Inauguration Day is currently dominating DC talk. We read about it in the papers, we hear about it on local news, and we talk about it at work, at home and out on the town. Bars will be able to stay open 24 hours a day! Metro is running a special extended schedule on the 20th! Someone in Georgetown just rented their row house to visitors for an obscene amount of money! Stories and details surrounding the big swearing-in are everywhere. My favorite buzz has to do with inaugural balls. I'm talking about the once every four years events that allow suited up, all business, 9-5 Washingtonians put on their black tie best and celebrate, Cinderella style. Besides having a sort of mythical quality to them, other than the actual swearing-in, they're the most desired tickets in town.
As an Inauguration Day newbie, I was surprised to discover just how many balls this city will host during the big week. I used to think there was only one, reserved for the newly minted President and his VIP friends. In reality, there are plenty of opportunities for the general public to get in on the action, as nearly every organization you can think of is offering up its own gala event. For starters, you might want to get tickets to a party hosted by your state or state society. The Hawaii State Society Inaugural Ball and the Illinois Inaugural Gala will no doubt be exceptionally popular this year. George Washington University holds an Inaugural Ball, but unless you've already bought a ticket, don't expect to get into this already sold out event. There are events with causes, such as the Human Rights Campaign Equality Ball, and events for specific groups of people such as the Pearl Gala hosted by Asian Americans for Obama. Even MTV is getting into the game. They'll be throwing their Be the Change Inaugural Ball at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue. If you can't make it, no need to worry. The festivities will be broadcast on live television.
Of course, none of this high-society celebrating comes cheap. Tickets for most events are more than $100 per person, with many events reaching up into the $500 to $1000 range. Needless to say, this recent grad probably won't be donning a full-length gown any time soon. But that doesn't mean I won't get in on at least some of the fun. In true down to Earth Midwest fashion, the Minnesota State Society of Washington, DC won't be hosting a high-priced gathering, but rather a "free hospitality reception." From 9am to 4pm on January 20th, Minnesotans in the area are invited to enjoy coffee and light snacks in the Transportation and Infrastructure Room of the Rayburn House Office Building. It might not be the Kennedy Center, but it will be welcoming, unpretentious, and filled with the only people in DC who don't think I have a funny accent. I'm so there.