An Amazing Event Not to Be Here For

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Inauguration Day: Millions of people, thousands of buses, mobs on the Metro, winter weather, epic potty lines. And maybe, from afar, a glimpse of history.

Who needs it?

Amid dire predictions of vast crowds in the District and the less-than-enjoyable happenings that could go with such a throng, some area residents have decided they would rather be elsewhere Jan. 20. Perhaps Florida. Or New York. Or . . . "anywhere but here," as a Fairfax county woman put it.

Some tourism officials have taken notice. A ski resort in West Virginia is offering a low-cost "escape inauguration" promotion. And several hotels on Florida's Amelia Island are offering discounts to residents of the District, Maryland and Virginia for that week.

Richard Goldman, chief marketing officer for Amelia Island Plantation, said they heard reports of people wanting to be out of the area for the inauguration and thought: "Let's help those folks get out of Dodge."

The 1,300-acre resort is offering a 20 percent "DC Escape" discount for District area residents from Jan. 18 through Jan. 22. "We've had quite a few calls and a number of takers," he said.

One family in Fairfax Station decided to leave the area only after thinking about the crowds and security. "Initially, we said, 'Absolutely, we want to be here,' " said Dawn Smith, 40, who has four children, ages 10 months to 13 years. "This is amazing. This is historic. This is something we really want to be part of. Then reality set in."

Smith said her family "totally" supported President-elect Barack Obama, but when it came time to ponder attending his inauguration, she recalled being a teenager in Los Angeles during the 1984 Summer Olympics and the chaos that can come with a huge event. Most of all, she said, she is concerned about security.

"I'm a parent now and feel like we can be part of the excitement and part of the spirit from a distance," she said. "We don't actually have to be there. . . . I just don't want to be in town at this point."

At the same time, she said the family is not looking to make money on the inauguration. "We decided: 'Let's just swap with somebody who really wants to be in D.C,' " Smith said.

They posted an ad for a house swap on a Web site. They've had a few offers, but one place was too small -- two bedrooms -- and another came with cats (her husband is allergic). As of this week, they still lacked a good match. No matter: "We are leaving town anyway, even if we can't make a swap," Smith e-mailed.

A 39-year-old Northern Virginia resident seeking an Atlantic City swap for the inauguration said she was motivated by fear.

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