historic celebration, the Obama team has kept the number of balls to a manageable 10 -- the same number Ronald Reagan attended for his second inauguration in 1985.

Bill Clinton, Mr. Irrepressible, set the record with 14 balls in 1997; George W. Bush went to eight in 2001 and nine for his second go-round.

Super Tuesday: As during the primaries, lots of states will be lumped together. The balls are traditionally organized by region, so everyone from, say, all the Southwest will be placed in the same ballroom. No word yet which states will be placed at which venues -- but we promise you that every ball will be crammed to the rafters.

(A word to the wise: Tell your out-of-town buddies that scoring a ticket is just the first step. In 1997, hundreds of guests stood outside Union Station -- some without coats -- for more than two hours when D.C. fire marshals closed the doors.)

Entertainment: No clue yet, but it's not really the point, is it? Like you're going to these balls for the music? Anything in tune is frosting on the cake.

Location, location: All the balls -- except for the ones at the Hilton and Armory -- are clustered within a few blocks of each other, making it easier to secure the venues and get the president and first lady to the parties efficiently.

Ballgoers, expect the streets nearby to be blocked off for hours; expect to walk for blocks to get to the balls; and expect elaborate alternate routes if you're driving anywhere near the balls.

Better yet, stay home. But you knew that already, didn't you?


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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