By Michael O'Connell Posted November 17, 2008, 11:50 AM EST
The expected crowd for the January 20 public inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama is already at 1.5 million, and Washington tourism officials are doing what they can to encourage that number, despite the scant availability of tickets to the ceremony. The potential for a four-day weekend (given that Inauguration Day falls immediately after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday) and the town’s relatively mild winters mean the inauguration and related events will likely bring an economic boom to the city.
According to The Chicago Sun-Times, capitol tourism agency Destination D.C. advises inauguration-goers that hotel rooms are still available but booking may require a bit of savvy. Many D.C. hotels require a three- to four-night minimum stay, so room searches for anything less might appear as fully booked.
Ticket availability remains the big obstacle for most. Approximately 240,000 tickets to the public ceremony will be distributed for free through Senate offices, and, not surprisingly, each state's senators are handling the high demand differently. In New York, Senator Charles Schumer announced a lottery for his allotment, with an early application deadline of November 30. And despite news of online auctions selling tickets for as high as $40,000 a piece, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies insists that ''no Web site or other ticket outlet actually has inaugural swearing-in tickets to sell, regardless of what they may claim.'' Tickets are nontransferable.
State societies and private organizations are still finalizing plans for their inauguration festivities, but some details are already available for parties like the one for Obama’s birth state of Hawaii.