Inauguration Plan Offers Revels for the People

Posted December 5, 2008 at 5:28pm

It won’t just be Oprah and the rest of the celebrity set getting the VIP treatment during the upcoming presidential inauguration.

In addition to the official announcement that the entire National Mall will be open for President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, Virginia businessman Earl Stafford announced last week that he’s footing the bill to bring hundreds of disadvantaged and underserved Americans to Washington, D.C., for the historic event.

Titled “The People’s Inaugural Project,” the three-day extravaganza will include two balls, a prayer breakfast and a luncheon in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. At least 30 percent of attendees will be marginalized and distressed individuals, Stafford said, adding that other guests would include volunteers, donors and organizers.

And while most of the 4 million or so Americans heading to the inauguration are throwing down thousands of dollars for hotel rooms, guests at this party won’t have to pay a dime.

Stafford’s private foundation already has donated $1 million to reserve a block of 300 rooms at the downtown JW Marriott, as well as spaces for the two balls — one for adults, one for young people — on the night of the inauguration. Attendees also will get pampered for the balls — hair, makeup, the works.

So who will actually get to attend? Stafford is working with groups such as the National Urban League to find potential guests, he said, adding that an array of people are likely to come, including wounded veterans, families living in shelters, terminally ill patients and the working poor.