GW hosts inauguration gala of its own

GW students will celebrate the inauguration of President-elect George W. Bush in style at the third “Unofficial Youth Ball” Saturday.

More than 3,000 students will attend the event at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C., according to a University press release. GW’s Inaugural Ball, open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and alumni, will be held off campus for the first time.

The University announced the ball’s location Jan. 11 – only 10 days before the event – because event planners were unable to book a venue until the results of the election were finalized.

“None of the venues will commit to groups until the president’s inaugural committee gets first pick,” said Jessica Carlson, executive assistant for GW’s Office of Special Events. “So not only did we have to wait for the results of the election, but also for them to choose.”

GW hosted the ball, which is not sanctioned by an official inaugural committee, in the Marvin Center with sell-out crowds of 2,500 people in 1993 and 3,000 in 1997, according to the press release. Over 3,000 tickets were sold for the event, which is now sold out.

Because there is no sanctioned youth ball for this year’s inauguration as there has been in the past, GW’s ball is called the “Unofficial Youth Ball,” said Jim Hess, director of University Special Events. The only official youth event this year is the Concert Celebrating America’s Youth Friday at the MCI Center.

“We invited the president-elect and (vice president-elect),” Carlson said. “We also invited Congress and haven’t gotten responses, but we are hopeful.”

Highlights of the ball include live music from the pop-rock band Odyssey and GW’s own King James and the Serfs of Swing, which plays big-band music.

Carlson said the event will include elegant buffets, cash bars, complimentary soft drinks and souvenir surprises.

“The `black-tie invited’ ball means we invite students to wear tuxes and ball gowns but it is not required,” Carlson said. “We want it to be as dressy as possible.”

The Omni Hotel holds inauguration events every four years. Hosting a youth ball is new to the hotel, which will hold other sanctioned events including the Hispanic ball Friday night before inauguration, said Inga Heukels, catering sales manager for the hotel.

Heukels said she is not concerned about security at the event despite the possibility of inauguration protests. The hotel will accommodate any Secret Service requirements if it is necessary she said.

“If the president comes, we are prepared for Secret Service to take care of that,” Heukels said

Students who attended GW’s last inaugural ball gave the event high marks.

“It was a lot of fun and a good way to take part in the inauguration events in Washington,” graduate student Danielle Barton said. “The mayor was there and that was exciting. It will be nice to have it in a hotel which is a little fancier than the Marvin Center.”

Many GW students said they plan to take advantage of the rare opportunity to celebrate a presidential inauguration in D.C.

“It’s an experience that not many people have,” sophomore Justin Kieffer said. “It’s an opportunity while being in Washington that you can’t miss.”

Some students said they look forward to dressing up and going out for the big event.

“My guy won and I like formal events,” sophomore Matt Gula said. “The inauguration is a big deal and I would like to be a part of it.”

The ball begins at 8 p.m. and ends at midnight. The event is sold out.

The hotel is located at 2500 Calvert St., near the National Zoo. Students can take cabs, use the Metro Woodley Park stop on the red line or a free shuttle service provided by GW leaving from Funger Hall at Foggy Bottom campus and in front of the library Mount Vernon campus.

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