The trek began as early as 2 a.m. for thousands of students staking out spots on the National Mall to mark President Barack Obama’s second and last inauguration.
And the festivities continued late into the night as students stripped their American flag scarves and slipped into tuxedos and ball gowns for the University’s sixth inaugural ball – its largest and most expensive.
Close to 5,500 students, faculty and staff filled the Omni Shoreham Hotel’s seven ballrooms, filtering in and out of each room to salsa, swing dance and watch more than a dozen live performances over the course of four hours.
The extravagant night, a tradition since 1993, racked up a $600,000 price tag this year. Assistant Vice President of Events and Venues Michael Peller said GW was “on track to recoup” most of the costs.
The event was slightly more expensive than the 2009 affair, about $40,000 more in today’s dollars, of which GW recovered about two-thirds. The University also charged $5 apiece for coat checks this year and $9 for each drink ticket.
“We have had a tremendously positive response from those who attended the ball,” Peller said.
For most students, the night culminated a months-long election cycle and a long day of waiting outside in the
Spectators in the non-ticketed sections of the Mall waved American flags, which had handed out by volunteers, throughout the inauguration proceedings. frigid cold for Obama’s second oath into office at the U.S. Capitol building.
The crowd was vast and – like in 2009 – it formed early, though it was filled with nearly 1 million people, as opposed to the 2 million spectators four years ago. Thousands braved the 30-degree chill, marching three miles to the viewing grounds before the Metro opened stations at 4 a.m. Crowds shuffled through chaotic lines and security officers, carrying hot drinks and sandwiches to bear the bitter cold morning.
To pass time until Obama’s oath, some spectators rested on whatever ground they could find or played cards with friends.
After the swearing-in ceremony and inaugural address, in which Obama stressed the need for national equality, students headed back to campus for power-naps and pregames before GW’s inaugural ball.
Draped in a flowing satin gown and taking a break from swing dancing, junior Zahava Eytan said she enjoyed learning the steps to songs like The Flamingo’s “Only Have Eyes for You” and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
Physics professor Allena Opper, who listened to the band from a candlelit table with her husband, said she had attended black tie events before, but “nothing like this.”
“My favorite part is seeing the students get up and try the old dances,” Opper said.
The four-hour event ended promptly. Students couldn’t purchase drink tickets past 11 p.m., and the buffets, lined with pot stickers, fruit, skewers and hummus, were cleared out by 11:30 p.m. By midnight, the night’s scheduled end-time, the coatroom line had already overflowed into the hallway, and students congregated outside to snag spots on shuttles back to campus.
Freshman Kait Haire, dressed in a lace BCBG dress, said she would be sad to leave.
“This is a thousand times better than I could have expected – the closest thing I’ve ever attended like this is prom, and that’s nowhere near this,” Haire said.