Peoria Journal Star

January 16, 2005

Peoria-area residents find inauguration to be hot ticket
Bigger, Brighter, Bolder

By Dori Meinert
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Mike and Judy Mangold of Eureka will be among the hundreds of central Illinois residents arriving next week to witness President Bush's second inauguration.

They're looking forward to it as a mini-vacation, taking a break from the kids and from work, with a good dose of history thrown in.

"Whether a person is a Republican or a Democrat, it is a very important historical event in our country when the president is sworn in and we're excited to be a part of the people watching it," said Mangold, who owns a car dealership in Eureka.

They'll join the more than 100,000 people willing to brave the cold, the crowds and the challenges of tighter-than-ever-before security in this first inauguration since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Before she boards a plane for Washington, former Illinois State Rep. Gwenn

Klingler plans to measure her purse to make sure it passes security guidelines.

The Springfield resident said she read on a Web site that purses can be no larger than 8 inches by 6 inches by 4 inches.

"I thought it was pretty tight before," said Klingler, recalling that security officials four years ago opened and inspected her compact.

Even though it's Bush's second inauguration, Klingler said she's drawn by "the pageantry and the tradition and the significance of the continuation of the presidency."

The Klinglers obtained their tickets for the swearing-in through Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, who represents part of Springfield.

Each senator gets 400 tickets for the ceremony, with most ticket holders required to stand. House members receive 200 each.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., gave some of his tickets to Illinois Republicans including Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, who has almost 300 constituents coming for the festivities - including a student group from Peoria Notre Dame High School. Most of the Illinois lawmakers have had more requests than they have tickets and are keeping a stand-by list.

LaHood's office has had about a 30 percent increase in requests from what he had in 2001.

"I'm surprised by the number of people who wanted to come," said LaHood. "I'm amazed and I think part of it is the president is very popular in our area and people worked very hard for his re-election. They want to be a part of it."

Only freshman Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's office has a limited number of "standing-room only" tickets left, which it will distribute on a first-come, first-served basis, an aide said.

There are fewer receptions on Capitol Hill this year because security makes it too difficult to bring large groups of people into congressional offices. Durbin will host a lunch Wednesday for Illinois mayors in town for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. LaHood has invited constituents to join him for dinners on three nights next week.

Ninety-year-old Virginia Blake, a native of Bushnell won't miss the chance to meet with other Illinoisans at the traditional pre-inaugural gala held by the Illinois State Society on Wednesday.

"It's going to be a real challenge this time to go because of all the security," said Blake, who is a past president of the state Society. "I might get there, but have real trouble getting back home. I might become a street person before it's over. But I plan to go to the VIP reception and dinner and stay at least until midnight."

While Democrats may be scarce at the official inaugural balls on Thursday night, the Illinois State Society dinner and ball on Wednesday is a bipartisan affair. It's co-hosted by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Plano, and Senate Democratic Whip Durbin. LaHood is the master of ceremonies. Obama also is scheduled to attend.

"It just feels good to be with Illinois people," explains Blake, whose husband's military career took them all over the world until they settled in the Washington area in 1962. She was president of the Illinois State Society in 1976.

Most of the more than 2,000 people who already have bought tickets are from Illinois, with about 30 percent being former state residents now living in the Washington area, said the current Illinois State Society president Mark Rhoads, a former state senator. But past or present Illinois residency isn't a prerequisite to purchase a ticket, Rhoads said.

Peoria native Nancy Goodman Brinker, who founded the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in memory of her sister, will receive a public service award at the dinner. The late President Ronald Reagan and Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., will be honored posthumously.

Founded in 1854, the Illinois State Society is the oldest of the state societies here and once had Abraham Lincoln as a member. The group has sponsored inaugural parties since Lincoln's inauguration in 1861.

Two floors of the Grand Hyatt hotel will feature seven bands, food and drink with each room transformed by a different theme - from the city of Chicago to the Mississippi Riverboat Lounge.

The Bloomington-based rhythm and blues band, Hip Pocket, will be among the bands playing.

The state society party will cost about $550,000, about $50,000 more than the 2001 party in large part due to increased security costs, Rhoads said. The largest corporate sponsors include Caterpillar, Monsanto and Motorola. Tickets are still available for the Illinois State Society gala, but many of Thursday's official inaugural balls are sold out.

Mangold said he and his wife plan to tour the U.S. Capitol and to visit some museums as well while they're here.

The 33rd Illinois Volunteer Regimental Band, a Bloomington-based group, will play Civil War-era music to help entertain the crowds in front of the Old Post Office Pavilion at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue before and after the parade.

The Lincoln-Way Central High School Marching Knights of New Lenox also will represent Illinois in the parade itself.

Getting a hotel room may be the biggest problem for late-planners. Many downtown hotels are already full. LaHood's office reserved a block of rooms for constituents before the November election.

"People are going farther and farther out from the city, finding Best Westerns and Quality Inns outside an eight-mile radius of Washington," said Rhoads, who recently searched for hotel rooms for the Illinois National Guard color guard flying in for the state society's event.