Denise Norris will always remember the 2009 Presidential Inauguration as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It was awesome,” said Norris of Corporate Planners, a full service agency based in Robinson Township. “It was just life changing really.”
Norris will experience the historical moment all over again when she and others from Western Pennsylvania travel to Washington, D.C. to witness President Obama be sworn in Monday for his second term. An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people are expected to attend the 57th Presidential Inauguration.
Norris, who began arranging special trips in 2003, said the agency's travel division has arranged a charter to transport "political VIPs" and passionate supporters from the area. They'll attend the swearing-in and an unofficial inaugural ball organized by the Allegheny County Democratic Committee.
The Allegheny County Gala Ball is open to the public with advanced RSVP. The semi-formal ball costs $55 per person and includes dinner, dancing and a cash bar, Norris said.
Allegheny County Democratic Chair Nancy P. Mills and Angie Gialloreto, Democratic chairwoman from Wilkins Township, came up with the concept for the ball. They have also recruited about 20 other county officials who will join the charter, Norris said.
Norris began working for Obama's campaign in 2007 as an office manager in Moon Township and was psyched to witness the oath of office in 2009.
“The energy was just so high, it was like an out of body experience. You were there, but you couldn’t believe you were there.”
Norris and her husband, the Rev. Urie Norris originally planned to attend as a family. As travel clients continued to call, she said they decided in late November to take a charter to meet the demand. Norris said this trip is fine-tuned because they know what to expect. Their hotel is near the National Mall and on the D.C. metro line system.
One of their sons is flying in with a group of 12 from California to join the charter in Pittsburgh, she said. Their youngest son, Nehemiah, a Sewickley Academy student, will also attend.
Norris said the ball will include DJ entertainment, in addition to line dance instructions earlier in the evening. For anyone interested in transportation to D.C., Norris said about four or five round-trip seats are still available.
The $50-per-seat cost doesn’t include lodging, but Norris said she can work to arrange last-minute hotel accommodations if needed. Travelers will be picked up Sunday morning at locations in Green Tree and Monroeville.
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Do you plan to attend the Inauguration Ceremony or watch it on television? Why or why not? Tell us in the comment section.