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Video: Western States Ball

VIDEO | Western States Ball

Inauguration Watch checked out one of Obama's 10 official inaugural balls last night to get a first-hand view of what these galas are all about. We prepared by listening to inaugural ball veteran Roxanne Roberts give advice (and warnings about what snooze-fests these things usually are). And we had gotten a behind-the-scenes tour of the Washington Convention Center ballrooms and an interview with the executive chef last week, so we had some idea how crowded it would be and what the food would be like.

So how'd it go? Frankly, Roxanne nailed it. The ballroom was cavernous, sucking the life out of what might have been a nice intimate evening in a cozier venue. Sure, Marc Anthony put on a fine set, and his wife J. Lo. made a non-so-surprising guest appearance. And celeb sightings included Tyra Banks, Tom Hanks, Kal Penn, Nancy Pelosi and more. But the food tasted like what it was--mass-produced--cocktails cost $9 and took a while to get in the lines, and the ballroom was so big -- at least a football field in length--that the party seemed dispersed and antiseptic, despite thousands of people being there.

And the worst part? The madhouse at coat check after the event was over. Obama showed up around 11:30 p.m. to address the Western States Ball crowd and have a brief dance with wife Michelle, and when he left, so did pretty much every person in the room--massing around the elevators, then piling into the coat check area -- thousands of people with little ticket stubs trying to find identical looking overcoats. It took most people more than half and hour, easy, just to get out of that area.

Final verdict: We're glad we went once, but pretty sure we wouldn't do it again. If we got tickets to the Neighborhood Ball, though, that might be a different story.

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  January 21, 2009; 2:08 PM ET  | Category:  The Balls
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I attended the Youth Ball at the Washington Hilton. After we stood in line for over 2 hours we were finally let in only to discover that the performers had already begun and we were locked out of the ballroom. I know that many would respond with the question, when did you arrive? Well early of course, just like everyone else. We were shockingly surprised by a line of police officers yelling at us to move back all while we watched the doors to the ball shut in our faces. The doors shut locking several thousand people out of the ballroom. While this may have not been a ball for adults, we "youth" can speak up like adults. We (and by we I mean several thousand others) repeatedly asked the police what was the reason for not letting us in but our questions were always answered with "I don't know." I'm sure this was a response many heard from police during the entire weekend. I know it is not their fault but information is golden and people would have been happy to hear that we would never see the inside of the ballroom we anticipated (and paid for) all evening. I was stuck in the lobby when Kid Rock performed, I was stuck in the lobby when Kanye performed, and I was stuck in the lobby when President Obama came to the Youth Ball. There were 2 tvs set up in an ajoining room to watch the performances but they kept cutting in and out while the show was on. This was such a disappointment. It wasn't until after 3 hours of waiting in the lobby did we hear any information as to why we were locked out of the ballroom...it was because the room was filled to capacity and breaking fire code. This was a shock as usually people who buy tickets to events are allowed to enter into those events. I was one of the lucky few who were randomly let into the ballroom at the end of the Fall Out Boy performance (1 1/2 songs) because others had left after Obama came to the Ball. I was happy to be able to see a part of a performance but was incredibly disappointed at the lack of information and access into the Youth Ball. I was very fortunate to get the chance to attend the Youth Ball and I am not trying to bite the hand that feeds me but I was shocked that we never even had the chance to see President Obama. I hope others had a better time at the Youth Ball and took in this wonderful night in history...I was too busy being left out in the lobby.

Posted by: LeftOutintheLobby | January 21, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

I was one of the very lucky to attend the Neighborhood Ball. I had read all of the reviews about how awful balls typically are, and this was my first, but was absolutely amazed with this one. Doors opened at 5 and I got in the line outside at approximately 5:45. It moved quickly after turning the corner and we were soon in the tents for the security check, which went very smoothly and quickly. Coat check was a breeze and we went upstairs to wait in another line at approximately 6:10. The doors opened around 6:15 and we got into the ball at 6:30. Easy and quick. The food wasn't fantastic and the drinks were expensive ($12 for champagne), but EVERYTHING else was spectacular...including coat check at the end of the evening (though we left a little early to go to another unofficial ball). Would DEFINITELY go to a ball like this again.

Posted by: bamatiger99 | January 22, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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