Get On Board! Make Inauguration Plans Now
Barack Obama’s second swearing-in could be last for a black man
Hard to believe that it's been four years since the nation’s first African American president was sworn in – and we were staring at the enormous gray bow atop Aretha Franklin’s church hat during Barack Obama’s inauguration.
But it’s almost that time again – and given the historic nature of the event, it could be the last time you see a black man sworn in as president for a really long time.
Most activities surrounding Obama’s second installment are scheduled for Jan. 21, although the nation’s official inaugural day is Jan. 20. (This year, Jan. 20 falls on a Sunday. A private oath of office will be administered by noon on that day to adhere to law.)
For those expecting the mad dash for tickets to the ceremony and the formal balls, along with prime hotel rooms and transportation arrangements – reminiscent of the record-breaking attendance for the 2009 festivities – it seems the excitement hasn’t quite returned in full force.
“I don’t see the hype yet,” said Bernice Cannings, owner of BC Tours and Travel in the Washington, D.C., area. “Last time, the minute [Obama] won, people were going nuts.”
Attending the inauguration for any individual far enough outside of the Beltway could easily cost $1,500. That’s a pretty penny after having just tapped out from Christmas holiday spending. There’s no shortage of companies and private citizens looking to profit, like so many did in 2009. However, getting there on a modest budget is doable.
“People are hoping that it will be like it was four years ago,” Cannings said in a phone interview. “People are trying to rent their homes and that kind of stuff. I heard someone was trying to rent [a] condo for $5,000.”
Cannings, who has run her travel agency for 20 years, said she is willing to help anyone looking for help making their inauguration plans. The absence of hype doesn’t mean that right now isn’t a prime time to get arrangements in order. By Christmas things could become increasingly more difficult to find, Cannings said. For instance, January airfare, train tickets and buses into Washington-metro area are currently at the rates they would be if it weren’t a presidential election year.
Lodging is a different story altogether. Patch.com reports that Georgetown Suites, located 2 1/2 miles from the site of the swearing in ceremony, had booked all 220 of its suites for that weekend by Nov. 7, the day after Obama’s re-election. For the big spending corporate groups or families, the Ritz Carlton is offering a special “West Wing” inauguration package for $201,300, according to a press release. That kind of dough reserves “an exclusive block of guest rooms” at its Five Diamond Georgetown location and includes inaugural related amenities.
On the travel sites Priceline, Hotwire and Expedia, quotes for Jan. 20 through 22 hotel stays start as low as $260 per night, for locations as many as 20 miles away from Reagan National Airport. The airport is 3 1/2 miles from the airport. (Dulles International Airport in Virginia is also an option.) This is where splitting the room cost with two or three friends may come in handy and increase the chance you can afford a hotel closer to the action.
The Craigslist housing section for Washington, D.C., had about 180 postings for lodging at private apartments, condos and vacation homes as of mid-November. Many of the apartments are going for $400 per night and entire homes are being offer for $22,000 in nearby Virginia. Beware of scammers, as one Craigslist posting warns.
Of course, the swearing in ceremony itself, and inaugural balls on evenings prior to or after the swearing in, requires some advanced planning. You don’t need tickets to be on the National Mall to see the inauguration. Jumbo screens are positioned cross the sprawling lawn and that’s where most will be watching. In January, Senators and member of the House of Representatives will be distributing inauguration tickets for viewing areas closest to where Obama will take the oath. While method of distribution is up to that member of Congress, ticket distribution will likely be done by lottery. Now is a good time to contact your senator or Congressperson for instructions.
The inaugural parade of the president and first lady down Pennsylvania Ave to the White House doesn’t require a ticket.
There are 10 official inaugural balls and a slew of unofficial balls and events that require tickets. The Neighborhood, Youth, and Commander-in-Chief’s inaugural balls vary in cost, but can go for as much as $300. A ticket to the HBCU ball is now $250. If balls aren’t your thing, it’s likely that just about every party promoters in the Washington D.C.-metro area will have information on a bash.
Lastly, for those on the fence about paying anything to attend, consider this: most people thought they’d never live to see an African American elected leader of the free world, let alone attend his (or her) inauguration, and its entirely possibly that, after Jan. 21, the nation might never do it again.