Republicans throw no-frills inaugural party

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- They won the Super Bowl of Missouri politics. Now it was party time for Republicans.

But forget the swing bands, fireworks and designer chocolates that marked Gov. Bob Holden's inaugural celebration four years ago. Republicans opted for a more modest yet traditional party to celebrate Gov. Matt Blunt's inauguration Monday -- the first time Republicans have controlled the House, Senate and governor's office since 1921.

Partygoers clad in tuxedos and ball gowns crowded the Capitol Rotunda on Monday night to get a glimpse of state officials and their families.

Blunt and his pregnant wife, Melanie, capped the formalities by emerging from a crimson curtain veiling the governor's second-floor office and pausing to wave from the top of the staircase. Then they kicked off the dancing to the "Missouri Waltz," the official state song, and were joined shortly by hundreds of partiers packed so tightly on the Capitol's floor that they could only shuffle in place. The Jerry Ford Orchestra, led by a former state lawmaker from Cape Girardeau, provided the music.

Blunt donned a traditional black tuxedo, and the new first lady wore a satin red dress with chiffon.

This year's inaugural events were expected to cost up to $250,000, according to Republican consultant John Hancock, whose firm was in charge of the inaugural festivities. That is a quarter of what Holden spent four years ago.

Partygoers could munch on pastries while sipping coffee and tea provided by Blunt. Revelers looking for something alcoholic to drink cycled through the numerous legislative offices holding mini-inaugural parties of their own.

The partying began soon after Blunt took the oath of office at noon, with state officials, party loyalists and invited guests snacking on sandwiches, potato salad and cookies at tables draped with plastic tablecloths outside lawmakers' offices. Meanwhile, the Mexico High School Honors Choir serenaded the partygoers from the Capitol Rotunda. Lawmakers traditionally host their own inaugural parties, the cost of which weren't included in Blunt's estimate.

Nibbling on some of the goodies, Phillip and Addie Tomber seemed unfazed by the "less-is-more" philosophy of this year's inaugural. The St. Louis couple said they had had a wonderful time and had been impressed so far by the pomp and circumstance.

"We've never been to a state inauguration," Addie said. "We thought we may never get the opportunity again."

Determined to see his first inaugural ball for himself, David Jordan, 79, drove up from his hometown of Doniphan. Unable to find a hotel room, the World War II vet said he was willing to spend the night in his car curled up with a comforter.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said.

But, he added, "If they've got a party going on here all night, I'll be here."

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