City Desk

Inaugural Ball to Be Held at John A. Wilson Building

D.C. Wire barely scooped LL on this one: Plans are in place to throw a "51st State Inaugural Ball" within the confines of the John A. Wilson Building, the seat of the District government.

The mastermind is Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., with the support of council chair Vincent C. Gray and Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry.

"Why not use the people's building for a people's purpose?" is how Thomas poses it to LL. "We needed to have some local event for local people to be part of this."

How exactly a ball at the Wilson Building would work, LL has no idea. There's no real large room in 100-year-old edifice suitable for a "ball" in the traditional sense; the center atrium sometimes hosts small receptions, but not much beyond that. The biggest rooms otherwise are the council chamber and Room 412, a council hearing room.

Thomas lays it out: Each of the building's five floors, he says, will become a "suite" for music, food, or other purposes. The first floor, for instance, will host the band—"That will be our whole entertainment suite," he says. (Thomas wants Chuck Brown.) Revelers will be able to break off into various rooms to relax, and councilmembers, virtually all of whom will host receptions in their offices earlier in the day for the inagural parade, will again be permitted to host people in their individual offices.

The 51st State ball won't be the only inaugural shindig with a local focus. LL has learned that the D.C. Democratic State Committee is putting together an event for the night of Jan. 18 to be held at Department of Transportation headquarters on New Jersey Avenue SE. Tickets to that event, sources tell LL, are likely to reach into the hundreds of dollars (still quite a bit less than the four-figure rates at some of the most exclusive balls). DCDSC chair Anita Bonds hasn't returned calls for comment.

LL was present at the creation of the city hall event, but he didn't know it at the time; at a Nov. 18 breakfast meeting prior to a council legislative session, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham proposed to his colleagues holding some sort of "people's event," perhaps at the Wilson Building, but his colleagues initially poo-pooed the idea.

Thomas says he took Graham's idea and ran with it.

Many details, it seems, are yet to be hashed out. A council source tells LL this is "not a done deal." For this to happen, there would have to be a plan to raise funds for the event, and security and cleanup concerns would also have to dealt with. Thomas says all that will be taken care of; he says he plans to seek private donations to cover the difference between the event's cost and the revenues raised by the $51 ticket cost.

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  • Adams Morgan

    Oooohhh...Harry Thomas is never going to hear the end of it unless he gives the Grahamstander the star-billing on this you know he thinks he deserves.

  • Babs

    I don't know why Jim Graham is going to be upset, he didn't even support Barack Obama. Let the black man have it dam---, does he have to be in on everything. Maybe Jim Graham should be trying to explain why he was using fire recruits to serve at his so called parties.

  • Anise Jenkins

    A "51st State Inaugural Ball" is a brilliant idea! With a new President being inaugurated who is openly enthusiastic for full statehood for DC, there could not be a better time to hold a public event accessible to all to put DC back on the track for full citizenship rights and control of our destiny! I congratulate my Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr., a long time DC statehood supporter, and also Council Chair Gray and Councilmember Barry (an original Free DC advocate)! Count us in and let Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition know what we can do to help make this a great event! Free DC - Statehood NOW!

  • jrp

    51st State, 51st Star, what a great event in the Nations Capitol for its residents. $51.00 dollars is a small investment to make a statement and have city residents feel a part of the inauguaral events. Harry, you are doing great things in our Ward and for our city. Count me in and let me know how Ward 5 residents can help and be a part of this historic event! Where do we send the check? Please email a flyers so that my neighbors in Ward 5 will know about it and help get the word out.

  • jrp

    What a great way to start New Years Eve 2009. Including 1/2 million DC residents in an affordable event..

  • KCinDC

    It's great that commenters are appearing from somewhere to express their excitement, but has anyone heard a single word about this thing since this blog entry was posted?

  • Nancy H

    I heard Wyclef Jean was performing at the Green Inaugural Ball - I'm there!

  • KCinDC

    Good for you, Nancy, but since tickets cost at least $500 it's not exactly an alternative to the 51st State Ball (if that's happening).

  • Mike

    Tickets are (were?) on sale in person at the Lincoln Theater on U St adjacent to Ben's Chili Bowl. It's $51 in cash (no credit, etc. taken) and have to be there in person to pick up the tickets (no online ordering). They had a single stack of tickets when I picked them up on Monday around 3:30, but they are going fast.

    Make certain to give the Lincoln Theater a call before going to make certain they still have tickets available.

  • dan G

    Where do you get tickets for this event?