More than 3,000 GW students, staff members and guests celebrated the inauguration of President George W. Bush with glitz and glamour Saturday night at GW’s third inaugural ball, held for the first time off campus at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.
The ball has been held in the Marvin Center in the past, but this year’s ball was moved off campus because of ongoing construction on the building’s ballroom.
Featuring performances by GW music groups, political lookalikes, hors d’oeuvres and two dance floors, the Cinderella-esque evening followed a day of festivities honoring the transfer of power to the new president. Although the president, first lady, and vice president were invited, they did not make an appearance at the event.
“I think this is one of the best we’ve ever had,” said GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who attended the gala clad in black jacket and baseball cap. “Even with the Marvin Center complete, I’m tempted to keep holding balls in places like this. It adds authenticity.”
The location of the ball was undetermined until mid-January pending an election decision and the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s picks for party locations, said Jim Hess, director of University Special Events.
“Off campus we can get bigger venues, but venues are not guaranteed,” he said.
Students said they were impressed with the atmosphere of the evening.
“It’s gorgeous, more than I expected it to be,” said freshman Courtney Prutzman. “It’s very chic.”
GW sold out all 3,100 tickets to the event, Hess said. Touting the evening as the “Unofficial Youth Ball” in the absence of a sanctioned youth event for the inauguration Saturday, Hess said students made up about three-fourths of the crowd.
“I like the idea of many different generations here,” Trachtenberg said, “It’s America’s youth ball, right here.”
The contemporary pop and party sounds of local cover band Odyssey played in the hotel’s main ballroom while GW band King James and the Serfs of Swing, led by music professor Jim Levy, shared their big-band jazz stylings with a smaller crowd across the hall.
In between sets, Odyssey was supplemented by a disc jockey, and the Serfs of Swing shared the stage with other GW groups The Hippotones, The Vibes and The Troubadours.
Early in the evening professional political impersonators of George W. Bush and Jesse Ventura greeted and posed for pictures with the politically diverse crowd.
As the Bush impersonator took the stage introduced as president, crowd reaction and camera flashes rivaled an actual appearance by the president, until the actor spoke and revealed his identity.
“The Bush impersonator was surprising, it adds a little more sparkle to the night,” said Kathryn Hoeflich, a sophomore at American University.
“I think a lot of people didn’t know it wasn’t him,” senior Lisa Arnold said.
Both ballrooms offered wide selections of food, including a meat-carving station, vegetables, cold cuts, pasta, desserts, soft drinks and cash bars. Ice sculptures decorated the main ballroom, with designs including a 500-pound hippo and Republican and Democrat ice emblems.
“Something GW does is they throw these events very well, with class,” freshman Anne Ketterer said. “You’ve got the wardrobe of a wedding or a prom, but the food is better.”
Republicans and Democrats alike seemed to enjoy the evening, regardless of their opinion of the election outcome.
“I don’t really like George Bush, I just wanted to come because it was fun,” Arnold said.
Others said the ball was a good ending to the day’s inaugural festivities. “I went to the inauguration this morning, it was awesome,” said freshman and Republican Joseph Schwartz. “All in all it’s really nice, a really good party.”
Junior Noelle Hauer said she liked taking advantage of being in the nation’s capital during the inauguration. “This is just amazing, I can’t believe we’re here in Washington D.C,” she said. “I walked in and my mouth just hit the floor.”