SEATTLE — An ornate former vaudeville house, the state Senate chamber, a college basketball court and parties in people’s homes drew uncounted thousands of Washington state residents to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Hundreds poured into the food court of Center House at the Seattle Center, starting at 8 a.m.
“It kind of makes me want to cry,” said Paula Rojo, a Seattle Center employee. “It’s historic, and maybe it’s everybody else’s emotions around me. Everyone seems so happy.”
Shanda Sciacqua drove about 30 miles to attend with her 8-month-old daughter, Camille, who wore a big Obama button on her pink jumper.
“We had to come in to be part of the celebration. I just wanted to feel all the energy,” Sciacqua said. “It’s an amazing thing for our country, the change that is happening … in human rights, the environment, the economy, education for all — the list can go on and on.”
Cheering as intense as on the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C., rocked the plush Paramount Theater, filled to its 2,807-seat capacity as scores were turned away, when Obama took the oath of office and gave his inaugural address. Obama Cola, an orange pop made for occasion by Jones Soda, was a hot seller in the lobby at $5 a four-pack.
Madeline Moy of Seattle, a marketing manager for a nonprofit company, wheeled a stroller with her 14-month-old son Lucas through the lobby after Obama finished speaking.
“It was really important for me to bring Lucas because it’s going to have such an effect on his future,” Moy said.
“There was a lot of good energy,” said Christine Ditzler, a visiting student from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., after she watched from the balcony. “It was nice to be around a lot of people rather than watching it alone at home.”
Home but not alone was just the ticket for Richard Hart, who served breakfast, coffee and mimosas to about three dozen people at his house for the start of a daylong celebration in the north-central Washington town of Winthrop, and Patricia Santangelo, who greeted nearly 20 Skagit County Democrats for the first of a couple of potlucks in her house in Anacortes.
“We had party horns blowing, we had a lot of clapping and cheering. We also passed around the Kleenex,” Santangelo said.
She said home gatherings were the best option in Anacortes, about 60 miles north of Seattle, because “none of the big venues has cable — even the library.”
Hart, a historian who testifies as an expert witness in Native American litigation, said he considered attending the inauguration in Washington, D.C., where he spent last week conducting research at the National Archives.
“We finally decided we’d have just as much fun here,” he said.
Hart said most of his guests came from within about 20 miles, but a handful he had never met came from the west side of the state, a drive of more than 150 miles, after seeing his gathering listed on the MoveOn.org Web side and inquiring via e-mail.
There was little legislative activity at the Capitol in Olympia as about 40 senators, staffers and spectators watched the inaugural address on two large projector screens in the Senate chamber. Highlights drew applause but the mood was largely subdued and the Republican side was nearly empty.
“I always knew it would happen. I’m an optimistic person. If you don’t have hope and a vision it will never happen,” said Sen. Rosa Franklin, D-Tacoma, the Senate’s only African-American. “Now our country has really come to the realization at this point in time that issues like race are not relevant.”
At Washington State University in Pullman, many students watched the inauguration in class. The ceremony also was shown on the big screen in the Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum, where basketball teams play.
“Lots of students attended,” women’s basketball coach June Daugherty said.
“What a great day for our country,” Daugherty added. “I’m glad the student-athletes could watch.”