Inaugural Ball to Be Held at Wilson Building

Inaugural Ball to Be Held at John A. Wilson Building was originally published on City Desk on Dec. 05, 2008, at 3:53 pm

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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