I watched the last presidential inauguration from a small house in Galilee with other American volunteers, some of whom had been part of the Civil Rights Movement. This year was the first time I was in Washington, D.C. for an inauguration. Even  if it wasn’t the “milestone” that 2009 was, it was impressive to witness firsthand the number of people who come from all across the United States and even

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(c) 2013 Kathryn Pharr

One of my friends secured tickets for the inauguration itself. We spent quite a bit of time wandering around the “green section” in front of the Capitol,  trying to find a spot that would enable us to see something of the stage or one of the screens. As is often the case, being close actually meant that we had a hard time obtaining a view. It was quite cold, and my feet were frozen before the ceremony started. For me, one of the most exciting parts of the ceremony was that my rector, Luis Leon, of St. John’s at Lafayette Square gave the benediction. This might be a good time to be honest and admit that I have never made it through listening to a full inaugural speech (but with Bush could you blame me?) or ceremony.

As important of a symbol of our republic as the inauguration ceremony is, I will freely declare that my favorite part of the weekend was going to one of the many inaugural balls. I’ve been trying to figure out a “black tie” event to dress up for ever since I moved to the nation’s capital. There are of course the two official balls by the White House, but many other societies also throw balls; the tickets to some can cost a thousand dollars. Our group settled on the one given by the Society of South Carolina.

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(c) 2013 Chris Kagy

Not only was this ball on my metro line (my criteria) and given by a certain state (this made Ali happy), the venue location was the Natural History Museum. Who doesn’t want to dance the night away around a stuffed elephant?! The clincher to be honest was the amazing value: $150 for open bar and heavy hors d’oeurves, a great venue, and a live band. Many of the balls had tickets from $300 to over $1,000–mind-blowing our group agreed.

Our cohort were thrilled to pull out college or bridesmaid dresses. We decided to order pizza and drink champagne while “doing hair.” A few lessons learned: 1) never expect to get a cab during inauguration weekend, 2) do not wear your fancy heels while metroing to swanky event, and 3) do not believe the Society of South Carolina when they tell you you should eat dinner beforehand. They served catfish, collard greens that were actually yummy, and some of the best mac ‘n cheese I have ever had. The band played beach music, and frankly, nothing could have made the event better.

It was surreal to walk by the Hope Diamond and other famous jewels dressed up with a glass of champagne in hand, that I was half waiting for a heist like in Entrapment. For better or worse, no Catherine Zeta-Jones character materialized.

The one small drawback to the ball was that since it was the night before the inauguration (the series of balls starts on Friday and goes through Monday), I was pretty tired when I had to wake up early to go to the actual inauguration the following morning.

Special thanks to Chris Kagy who did a photo shoot for us before the ball.

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(c) 2013 Chris Kagy