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Inaugural Balls Downsized The Second Time Around

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The tradition of inaugural balls goes back to George Washington. In recent times, presidents have had multiple balls. Four years ago, President Obama attended ten. But in these days of austerity, there were only two balls. Allison Aubrey talks to Melissa Block.


So 9-year-old Lauren Kanabel there has a dream: a girl president elected in 2016. And whether or not that dream comes true, there will be inaugural balls. The tradition dates back to George Washington. Four years ago, President Obama attended ten inaugural balls, this year only two, both at the convention center here in Washington. And NPR's Allison Aubrey is there. She joins us by phone. Allison, the ball has been going on for a few hours now. What's the scene?

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: (Unintelligible) absolutely packed in here. You might be able to (unintelligible). I have to say, being here, I'm not sure the term ball (unintelligible) people are dressed up (unintelligible) and there's a lot of glamour. But really what's happening here (unintelligible)elbow to elbow. And while there's supposed to be (unintelligible) there's not (unintelligible). And there is no sign of the president and first lady yet, that is what everyone here is waiting for.

BLOCK: OK. Now, Allison, your line is breaking up. You're saying there's no sign of the president and first lady at the ball where you are, and it's jam-packed. Not much dancing you're saying, right?

AUBREY: That's exactly right. Not much dancing (unintelligible) for that. (Unintelligible). People are sort of elbow to elbow.

BLOCK: Well that might be part of the problem if you reduce the balls from 10 to two. I don't know if they're packing in just huge numbers of people into the two that do exist. Talk a bit, Allison, about the musical acts who are performing tonight.

AUBREY: OK. Well, actually we've had - I mentioned (unintelligible) country music star was here. He said something like (unintelligible) our democracy here in the United States is the envy of the world. (Unintelligible) getting drunk in a convention hall, (unintelligible)quite a few laughs. (Unintelligible) on the stage (unintelligible).

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Allison Aubrey. We apologize for the phone line. She is at the Washington Convention Center where there are two inaugural balls tonight. She was talking about the musical entertainment: Brad Paisley, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder coming up, and they're waiting for President and Mrs. Obama.

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