Pinellas events will celebrate Obama inauguration from afar

A lot of people will be looking to celebrate next week's inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, but not everyone will make it up to Washington, D.C. Most hotels are sold out. Flights are fairly expensive to book, and tickets are scarce.

Luckily, those not willing to brave the millions in the nation's capital will still have some outlets to party here in town. A variety of public and private events are taking place for the historic occasion. And it's surely cheaper than the D.C. fare. Some tickets for the official inaugural balls run in excess of $150 and are by invitation only.

The Pinellas County Democratic Party is trying to replicate the experience for less with an inaugural ball at Gulfport Casino on Tuesday. Tickets are $20, and party chairman Ramsay McLauchlan said they have been selling briskly; he added that sales may be cut off in the next few days.

Proceeds will benefit the organization. McLauchlan said tickets could have been more expensive, but the price was kept low so more people could participate. "This could have been more lucrative, but we wanted everybody to be able to attend," McLauchlan said.

He hopes the event will pull in between $2,000 and $3,000. McLauchlan said it did not go unnoticed that it has been 12 years since the local party could celebrate the inauguration of a Democratic president.

And yes, further layering the activities there are preparty inaugural events. The Stonewall Democrats are planning a happy hour party at Domain Food and Spirits, which is close to Gulfport Casino. "We wanted to get going early," said Rick Boylan, president of the group, which promotes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender causes in Pinellas. "We're just very excited about change," he said.

The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum is hosting an inaugural luncheon at the Coliseum at 11 a.m. to view the swearing-in ceremony.

The luncheon will have a bipartisan flavor with St. Petersburg's Republican Mayor Rick Baker addressing the event. Tickets for that clock in at $25 per plate.

A lot of people also are gearing up for smaller, private home and neighborhood events. Throughout the election season, Obama, a former community organizer, promoted local gatherings to work for the campaign. Now people are enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Gena Keebler, who volunteered for the Obama campaign, is one of the few lucky people who has a ticket for the actual inauguration.

But she has been inundated with e-mails inviting her to different private house parties here with friends and other acquaintances. "I'm sure there are a lot of watch parties going on all over," she said.

Austin Bogues can be reached at abogues@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8872.

Pinellas events will celebrate Obama inauguration from afar 01/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 5:45pm]

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