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Youth Ball, Part I

Kid Rock at the Youth Ball. (Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi)

Our colleague DeNeen Brown reports:

Early on at the Youth ball, a smell of barbecue is spilling out onto the dance floor and Kid Rock is singing an old song, which he says, "sums up how I feel." He strums a guitar and sings: "Day after day I'm more confused. Look for the light in the pouring rain..."

And the crowd of "youth," young people who fueled Obama's campaign, sing along to this old song, an Obama generation song. They know the words. They hold plastic cups from a cash bar. Some dance bare foot. The feel is very much like a high school prom. Girls in long dresses dancing in groups. Crowds standing near the stage.

At 8:51, the organizers open a back door and in comes a stream of young people. Three women in black satin stand in middle of floor and swing low on young knees. It was hard to find anyone with gray hair in the crowd.

Allan McFarlane, 28, and Ashlee McFarlane, 25, said that Ashlee worked for the Democrats of Georgia, which is how she made friends with a person on the Presidential Inaugural Committee who invited her to the ball. They said tickets cost $75.

Allan stands near the back, still feeling the speech: "I thought it was powerful to hear it in person. It was mind-blowing."

Ashlee, in a chocolate satin gown, her hair swept up, said she couldn't wait for the Obamas' arrival. "I love the love they have for each other," she said. "I want to see them happy and relaxed. I admire the love and affection they have for each other. I want a glimpse of that."

A girl in a black halter with a tattoo placed perfectly in the middle of her back dances in a circle to "Candy Girl," old music. She steps side to side with a plastic cup in the left hand and silver pouch under her right arm.

A deejay is playing Michael Jackson's "Rock with You." Arms go up. They are dancing to their parents' music at the youth ball. A backdrop of white stars light up a stage where six red beams stand. Now they are playing Prince. A woman in gold with a laced back presses her Palm Pilot.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 21, 2009; 12:15 AM ET
Categories:  Parties  
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Next: Youth Ball, Part II


Many people attending this ball never made it into the hotel or the ballroom.
Yet another disappointing, oversold poorly managed Inaugural Committee event.

Posted by: sassydem | January 21, 2009 3:05 AM | Report abuse

CHANGE?! it appears that the powers that be made us believe in change, than showed us that as far as young adults go, its the staus quo. They'll take our votes, but then let us wait in line for up to 8 hours until we get sick of it and go home. the Youth ball was a sad reward for so many of that worked on this campaign for six+ years. new presdent? check. young people mass voting to elect him? check. powers that be rewarding those same young people with a ball to call our own for all the work we did for six years?? nope. This is NOT CHANGE. this is the staus quo treating youmg people the same way they have have for decades. wow. you really got us believeing in it this time. guess we are just a bunch of suckers.

Posted by: gi_josh69 | January 21, 2009 7:04 AM | Report abuse

I was one of the few who actually made it into the ball but the simple fact was that this was a poorly executed ball. They had one room which had all the food and drink and another room where the bands played and Obama spoke. Unfortunately only a small fraction of people were allowed inside the second ballroom. I'm not sure if that decision was made by the hotel, security, the inauguration committee or MTV, but it was a really bad one to make. If it weren't for the police state that we the hotel there probably would have been a riot.

Posted by: fnht451 | January 21, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

It was, overall, a pretty frustrating and disappointing evening. You do not sell thousands of tickets to a Ball, when the ballroom capacity is 900.

More than that, you pay money to go to a "Ball" and expect to be in a "ballroom," rather than shoved in with hundreds of people in what the authorities termed a "holding area." Not to mention the fact that water cost 5$. It was poorly executed; no one knew what was going on; and, though there were small screens, there were still too many people NOT let into the ballroom to really get a good look at Obama (or the concert goers) on the "jumbo" screen (which was not so much jumbo as it was a 32 inch flat screen). I will admit a sick sense of pleasure when I watched Rosario Dawson have to be escorted from the wrong "holding area" into the ballroom . . . apparently someone thought she was just another complaining youth.

All in all, a better night would have been had watching the festivities from the comforts of home, rather than from amongst a riotous crowd surrounded by rude authorities who did not have a clue as to what was going on.

Posted by: bfinn82 | January 21, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the other posters about how awful this event turned out to be. Between getting physically pushed back by fire marshal and metro pd, to having staff give us the wrong information about how to get our pictures taken, to over zealous secret service agents who hours after the president left were yelling at guests they went out the wrong exit. Maybe it looked good on TV, but I think the PIC did a lousy job on this one. I never thought I would have to watch entertainment or the president at an inaugural ball on a little 32 inch TV or get treated that poorly after spending $150 for a pair of tickets to an event that charged $5 for a coke.

Posted by: roteki | January 21, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I had been warned to not get my hopes up for an inauguration ball, I was still shocked by how poorly run this event was. Aside from not being able to get into the main ballroom (which was the whole reason for going), there were hundreds left outside at midnight being told they couldn't get in at all.

Posted by: readingsmith | January 21, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree. Basically the Commission screwed the pooch entirely at this ball. Obama owes the enormous numbers of staffers of his that did not get in a serious apology. Especially after many of them endured the purple ticket fiasco this morning.

Posted by: creweeny | January 21, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

The Youth Ball was a total fiasco. My friends and I feel like we've been cheated. God help us all if the organizers actually get jobs with the Administration.

Posted by: ironmange | January 21, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

I have to say that I am truly disappointed in the PIC for planning this event the way they did. I don't think it was poorly planned, I don't think that someone made a "mistake", I think that they intentionally raped 18-35 year olds of the $75 they paid to get into the so called "ball". They wanted money, and knew that young people are suckers for a good performance lineup. Did you pay off your campaign debts, PIC? Hope so. How do you sell 8,000 tickets to a venue which only holds 900??? I felt like I was doing something wrong, or didn't deserve to be at the event when the Metro security was pushing and yelling at me to go back into the "holding area". If this had been the any other ball they wouldn't have treated us like cattle. Love you Obama, but this was disappointing. Don't oversell next time! Be truthful! Why am I going to pay 75 bucks to be disappointed by standing in what looks like a basement paying 10 dollars for a drink with no where to sit, watching a 32 inch screen (which went out shortly after Kid Rock started to perform)?? I'll never go to an inaugural event ever again...You won't get any more of my money. EVER

Posted by: QuarterLife | January 23, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I was so dissapointed by what happened at this ball. I hope that the obama administration makes it up to us the youth by holding another ball and letting everyone who has a ticket to the youth ball in. We were treated with so much disrespect. I saw woman who had their backs out in their evening gowns standing in line for over two to three hours. My wife felt like she had frost bite this was really un called for if we are the future you should treat us like we mean something to this country. We love you Mr president but we are calling on you to make this mess right this needs to be rectified and the youth need to feel like we are appreciated

Posted by: sneadtrucking | January 23, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

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