The University’s political colors came out more than ever Thursday night as supporters of both parties marked the beginning of a new presidential term at GW’s fourth Inaugural Ball.
More than 4,000 members of the GW community donned their formalwear for the event at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, which was visited by President Bush – or maybe just by comedic look-alike Brent Mendenhall of “Tonight Show” fame. Partygoers had the choice of four ballrooms featuring different types of music, a roving magician to cheer up disenchanted Democrats and palm readers to perhaps shed a glimpse into the next four years.
“The Democrats have put their partisanship aside and we’re all celebrating America’s peaceful transition of government and freedom in all parts of the republic,” said University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who sported a brown cowboy hat for the event.
The ball’s crowd had the option of an endless array of entertainment, including GW’s King James and the Serfs of Swing band, a group singing funk and Motown hits and other student performers. One ballroom was transformed into a club that provided partygoers with glow sticks that later made their way throughout the ball.
GW Bhangra dancers attracted one of the biggest crowds of the night, as they showcased their acrobatic displays in a room dedicated to student performances. The same venue later saw crowds for The Sunday Mail, a GW student band that played for more than an hour.
Trachtenberg thanked all the University’s organizers who helped put the event together and said he looked forward to “students having a good time.” He added that although the real President Bush was invited, the commander-in-chief was busy attending a number of official balls throughout the city.
“I might faint if he came,” said Republican sophomore Alex Valenti, who said she was happy to have seen the president sworn in earlier in the day and celebrate her party’s victory with her best friends.
Commenting on a possible Bush appearance and the packed crowd, Valenti said, “Even if he does come, I don’t know if I would notice since there are so many people.”
Sophomore Lucia Cucinotta also expressed disappointment at the number of people at the sold-out event, as she stood next to a line of more than 50 people waiting to get dessert.
“You pay $75 and you have to wait in all these lines,” she said. “It’s a little disappointing.”
Cucinotta said the ball was still worth the price of admission.
“I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to come to an inaugural ball again,” she said.
For Democrat Cucinotta and her friends, getting to GW’s inaugural ball was difficult enough – for personal reasons.
“I feel a little guilty for being here,” said sophomore Emily Singer, a Democrat. “We’re not really celebrating Bush, but rather the inauguration.”
Despite her ideological differences with the president, Singer said she was having a great time, and was especially enjoying the food. A full buffet featured pasta, meats and vegetables.
Tables were decorated with ice sculptures in the shape of Democratic donkeys, Republican elephants and the GW hippo.
Freshman Andrew Abokhair said he enjoyed the atmosphere and was happy to be celebrating Bush’s victory.
“I really just came for the experience of going to an inaugural ball,” he said.
Some students strove to make themselves part of the glitzy scene. Kristen Kerlee, a freshman at Ohio’s Kent State University who came to visit a friend at GW and attend the ball, wore an elaborate white gown.
“I actually thought so many more people would be dressed like this,” she said, adding that she was glad she made the trip from one of the most important battleground states of the election.