Obama Holding 2 Inaugural Balls, Least in 60 Years

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — With his nation under financial strain, President Barack Obama is restricting the inaugural balls to the lowest number in 60 years, with just two official parties plus a concert honoring military families.

    The subdued celebration revealed Thursday is a big cut in reveling from the 10 balls Obama attended four years ago. Planners say the austerity in festivities is a reflection of tough economic times and an effort to minimize the burden on law enforcement, other security personnel and Washington residents.

    Both balls are being planned at the Washington Convention Center on Monday, Jan. 21, the evening of Obama’s public inauguration at the Capitol on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Under the Constitution, the president’s second term begins Jan. 20 at noon, but he’ll be sworn in privately at the White House — with limited media coverage — since inaugural celebrations traditionally aren’t held on Sundays.

    One party will be the Commander In Chief’s Ball, a tradition started by President George W. Bush for members of the Armed Forces. Tickets will be free for invited guests, including active duty and reserve service members, Medal of Honor recipients and wounded warriors, among others, with troops overseas participating via video. The other ball, simply being called the Inaugural Ball, will be larger than usual and held across all the halls in the vast convention center. Some tickets will be available to the public. For Obama’s first inauguration, six balls were held in the convention center.

    The Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is putting on the parties with donated funds, has yet to announce ticket information or details on talent that will perform at the celebrations. The president and first lady plan to attend both official balls, per tradition. Several other unofficial balls are being planned across Washington during inaugural weekend, giving Obama’s supporters plenty of opportunity to celebrate albeit without their president in attendance.

    The inaugural committee also is planning a children’s concert on Sunday, Jan. 19, hosted by first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, as part of their ongoing effort to support military families. Mrs. Obama also attended a kids’ concert in 2009 with Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, and similar events were held for the inaugurations of Bush and President Bill Clinton. Next month’s concert, also being held at the convention center, will honor children and spouses of those serving in the Armed Forces and feature popular young artists to be announced.

    Inaugural committee spokeswoman Addie Whisenant said the inauguration “will continue the tradition of honoring America’s brave service members and their families who have sacrificed for this nation.”

    Inaugural organizers are expecting a drop in attendance for the whole inaugural affair this year compared with 2009, when a record 1.8 million packed the National Mall to see the first black president sworn into office.

    But in recent times, presidents have tended to increase the celebration to kick off a second term. Bush went from eight balls in 2001 to nine in 2005, although he openly loathed the public display of dancing that is traditional for the first couple and sped through the parties in drop-by fashion.

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