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Inaugural festivities set, public invited to Inaugural Ball

The inauguration ceremony for Idaho’s top elected officials is set for next Friday, Jan. 9, starting at noon at the state Capitol. Officials to be sworn in on the Capitol steps are the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state controller, attorney general and superintendent of public instruction. Then, on Saturday night, Jan. 10, the public is invited to the Inaugural Ball, a nonpartisan tradition in Idaho since 1913.

Held in the rotunda of the Capitol, the Inaugural Ball cost $25 a person; it’s not a fundraiser for anything, as it’s financed entirely by ticket sales. This is separate from the political fundraisers that generally are held at other locations the same day. Tickets to the Inaugural Ball are available online here; they’ll also be sold in the garden level of the Capitol all next week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Idaho National Guard’s 25th Army Band will play, and doors will open at 7 p.m. The traditional Grand Procession of elected officials and distinguished guests will begin at 8. At the first ball in Idaho’s newly built Capitol in 1918, a newspaper report at the time described how the procession “wound up and over the spacious staircases … like a many-colored serpent of various hues.” Col. Tim Marsano of the Idaho National Guard, which coordinates the ball, said in a news release, “It is much the same today as it was then.”

The state will open up its Capitol Mall parking lots and garages for free parking for ball attendees, including the new garage at 7th and Washington streets.

Inaugural ball moved to Capitol

OLYMPIA — The location of the Inaugural Ball, which has been the subject of much kvetching since it was announced several months ago, has changed. It will be back at the Capitol.

The Capitol has been the traditional location for the inaugural celebration, and the domed Legislative Building even has a large reception room with a dance floor (usually covered with a rug) for the inaugural dance.

A few months ago, however, the Inaugural Ball Committee announced it would hold the ball at the St. Martin's University gymnasium because of concerns over security and traffic control at the Capitol.

Admittedly, parking is not ample, and some streets around the Capitol aren't very wide.

But the announcement generated some biting complaints. A petition to return the ball to the Capitol circulated. One high-ranking legislator said he wouldn't be going out to the  because "I already attended a prom, in high school." Some incoming office-holders, who will be inaugurated that day, also weren't pleased.

The committee held firm — until  Friday afternoon, when it announced the ball is being moved back to the Capitol grounds "through a cooperative effort" with Gov. elect Jay Inslee's transition team and the Department of Enterprise Services.

"The logistical concerns that first demanded a move away from the Capitol have been discussed with the relevant players, managed and changes have been made that will help with accessibility and security," spokeswoman Lisa Cosmillo, the committee spokeswoman, said in a press release. St. Martins "graciouisly released" the committee from its commitment.

Condon’s ball raises more than $20,000 for Chase Youth Foundation

Addressing the crowd at his inaugural ball, Spokane Mayor David Condon said he will strive to be like Jim Chase, the popular mayor who led the city when Condon was a boy.

More than 400 people attended Condon's $75-a-plate Our Town Gala on Saturday night at the Lincoln Center in North Spokane. Proceeds will go to the Chase Youth Foundation, the financial arm of the youth commission that Chase fought to create when he was mayor in the 1980s.

Condon praised Chase for the stability he brought to the city as well as his gentle nature. He said the event, which was attended by many political, business and other leaders, raised more than $20,000 for the foundation.

Last year, former Mayor Mary Verner opted to eliminate the city's Youth Department, which oversaw the Chase Youth Commission. Condon supported the decision because of the city's financial problems. But Saturday, he vowed that the city would maintain a strong relationship with the commission even if taxpayer funding is much smaller.

"I am unwilling to let budget pressures push aside" the commission, he said.

Three Chase Youth commissioners addressed the crowd after a buffet-style dinner.

Condon will host inaugural ball to benefit Chase Youth Foundation

Spokane Mayor David Condon will host a formal dinner and dance on Jan. 28 to celebrate the start of his mayoral term and raise money for the Chase Youth Foundation.

Erik Nelson, president of the foundation, said invitations will be mailed soon but that the event will be open to anyone willing to pay the $75-per-person price. The foundation will get all the revenue, some of which will be used to cover costs.

The ball will be held Jan. 28 at the new McKinstry building, which is a renovated railroad building along the Spokane River near Washington State University-Spokane. 

