Wall-to-Wall Balls for All

Washingtonian magazine says there are more than 30 balls and parties around Washington on this Inaugural eve.  A couple of hundred Floridians done up in black tie are dining and dancing at the Corcoran Museum of Art, a stone’s throw from the White House.

Streets all around the Corcoran– and throughout central Washington– have been shut down for security reasons.  That means cabs are in short supply, traffic is backed up, and the Metro is attracting a really well-dressed crowd this evening.  We saw scads of black ties and sequined gowns on the Red Line.

Tickets to the “Sunshine and Stars” ball– priced at $150 to $500 a pop– have been sold out for weeks.  Among notable Dems we saw were state CFO Alex Sink– who’s just decided she’s not running to comer here as a US Senator in 2010– and Cong. Ron Klein, who said again tonight he’s pondering a Senate bid. Barack Obama’s first prominent FL political supporter– Cong. Rob Wexler– was also there.

Pretty much everyone you talk to is impressed by the size and the good humor of the crowds that descended on Capitol Hill today.  Security screening created huge lines outside Congressional office buildings, as people from around the country tried to get Inaugural tickets being distributed by Congresspeople.

But I never heard an angry word out of any of those folks.  They chatted, made new Obama-phile friends, took pictures of each other and the occasion passing political celebrity (Bob Graham got pulled into a few snaps for the folks back home, and I obliged a few people who wanted me to pretend I was interviewing them).

The crowds are well-behaved, but boy, are they big.  I’ve heard that Washington’s Metro subway set a new daily ridership record on Sunday (some 616,000 rides), and probably set another one today.

Almost certainly, tomorrow will set another record, and will provide a severe test for the Metro.  Bridges to and from Virginia are closed to most cars tomorrow, so the trains will be the favored means olf transportation.  Even with the Metro providing its most-frequent rush-hour service throughout the day, a lot of people fear the trains won’t be up to the task.

I met a young Virginian who said he’ll spend the night in the DC beauty salon  where he works, to ensure he won’t miss the Inaugural ceremony. Another friend– a reporter for a California newspaper– is sleeping in his DC office tonight, rather than hazard a commute in from McLean, VA.

Floridians who make it through tomorrow and have energy left to party have one more chance Tuesday evening— the Southern States ball will be held at DC’s National Guard Armory, with the Derek Trucks Band providing Southern-fried boogie, and the Will Gravatt Band playing more sedate numbers.

Me– after a second 16-hour work day, I’ll be asleep.

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