Weatherford Democrat

AP Story Section

January 19, 2009

Glitzy Texas inaugural ball more laid back

WASHINGTON (AP) — Move over Longhorn steer and longneck beers. Make room for tropical luaus and Chicago dogs.

The exit of President George W. Bush is a swan song for Texas and all its excess that has dominated the Washington scene the past eight years. President-elect Barack Obama’s home states of Hawaii and Illinois are now the rage.

The Texas Black Tie & Boots ball Monday night, though not an official inaugural ball, was one of the hottest inaugural tickets in 2001 and 2005. The ball is thrown by Texas expatriates wanting to celebrate their state on a Texas scale.

In 2005, tickets were oversold and the Texas State Society sent refunds because the party crowd hit capacity and threatened to break fire code limits. Tickets were on sale on eBay for hundreds more than face value.

Fast forward to this year, when tickets to the Texas ball were going for $200 last week on Craigslist — even though ball organizers were still selling them for $300 each. Ticket sales ended Sunday night.

This year Texans — like Bush — are not the center of the celebration. The ball is being held outside the district, about 15 minutes drive south of the district in Prince George’s County Maryland.

“Texans are absolutely not the story this year except for Bush coming home,” said Bill Miller, an Austin Republican consultant.

Jennifer Sarver, one of the Texas ball organizers, rejected suggestions the Texas party’s popularity has plunged with that of Bush. She said organizers planned a year ago to hold the soiree at the newly opened Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center on the banks of the Potomac River, calling it a Texas-sized location.

“It was a gamble to move out of the district. Now we look like geniuses, given how hard it is to get around the district” with road closures and expectations of overloaded public transportation, Sarver said.

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