President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump appeared well after 9 p.m. at the Liberty Ball, where the newly-inaugurated commander-in-chief gave an off-script speech thanking supporters, reiterating he had been underestimated and repeating his campaign slogan, to “make America great again.”
The Trumps shared their first dance to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Vice President Pence and his wife, as well as the couples’ children joined them on the stage. Nine pairs in all swayed about by the song’s end.
Minutes later, they repeated the ritual at the notably more raucous Freedom Ball. There, Trump addressed the crowd, declaring “We will not be taken advantage of anymore” and even asking the audience “should I keep the Twitter going? It’s a way of bypassing dishonest media.”
After the dance, Trump pumped his fist to lead the crowd in a chant of “U.S.A!”
That first dance is the most-watched moment of most inaugural balls, with extra emphasis on the first lady’s choice of frock (it usually ends up in the National Museum of American History). Melania Trump wore a strapless, column white Hervé Pierre dress, with a white ruffle cascading down the front.
The final ball of the evening, an invite-only affair with free tickets offered to attendees that included active duty military and veterans. It was there that the president addressed the crowd, saying, “you’re amazing people, and I like you for a lot of reasons.”
“And I also like the fact you all voted for me, right? You all voted for me,” he said with a chuckle.
Trump then turned to a live stream of active duty members of the military in Afghanistan for a talkback, a feature of armed services ball. He said he would take questions; they were all statements congratulating Trump.
“I like them much more than the media,” Trump said. “These are much nicer, much finer people.”
Melania Trump also addressed the crowd. “Thank you all for your service,” she said. “I’m honored to be our first lady. We will win. And we will make America great again.”
The first couple danced to a rendition of “I Will Always Love You.” Then, per tradition, they danced with service members.
The evening kicked off for the Trumps an hour after the parties began at the Washington Convention Center. They made their way in a long motorcade that passed by a number of onlookers waving middle fingers and some yelling obscenities.
Around 8 p.m., Chrisette Michele and Travis Greene took the stage at the Liberty Ball, backed by the Abundant Life choir, sang Greene’s gospel tune, “Intentional.”
“Somebody make noise for Jesus,” Greene said at the song’s conclusion. “God bless America.”
Michele faced criticism when word broke earlier in the week that she would participate in the inaugural festivities. She defended her gig in an open letter that quoted Martin Luther King Jr., and then wrote, “I am willing to be a bridge.”
Erin Boheme and the Jim Gray Orchestra then took the stage for a jazzy song. “Look out, because Donald is back,” Boheme declared as the song concluded.
Then 18 smiling members of the Rockettes, after much controversy around their involvement, performed twice. Their second routine was essentially a homage to New York City.
The Piano Guys, who also performed at Thursday’s inaugural concert on the National Mall, combined “Amazing Grace” with Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” — the latter of which was a Hillary Clinton campaign song.
Later, the group clarified that there was no political meaning to their artistic choice:
Michael Flatley, “the Lord of the Dance,” took the stage to celebrate Trump’s inauguration. “May God bless him and guide him,” Flatley said.
Days earlier, Riverdance tweeted a statement clarifying that it would not participate, adding “Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance is.”
Attendees packed into the 150,000 square-foot meeting space, where they dined on tortellini, cheese, and patriotic red-white-and-blue cupcakes, enjoyed on small paper plates. Guests at the Liberty Ball each received four, $5 drink tickets — all of which were needed for just one glass of champagne. Caitlyn Jenner was spotted in the back of the room, wearing a long, blue one-shoulder dress and posing for photos.
The Armed Services ball began with the Color Guard performing the national anthem, followed by an invocation. The free tickets were given only to invited guests, which include active duty military and veterans.
The balls took place after the parade’s conclusion, shortly after 6:30 p.m. President Trump and the First Family made their way into the White House and around 7:20 p.m., Trump sat behind the desk in the Oval Office to sign documents, including an executive order regarding Obamacare. He had yet to dress for the evening’s balls.
Jonathan O’Connell and Robin Givhan contributed to this post, which has been updated.