State Journal-Register

Jan 15, 2001

NEWS

Page: 1

Tickets scarce for Bush inaugural

By DORI MEINERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Nancy and Bill Gillespie are among the hundreds of central Illinoisans coming to the nation's capital next week to get a glimpse of history-in-the-making when George W. Bush takes the oath of office.

The Springfield residents aren't major Republican donors or political 
operatives. She's a former social worker and high school English teacher. He's a self-employed water treatment consultant.

She's a conservative. He's a liberal.

"I just think it's a wonderful thing for any American to actually see an inaugural," said Nancy Gillespie, 53. "If you look at the world politics, we're a very unique country, and as Americans we should be aware of our system and how it works. It's a good civic lesson for all of us."

Plus, it was just good timing.

Her husband was heading east on a business trip the same week and they plan to meet up with their son, Tom, 21, a senior at the University of Virginia, where he majors in government and foreign affairs.

When they arrive, they'll join hundreds of thousands of other eager onlookers willing to brave the frigid cold and crowds to watch the swearing-in ceremony and inaugural parade.

A few lucky VIPs will be able to sit down during the ceremony. But the vast majority of onlookers - even those with tickets - will be left to stand. Each House member is allotted 198 tickets including just 21 for seats. Senators have 393 with just 28 seats.

Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., said his office has received more than 1,000 requests for the free tickets, which his staffers gave away on a first-come, first-served, basis.

The bigger complaint now is the scarcity of hotel rooms, Fitzgerald said. Many Washington hotels already are booked and most are requiring four-night minimum stays.

Inaugural planners are working to ensure everyone has a view. There will be eight large viewing screens for an expected crowd of 300,000.

Predictably, Texas bands and performers will dominate the inaugural parade. The Marion Catholic High School Band of Chicago Heights will represent Illinois.

Several large Illinois firms have donated to the Presidential Inaugural Committee, including Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. in Decatur, SouthStar Corp. in Bartonville and Abbott Laboratories in Abbott Park, which have donated $100,000 each for the official inaugural festivities.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee is seeking up to $30 million to help underwrite the events.

Illinois corporations also will chip in to help defray the $500,000 cost of the Illinois Inaugural Gala planned by the Illinois State Society for the eve of the inauguration. Tickets remain available - $250 for dinner and the ball, $125 for the ball alone.

Second only in size to the Texas Society ball, the Illinois gala will take over two ballrooms, four grand foyers and five large meeting rooms at a local hotel as party planners re-create scenes of Illinois - past and present.

One of the hotel's ballrooms will be transformed into the Illinois State Fair, complete with corn dogs and animals, while another will be turned into the 1940s-era Jimmy's Malt Shop, a favorite East St. Louis hangout of Sen. Dick Durbin's family.

In a salute to the state's railroad legacy, another "theme room" will recreate the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Roundhouse featuring Illinois-brewed lager from Walter Payton's Roundhouse Complex in Aurora, where House Speaker Dennis Hastert awaited election returns last November.

Famous Illinoisans including Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, astronaut Gene Cernan, actors Jim Belushi, Gary Sinise and Bonnie Hunt will be honored at the Friday night event.

Among the donors are: Illinois Tool Works Inc., Ariel Capital Management, Northrop Grumman Corp. and Reed Smith Shaw & McClay.