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Diary of an inaugural ball hopper

The Wildcat Wranglers country western stunt and dance team greet attendees of the Black Tie and Boots inaugural ball Jan. 19. (WTOP/Stephanie Steinberg)

Stephanie Steinberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Three nights. Six inaugural balls. I’m not sure what I’m getting myself into.

As part of WTOP’s pre-inauguration coverage, I put together a gallery with some of the most entertaining and expensive inaugural balls around town this weekend. Seriously, I don’t know who has $500 to spend on the Hip Hop Inaugural Ball — or $1,000 for VIP tickets — but if you do, more power to you.

I’ve never been to a ball (I’m from Michigan, where there are only weddings and bar-mitzvahs). And I’m not about to miss out on the opportunity to cover one of these events. I would have chosen one of the two official presidential inaugural balls, but WTOP only received one press pass for each. And, I’ll be the first to admit, I have no business on the airwaves. I’ll happily stick to writing.

So now I just had to decide which unofficial ball to attend. Should I go to the Chef’s Ball where several top D.C. chefs will whip up late-night bites for guests? Or there’s the Hawaiian State Society inaugural ball complete with Hula dancing and island delicacies like lomi lomi salmon tart. Then there’s the chance to catch one of the dozens of celebrities headlining balls and parties everywhere in the District.

I can be a horrible decision-maker, so I took to Twitter for a little help. One of my followers had a good suggestion:

“Hopping around is probably the best call. How many times in your life do you have the chance to do that?”

It’s true. An inauguration only happens every four years. Who knows if I’ll still be in D.C. in 2016, or if I’ll have a press pass that guarantees me free entry? So after some deliberation, I have decided on six balls to attend for a “ball hopping” adventure.

Here’s my schedule (assuming I stay on track and don’t run into any traffic mishaps):

Saturday:

  • Texas State Society Black Tie & Boots Ball in National Harbor, Md. — arrive at 7 p.m.
  • Chef’s Ball in D.C. — arrive at 11 p.m.

Sunday:

  • Hawaii State Society Inaugural Ball in Arlington, Va. — arrive at 6 p.m.
  • Peace Ball in D.C. — arrive at 8:30 p.m.
  • Green Ball in D.C. — arrive at 10:30 p.m.

Monday:

  • Ambassadors Ball in D.C. — arrive at 7 p.m.

(I do have to work that day and the day after, so I thought it would be best to go easy).

In case you’re curious, most of these are black-tie or black-tie optional, but I’m not going to arrive in full-blown ball gown attire. I figure a trailing dress would hamper my abilities to take photographs for the photo gallery my fellow reporters and I are producing. I’m also living on a journalist’s salary. I’ll be honest, three ball gowns I won’t wear again aren’t exactly in my budget.

For those of you reading from the West Coast or local residents who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars for a ticket to one of these parties, I hope to provide you with a little insight into the D.C. inaugural ball scene.

That’s assuming my feet last in my high heels until Monday.

Saturday, Jan. 19 at 6 p.m.

Texas State Society Black Tie & Boots Ball
Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Md.

I knew I was heading in the right direction as I rode up an escalator and the woman in front of me had brown cowboy boots peaking out from her lavender ball gown.

Texans claim they like to do it bigger and better than everyone else, and that mantra was evident at the Texas State Society Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball. Trumpets blared as a Texas high school marching band greeted VIP guests, who strutted arm-in-arm with their date down a red carpet.

As couples continued their grand entrance, they passed a mariachi band that serenaded them before they reached the threshold to the actual ball. This is where the “bigger” and “better” comes in.

High school students dressed in red, white and blue skirts, red leather cowboy boots and black cowboy hats formed two long rows underneath a glowing “Black Tie & Boots” sign. The guys and gals, known as the Wildcat Wranglers, yelled howdy and lifted each other into the air to give a sweeping wave to the couples as they entered the Southwestern world.

Last, but certainly not least, dozens of girls from the Kilgore Rangerettes dance team stood like statues along a glistening white staircase. I whispered to one of them at the end of the line, curious if they had to stand there all night.

The girl with bright red lipstick and blonde locks replied in a sweet Texan accent, “Oh, no ma’am. We’ll be performing a little later.” She politely nodded and smiled as the camera flashes bombarded her.

7:25 p.m.

I’ve been to Dallas, Texas, once, and this party was Texas on steroids.

Nearly all the men donned a black or beige cowboy hat


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