Pictured above, President Bush, presidential seal adorning his cowboy boots, poses recently with his wife and parents. By Eric Draper, White House via AP.
A little of the Lone Star State comes to the nation's capital tonight when the Texas State Society hosts the Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball.
Seven tractor-trailers pulled into the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel — the largest hotel in Washington — just five days ago to begin preparations. Setting up for the premiere inaugural event is "better than herding cats," says Danny Ward, whose company, Ward & Ames, has handled planning for this event since 1989. At this year's ball, partygoers can expect to see everything from live animals to Lyle Lovett.
A look inside
'"He didn't dance, but he did kick up his heels," says Bill Shute, the ball chairman and chancellor of federal relations for the University of Texas System, of President Bush four years ago.
President and Mrs. Bush are expected to arrive at the ball around 10 p.m. and stay 30 to 50 minutes. Only 4,000 people are allowed in the main ballroom when Bush speaks because of occupancy laws. The remaining 8,000 will watch on plasma-screen TVs. About 40 screens throughout the hotel will broadcast inaugural action.
Twenty-three acts will perform at the ball and pre-parties over two days. Entertainers include Lyle Lovett, Asleep at the Wheel, Yolanda Adams and Neal McCoy — one of the favorite performers of Karl Rove, Bush's chief political adviser.
It's what's for dinner
A family affair
Danny Ward and his wife, Nancy Ames, have organized the Black Tie & Boots Ball for the past four presidential inaugurations. Nancy Riviere, their daughter, also caught the special-events bug and is the coordinator of the Texas Fair & Marketplace.
Planning for this year's event began about a year and a half ago. The ball, which spans three floors, seven ballrooms, three outdoor tents and three exhibit halls, is the largest in the history of the Texas State Society. "It's different from anything we've ever done," Ward says. "This is a celebration of culture and history."Ames says Bush's win really allowed them to play up Texas.
Attendees will get a commemorative cowboy hat and a John Deere cap.
Martha and Gene Brooks have come from Fort Worth to attend the ball. This is Gene's second Black Tie & Boots Ball and Martha's first.
Martha says seeing the President and Mrs. Bush will be a turning point in her life. "Even if you're not a Republican, this is pretty special."
Gene, a Lockheed Martin employee, is also working the company's booth at the Texas Fair. He wouldn't say how many pairs of boots he owns, but he plans to wear his lizard-skin pair to the ball.
The hottest ticket in town
Shute says offers from people seeking tickets to this sold-out event have ranged from tickets to the Miss America pageant to two poems written for him.
Tickets to the ball were sold only to members of the Texas State Society for $125. On Monday night, a pair sold on eBay for $1,400.
About 12,000 people will attend the ball.
A yellow rose of Texas
960 yellow roses have the emblem of the Texas State Society emblazoned on one of their petals. They will be given to attendees of the pre-ball sponsor's dinner.
This year's Black Tie & Boots Ball also falls on the day the Texas State Society celebrates its 100th anniversary. The bi-partisan organization was chartered Jan. 19, 1905. Former society presidents read like a who's who of Texas politics: former president Lyndon Johnson, former House speaker Jim Wright and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Texas comes to Washington
The Texas Fair & Marketplace showcases 50 vendors who sell native products, from cowboy boots to pie-in-a-jar. Other exhibits include: a petting zoo, complete with armadillo, from the Fort Worth Zoo and a Mars rover and space-shuttle suit from NASA. This event is free and open to the public today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The night of the ball, a trick roper will be in the marketplace. He usually ropes beautiful women in ball gowns.
There will also be a couple of live bulls, and one to sit on.