As Readers Watch Online, Huffington Post Leads New Year's Eve-Style Countdown to Inauguration Day

With some help from David Stark, Arianna Huffington led a New Year's Eve-style countdown to Inauguration Day amidst a high-tech party that reeled in thousands of online guests.

By Courtney Thompson January 20, 2009, 10:33 AM EST

The scene at the Newseum

Photo: Paul Morigi

Huffington Post's Pre-Inauguration party
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One of the weekend’s most talked about events, the Huffington Post’s pre-inaugural bash at the Newseum last night, was akin to a New Year’s Eve celebration—with party hats and noisemakers to boot. Arianna Huffington herself led a countdown to the big day amid a crowd of more than 2,000 guests, a size that was stretched to its limits in the days leading up to the event. (On Friday, New York-based producer David Stark said he was looking for ways to make the venue bigger).

Held in the museum’s first balcony, main lobby, and lower concourse, the party was a techie’s dream. Guests as well as the hosts live-blogged, Twittered, and posted video and images to a special party page accessible from the Huffington Post’s home page. Devotees of the site were invited to attend the party virtually by posting images and videos of themselves to the party page. Their contributions were ultimately projected onto plasma TVs and the Newseum’s famous 40-foot LED screen. “My inspiration was the Huffington Post and their community, so we weren’t really thinking about props and decor, but more about how to use new technology,” said Stark, who produced the event with Huffington's Mario Ruiz. “As Arianna always says, Obama wouldn’t have been president if not for the Internet. The Internet is the thinking that brought this all together.”

While the evening's main decor elements were the matching 16-foot laptops fashioned by Stark, sleek lounge furniture and several long mirror and plexiglass bars added a modern feel. “It's really a conceptual decor where we’re making a dialogue between the guests at the event and the guests participating in the event online,” said Stark. Avoiding the pitfalls of most inaugural balls, the coat check was smooth sailing throughout the evening, with several giant rooms allowing for little to no wait.

Sting and anchored the evening's entertainment roster, with a surprise performance by Sheryl Crow, and the celebrity quotient was equally high-powered, with Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Marissa Tomei, Demi Moore, and Ashton Kutcher among the many herded into the bursting-at-the-seams second floor V.I.P. area. With a start time of 9 p.m. (two hours later than most inauguration fetes), the cocktail party wrapped up around 1 a.m.

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