Obama To Make Stops At Official Balls

President Barack Obama will end the day with the traditional visit to each of the 10 official balls. Six of those balls are being held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. There are also a slew of unofficial balls across the city.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Tonight, the president is visiting the inaugural balls. Of course, celebrations have been unfolding around Washington for days, but tonight, it's the official parties, a lot of them. NPR's Elizabeth Blair joins us from the Washington Convention Center where six of the 10 official inaugural balls where underway. Elizabeth, what's the scene there?

ELIZABETH BLAIR: The scene here, I'm actually in the Home State Ball for Obama. That's the ball where people from Hawaii and Illinois, two states that are dear to Obama, are attending, and people are still filing in. It's not packed, and it's a nice scene. You know, the Washington Convention Center is this huge, huge building, and this particular room looks like it's a big room made for big functions. But it's a good scene. It's quite nice.

SIEGEL: Now, tell us about who typically comes to these events?

BLAIR: Mostly, it's big donors to the campaign, people who are politically connected. There are other balls here tonight. For example, there's the Neighborhood Ball. And there, you have a lot of people who just were volunteers on Obama's campaign.

SIEGEL: Now, as you said, the Washington Convention Center is an extremely big place, so we're not talking about intimate settings for parties tonight?

BLAIR: No, not really. Although I have to say I'm a little bit surprised at this particular ball. They haven't let us visit the other balls, but it's got this sort of deep-blue carpeting, and the lighting is kind of in this nice indigo blue. So, it's a little bit warmer than I was expecting because from the outside, the Washington Convention Center is just this mammoth building, fairly nondescript.

SIEGEL: Yeah, now this is, as we said, this is one of the big official balls, but what about all of the unofficial events across the city tonight?

BLAIR: Yes, there are many unofficial events. One of these is the People's Inaugural Ball, and a Virginia businessman and philanthropist named Earl Stafford spent $1.6 million to invite poor people, disadvantaged people. And that's going on at the JW Marriott. And he has bought them gowns, he's bought them tuxedos, he's putting them up in hotel rooms tonight.

There's just a wide range of activities. There's also an event, The Soccer Moms for Obama, which is at a women's club in Maryland. So it's - there are activities throughout the city.

SIEGEL: Yes, as you mentioned tuxedos, and for the women gowns, are de rigueur for these events. And I think it's events like these that, at least, keep the tuxedo companies in business in this city.

BLAIR: All that, yes. I'm sure.

SIEGEL: People seem to be having a good time?

BLAIR: Oh, definitely. I mean, one man from Illinois told me he's just happy to be warm. There was a couple from Nigeria here who were very sweet. It's clear that this event is very moving for them.

For the Neighborhood Ball, I spoke to a woman who was a volunteer on Obama's campaign, and she just paid $25 for her ticket, so she was thrilled.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Elizabeth Blair, hard at work tonight, covering the inaugural balls. Thank you, Elizabeth.

BLAIR: Thank you, Robert.

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