Ticket or not, many are D.C.-bound for Obama’s inauguration

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The demand for tickets is sky-high, and the likelihood is slim that all who want a ticket to President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration in January will receive one. The only way to score one of the free tickets to the inauguration ceremony is from

The demand for tickets is sky-high, and the likelihood is slim that all who want a ticket to President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration in January will receive one.

The only way to score one of the free tickets to the inauguration ceremony is from your member of Congress, who each get 198 tickets. But tickets, which have yet to be distributed, have been offered online for as much as $60,000.

Federal lawmakers have been inundated with hundreds of thousands of requests from constituents across the nation, each wanting to get their hands on one of the 240,000 tickets available to the presidential swearing-in ceremony.

That’s about the same number of people who attended Obama’s Election Day rally in Grant Park.

Legislators from Chicagoland, including U.S. Reps. Danny Davis (D-7th) and Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) have received over 12,500 calls from residents who want tickets for the inauguration.

Davis alone has received about 8,700 requests for the sought-after tickets. While he won’t be able to provide each constituent with a ticket, he has secured buses to take about 150 people to D.C. for the inauguration and some of the activities related to the event.

Davis told the Defender he would likely distribute inauguration tickets to those who have been the “hallmark” of his political career, including volunteers and members of a school group that wrote him an “impressive letter.”

He said he has received written requests from elderly constituents that were “almost dripping with emotion.”

Jackson, who has received about 4,500 requests, is no longer accepting requests for tickets.

Several churches on the South and West Sides are in the planning phases of making the trek to the nation’s capitol.

For those without tickets, attendees will have extra room to stand on the sidewalk. Bleachers seats have been reduced to 8,700 from 20,000.

Plane ticket availability is steadily diminishing and getting a hotel room is almost non-existent, especially if you don’t have at least $1,100 per night with a mandatory minimum four-day stay, which is what most hotels in Washington, D.C. and surrounding cities and states are requiring.

It’s just a minor bump in the road from Chicago to D.C., said college student Amanda Koger.

Whether or not she gets a ticket to attend the Jan. 20 inauguration, she and her friends are planning their trip. And actually, she doesn’t need a ticket to the ceremony or any of the related events, she said.

“I just need to be in D.C. when it all happens. That’s what’s most important. As long as I’m there, I’m fine. I will stand on the streets where no ticket is needed. I need to be in D.C. to support my new president,” said Koger who will travel to the nation’s capital in a rental car. She hasn’t finalized any lodging arrangements.

Koger is among thousands in the Chicagoland area, and among the estimated 4 million expected to show up to Obama’s big day, possibly without a ticket to sit for the ceremony.

Davis said he wants D.C. to do for the inauguration what Mayor Richard Daley did for the Obama Election Night Rally.

“Open the parks and let the people come” with or without a ticket, Davis told the Defender.

He said people “will be every place they can get (in D.C.) because this is historic.”

To prepare for the overflow crowd, D.C.’s police department is expected to add about 1,000 more law enforcement officers than the usual amount for inauguration time.

While officers from around the country will be on hand, the Secret Service will take the lead on security efforts. “We normally bring about 3,000 from around the country. This time, we’re looking to get about 4,000,” said Cathy Lanier, D.C.’s police chief. The officers will help maintain crowd control along the inauguration’s parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue and within the four blocks of the Capitol building.

Lanier expects the crowd to overflow beyond a half-mile radius of the ceremony, stressing the need for the extra 1,000 officers.

Keith Fisher and Gabrielle Kilby of Springfield, Ill. said they have been Obama supporters from the start and “froze their butts off” when Obama announced his candidacy for president in Springfield in February 2007.

The couple also attended the President-elect’s rally in Grant Park and said they planned their trip to D.C. the next day after the election.

“We’re ready to go,” said Kilby, a high school teacher in Springfield. She hopes to plan a trip to the inauguration for her class.

Koger said she knows that she will mostly hear Obama take the oath, and best case scenario, she’ll be able to watch it on one of the jumbotrons that is expected to be set up in the area.

Worst case scenario, if she and her friends can’t get a spot outside, they will mostly likely catch the inauguration at one of the many viewing parties that will be held in D.C.

“We always will have a plan B. We will find a church that is having a party,” Koger said.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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