Obama's ball: No room to dance, but a night to remember

Mon Jan 21, 2013 11:19pm EST
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By Andy Sullivan and Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Whoever coined the term "to the victor goes the spoils" did not have President Barack Obama's official inauguration party in mind.

They knocked on doors for him and helped him win re-election, but when Obama supporters put on their tuxedos and ball gowns to celebrate the start of his second term in office, they feasted on pretzels, peanuts and Cheez-its.

"This is the food? I'm not too thrilled about it. It's for the birds," said Ben Shelly, who helped mobilize support for Obama on the Navajo reservation in Arizona.

Dancing was also difficult: it was much too crowded in front of the stage to manage more than an easy shoulder roll when pop stars like Alicia Keys and Brad Paisley played their hits.

But that did not stop Obama backers from partying with their president, and celebrating the brief moment when the rancor of the campaign has faded and the tough work of his second term has yet to begin.

"I love the fact that we re-elected the first African-American president against all of the odds of the economy," said Vega Subramanian, an Indian immigrant who attended with her wife. "I want to do everything I can to support his views in favor of immigrant rights, in favor of gay rights, in favor of all of us."

Inaugural balls have been a Washington fixture since the city's earliest days, when James Madison celebrated with a dance at a downtown hotel in 1809.

Things got somewhat out of hand at Andrew Jackson's inaugural party in 1829, when thousands of revelers crowded into the White House, breaking thousands of dollars worth of china and forcing the new president to flee to Virginia for the night. Staffers managed to bring the party to a close by dragging the vats of punch out on the lawn.   Continued...

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, wearing a Jason Wu dress, dances with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Commander in Chief's ball in Washington, January 21, 2013. REUTERS/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/POOL