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obama ball 3

WHEN aides to President Obama announced that there would be only two official inaugural balls this weekend — the fewest in recent memory — Washington insiders and veteran partygoers shrugged.

And it wasn’t because the first couple remain relatively detached from the social life of the nation’s capital.

Everyone knows that the bestinauguration parties aren’t the government balls but the private fetes that fill museums and restaurants, tie up car services, throw caterers and celebrity wranglers into high gear, and turn Washington into something like Fashion Week or the Oscars for the style challenged.

“The official balls are for people coming in from out of town,” said Kevin Chaffee, an editor of Washington Life, the society magazine. “Visitors have to go home and say they attended one. But old Washington hands know to go to smaller parties that will be well done.”

Or as Diana McLellan, the retired society columnist put it, “People spend a lot of money and time getting dressed to go, but even the best official balls are enormous scrums.” In particular, she remembers the one (and only one) given by Jimmy Carter, which was called a “party” rather than a “ball” to assuage recessionary guilt. It was in Union Station before it was renovated.

“And all there was to eat were peanuts,” she said. “It was like going to hell.”

Well, nobody ever said Washington was an easy town. That’s especially true during fiscally tricky times, which may explain the difficulties that the president’s inaugural committee had raising $50 million for festivities, after the most expensive presidential race in history.

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article courtesy of NYTimes.com

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