Sunday, January 18, 2009

Plenty of places to go for inauguration festivities

Whether straining for a glimpse through the chill winter air in Washington, D.C., staring up at an arena's giant screen, or peering between their toes toward a television at the foot of the bed, a tremendous number of Bay Area people will have their eyes glued to Barack Obama's inauguration as president of the United States on Tuesday morning.

For many, the temptation to get up early and be part of a crowd on this historic day is too strong to resist; the excitement and hope many people feel will move them to be among the like-minded for this thrilling moment.

Some locals will be among the millions descending on Washington — most of whom won't get anywhere near the new president, but will be satisfied just to be able to tell their descendants, "I was there."

For the rest, there are plenty of ways to feel a part of the day, from small, private house parties to enormous public gatherings all through the day and into the night. The biggest might be the one at Oakland's Oracle Arena, where tickets cost $5 and doors open at 7 a.m.

"To date, there are about 8,500 tickets that have been purchased. Some of those have been donated to high school students so they can be there; we have about 1,900 high school students and their teachers," Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, who coordinated the event's planning, said Thursday, also noting about 85 community organizations will have resource tables in the arena's concourse and public Advertisementinterest remains high. "We're constantly inundated in our office with Internet contacts or people walking up or calling all day long."

For a smaller, perhaps, quieter viewing venue, you might check out the public library in Burlingame. There will be big screen viewing starting at 8 a.m. in the Lane Community Room. Or, maybe anticipating history makes you hungry, a breakfast buffet will be served at Richmond Memorial Auditorium from 6 to 7 a.m. before the viewing begins.

The Parkway Theater in Oakland and Cerrito Theater in El Cerrito drew capacity crowds and had to turn some people away when they screened the presidential and vice presidential debates. They'll be screening the inauguration Tuesday, only for those 18 and older, with free admission; doors open at 7 a.m.

"It's pretty early, so I'm not going to be there, I'll be in bed watching it on TV," said theater programmer and publicist Will "the Thrill" Viharo. "But we've been getting a lot of response, comparable to what we had for the debates and the nomination acceptance speech. I think it's going to be full. "... It's a community experience, it's a major historical event."

For a more contemplative take on the day, the Alameda Spiritual Living Center will host an interfaith candlelight prayer vigil to welcome the new president with prayer, meditation and music at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The Rev. Ouida Cooper-Rodriguez said "to set the stage and the foundation" for the new administration, "to ground it in prayer, I feel, would be a wonderful thing."

Or, perhaps for the less-contemplative, Alameda's Fireside Lounge is hosting an "Obamabration" Tuesday night with presidential cocktail specials, trivia and giveaways. Presidential cocktail specials? Twenty of 'em, confirms bartender Cristi Hegranes.

"I may be a bartender but I have a major in journalism and a political science minor," she warned, explaining the menu features "what presidents were said to have consumed while they were in office."

So go ahead and try that "Mamie Taylor" — scotch, lime and ginger ale — even though President Zachary Taylor, for whose wife the drink is named, died of gastroenteritis just 16 months into his term.

Bar owner Patrick Brown said some tables already are reserved. "I think we're going to blow up here," he predicted.

Getting dark and you're still not partied out? Try the "Walnut Creek Inaugural Ball" at Shadelands Art Center on Wiget Lane. Starting at 7 p.m., for $35, there will be live music, dancing, food and a no-host bar.

Or venture into San Francisco for "Inauguration West" at Metreon City View Terrace, featuring musical celebrities, sports stars and live video feeds from the Capital.

But bring some money: Tickets for the 7-11 p.m. gig start at $75.

  • Wet harvest adds to cattle farmers’ woes
  • Hargrove to retire as CAW president in September
  • Lawmakers field requests for inaugural tickets
  • Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano counties looking for poll workers
  • Low turnout as most vote by mail