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Posted at 3:23 PM ET, 11/ 7/2008

The Inauguration: The Planning Begins

By Fritz Hahn

The U.S. Capitol, awash in flags and dignitaries for the 2005 inauguration. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today/Pool)

The questions everyone's asking this week are about planning for January. While many of the specifics are still up in the air -- the bipartisan Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies was only formed this week -- here's a guide to what we know so far and what to expect. We'll be continually adding information on all inauguration events on the blog as we get it, so watch this space for updates.

How do I get tickets to the inauguration?

The only way to get them is to contact your senator or representative. (See this list of official Web sites for senators and representatives.) Tickets to the swearing-in ceremony will be sent out in January by members of the 111th Congress -- the one that was elected earlier this month.

Be warned that demand is high: Eleanor Holmes Norton already has a message on her Web site asking "Please do not call or e-mail this office" for tickets, and that she can't take any more names. "We are in discussions with President-Elect Barack Obama's office and other officials on how to best accommodate the high demand. Check here [] for details in the future."

It's not all doom and gloom. Steny Hoyer is still taking requests for tickets through his Web site, and the offices of Virginia representatives Jim Moran and Frank Wolf are still taking names of constituents interested in attending.

If you've seen "inaugural tickets for sale" on Craigslist, the Inaugural Committee warns that "Any website or ticket broker claiming that they have inaugural tickets is simply not telling the truth."

Q: How much of the parade will I be able to see?

The parade, which follows Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol the the White House after the swearing-in ceremony, features marching bands, floats and an appearance by the President and his family. The best views come on high bleachers, which are usually filled with donors and supporters who paid a lot of money for tickets.

If you don't have bleacher tickets, you can join the rest of the crowds angling for a spot along Pennsylvania Avenue on a historic day.

Will you actually be able to watch the parade or catch a glimpse of President Obama? That remains to be seen (or not seen), but you'll have a far better chance than at the last inauguration. Earlier this year, a judge ruled that the Bush administration violated the public's right to free speech by forcing protesters to gather in two small areas and restricting access to much of Pennsylvania Avenue to ticketholders. As a result, the National Park Service's new proposals will open "about 70 percent" of Pennsylvania Avenue to the public and to demonstrators.

The locations of viewing stands along the parade route have not been finalized, so we can't tell you where to stand yet, but rest assured we'll have more posts later with the details.

How do I get tickets to an inaugural ball?

There are two kinds of inaugural balls: The official ones, which draw politicos, celebrities, party donors and supporters, and the smaller parties hosted by state societies and other groups. The official balls, organized by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, have yet to announce locations or themes. Tickets for those will go on sale closer to the inauguration, though it's difficult for the public to get access.

The unofficial balls may be smaller, but they're no less important -- President Bush stopped by several in 2005, including the American Legion's Salute to Heroes ball for veterans at the Capitol Hilton and the Texas State Society's legendary Black Tie and Boots inaugural ball, which drew 12,000 revelers to the Marriott Wardman Park.

Tickets are already on sale for the Illinois Inaugural Ball, which is being held at the Renaissance Hotel on 9th Street on Monday, Jan. 19. Admission to the "Gala Reception, Dinner and Ball" costs $500, including a three-course dinner, live entertainment and open-bar reception. Admission to just the ball -- which takes place over four ballrooms -- is $300 until Dec. 15, and $400 after. (See the Illinois State Society Web site to get more information or to purchase tickets.) There's no way to guarantee that the Obamas will show up, but presidents have a pretty good track record of visiting their home states' balls.

In honor of its native son, the Hawaii State Society is throwing its first-ever inaugural ball at the Mandarin Oriental, with live music from Raiatea Helm, the Aloha Boys and other Hawaiian artists. There will also be food and an open bar. Tickets for the event are $200; the Hawaiian State Society site (PDF) has more information about where to send your checks.

Even though it won't be hosting the president this time around, Texas' Black Tie and Boots Ball is a grand affair, taking over the Gaylord National resort at National Harbor for an estimated 15,000 guests. Artists scheduled to perform include Asleep at the Wheel, Kelly Willis and Dale Watson. Tickets are limited to Texas State Society members, though anyone can pay $25 to join the society.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | November 7, 2008; 3:23 PM ET
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Mark Warner does not have an official Senate web site yet, and his campaign site has no inauguration info. Thoughts?

Posted by: Hemisphire | November 7, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

"unofficial balls may be smaller"

Posted by: history75 | November 8, 2008 6:44 PM | Report abuse

I protested at the last 2 inaugural parades -I am so happy to be going to this one as a thrilled supporter.

Posted by: silverspring25 | November 10, 2008 9:46 AM | Report abuse

About the unofficial balls for any out-of-towners (or even locals) who are looking (and maybe can't pay 300-3,000 for a ball) there's a nice listing of all the unofficial balls at I'm attending the Unity in Service one (I like that it's prices are actually reasonable and that the money goes to military families with unexpected needs and scholarship) it's at, but there are all kinds of options for just about everyone.

Don't give up just because you've heard
this ball or that party is sold out, or you think they all cost a million dollars!

Posted by: bsquared31 | November 14, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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