Chicago to Celebrate Inauguration With Live Webcasts, Champagne Toasts, and Free Tacos

Though Chicago won't be able to claim the same center-of-the-action status that Barack Obama's presence lent it on election night, there will be no shortage of inaugural celebrations in the President-elect's hometown next Tuesday.

The Chicago Inaugural Committee's aptly named Chicago Inaugural Ball will overtake the Skyline Ballroom at McCormick Place, and is expected to draw roughly 600 guests. The event will feature live music, a champagne toast, and multimedia presentations showcasing photographs of Obama and footage from his campaign-trail speeches. The ball will share a “Renewing America's Promise” theme with concurrent Washington celebrations.

In Uptown, an event benefiting Amnesty International will take place at the Aragon Ballroom. Titled the Yes We Did Inaugural Celebration, the fund-raiser will feature a cash bar, live music, and video updates from related celebrations in Las Vegas, Oregon, and other Chicago neighborhoods.

The South Side's Parkway Ballroom will host the Bronzeville Inaugural Ball, which will offer Grey Goose vodka cocktails, snacks from Rome's Joy Catering, and live Webcasts from Washington's inaugural events. Continuous-loop footage of the swearing-in ceremony will run throughout the evening.

Restaurants and bars across the city will also celebrate the inauguration with menu specials and viewing parties that will—so venue managers hope—pull in a bigger-than-average crowd for a Tuesday night in January.

“We expect to be extremely full and busy that day,” said John Dexter, food and beverage director of River North's Holiday Inn Mart Plaza and its in-house Cityscape Bar. “We have been getting a lot of calls and emails asking if Cityscape will be open and how many TVs we have.” (For the record, the bar will be open, will serve Obama-tinis, and will air inauguration footage on four flat-screen TVs.) Dexter added that the Illinois Institute of Art booked the hotel's Wolf Point ballroom for an inauguration party for students.

At the South Loop's Exposure Restaurant and Lounge, an inauguration-night celebration will feature a dinner buffet, champagne toast, and a broadcast of the swearing-in ceremony on 10 plasma-screen TVs. Tickets are available for advance purchase on the venue's Web site, though manager Tina Yancey expects that most guests will pay at the door. Although she can't predict how much business the venue will pull in on Tuesday night, Yancey said that she's “hoping for the best, and anticipating a nice crowd.”

Hotels are also getting in on the act. “The inauguration will be held on a weekday, which is a heavy traffic time for business travel at the James Hotel,“ said the venue's general manager, Patrick Hatton. “We recognize that business travelers don't want to miss the opportunity to celebrate [the inauguration], so we're providing a way for them to celebrate with us.” The hotel's Celebrate Change cocktail party will take place in the lobby bar and will feature drink specials and complimentary appetizers such as sirloin tacos and firecracker duck rolls.

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