It will be called the 2012 Our Town Gala, Nelson said. Condon used the slogan "This is our town" throughout his campaign.

The Chase Youth Foundation will take on greater responsibility this year after Verner and the Spokane City Council opted to eliminate the city's Youth Department, which worked with the foundation and Chase Youth Commission on youth programs and events.

Folks who don't get invitations but want tickets to the gala can email Nelson at chaseyouthspokane@gmail.com.

Tickets go on sale today for Inaugural Ball, the public, self-funding one

Tickets go on sale today for the Inaugural Ball, a once-every-four-years public event that celebrates the inauguration of the new governor and includes a “grand procession” of elected officials in the state capitol. This affair is separate from the pricey political events also typically held in conjunction with inaugurals; this one is for the public, and anyone can go for the price of a $20 ticket.

The ball will be Satuday Jan. 8th, with doors opening at 7 p.m. and the grand procession of statewide elected officers, legislators and distinguished guests beginning at 8. It’s a dressy, family-friendly event with punch and cookies, dancing to the music of the 25th Army Band from the Idaho National Guard, and lots of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts on hand, doing everything from helping with coat check and serving refreshments to getting the first dances with the first lady and governor. Tickets are on sale at the Welcome Center in the garden level of the state capitol, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays excluding holidays. They also can be purchased online here.

State law charges the Idaho National Guard’s adjutant general with administering the ball, which is funded entirely through ticket sales. The adjutant general also oversees the public inauguration ceremony for the governor and constitutional officers, which is set for Jan. 7 at noon on the capitol steps.

Tomorrow the budget, tonight the chocolate fountain…

From the print paper:

OLYMPIA – Thursday, state lawmakers will resume their pick-and-shovel work with the state budget, trying to find the least painful ways to bridge a $6 billion budget shortfall.

But first, some tapenade with smoked tomato crostini.

In a tradition dating to the mid-1800s, thousands of gown- and tuxedo-clad revelers will flock to the Capitol tonight for Gov. Chris Gregoire’s second inaugural ball.

Three ice-carving companies have been called in for the occasion, along with hundreds of volunteers to serve up a long list of hors d’oeuvres, including Moroccan lamb tagine, crab mousse, grass-fed beef carpaccio and tartlets. Shellfish companies are offering up raw geoduck and four types of oysters. A Yakima Valley company made a wine especially for the ball.

“It’s lots of beautiful gowns and men in tuxes,” said Lisa Cosmillo, a volunteer spokeswoman for the ball. “It’s really just a beautiful event.”

Asked about the contrast between the spectacle and the reality of the state’s budget crisis – which includes looming layoffs, cuts to health care and a leaner social safety net – organizers note that the $225,000 event is paid for by corporate donations and the $100-a-person tickets.

“It’s not something that is in any way paid for by taxpayer dollars,” Cosmillo said, “so it’s not anything that we felt obligated to cancel …  The ball goes on, no matter what.”

The ball’s roots date to 1853, when Olympia residents organized a welcome dinner at a local hotel for newly arrived territorial Gov. Isaac Stevens. In the 1930s, the balls were held at a local American Legion hall, and later, at a National Guard armory, hotels and a college. Since 1985, the balls have been held at the state Capitol.

Not all lawmakers attend.

“I don’t look good in a tuxedo, and my wife isn’t interested in going,” said Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. He’s only been to one inaugural ball, for former Gov. Mike Lowry.

Said Schoesler, the Senate Republican floor leader, “Twenty-eight years of Democratic governors is not really our cause for celebration.”

In a nod to the nation’s recession, Gregoire asked participants to donate to local food banks. “These are tough times and our challenges are many,” the governor wrote in the official program. “But in partnership with all of you, and in a spirit of hope, determination and generosity, we will emerge stronger than ever. Tonight, let’s celebrate. Let’s celebrate how far we’ve come, and our bright future ahead in One Washington.”

“There’s never been any thoughts of canceling it,” said ball President Dan Neuhauser. “It went on during the Great Depression. We’ve got a lot of tradition to go forth with it.”

Besides, he said, canceling the popular event would leave many people unhappy. “It’s always sort of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t sort of deal,” he said. “You catch it either way.”