by Tara Copp
Scripps Howard News Service
January 20, 2005
More than 12,000 gowned and booted - and sometimes hooved and feathered - partygoers came to the marquee inaugural ball. The entourage included not only Texas' political and
University of Texas senior and Silver Spur handler Dustin Elliott said that Bevo, the university's new, 2-year-old Longhorn mascot, made the trip in his huge burnt-orange trailer. The group pulled out of Austin at 6 a.m. Sunday to get to Washington on time. Along the way, the steer's handlers would pull over at highway rest stops to let the 1,500-pound steer walk around - it became a spectacle every time.
"We couldn't ever get him back in the trailer once we got him out," Elliott said. "People kept asking, 'One more picture? Just one more?' "
The crowds dealt with significant security increases -- which had the crowds lining up for hours to get into one ballroom level, only to have to queue up again for another round of metal detectors to proceed to the next ballroom.
"It's become more important to me as I've gotten older," said Mark Suggs, a Wichita Falls ophthalmologist who flew in just for the party. Less than 12 hours later, he would board an 8 a.m. plane for a medical conference in Utah.
It's worth it, he said, "especially when the president is from Texas. This is probably the last chance in my lifetime that I'll get to see something like this."
The party treated guests to an array of Texas musicians and food, including a performance from San Angelo resident Lynn Massey, who is a drummer for Texas country star Neal McCoy. The band is no stranger to presidential performances, Massey said. It played in the White House for former President Ronald Reagan and also performed for former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.
Still, the idea of being on stage for the ball brings its own butterflies, Massey said.
"All the security and hoopla is nervous time, just waiting," Massey said. "But the performance itself, once it gets started, comes natural."
The guests feasted on some 21,000 quesadillas, 20,000 enchiladas and 1,800 pounds of beef brisket, and washed the food down with drinks from 120 bars. Then they two-stepped the night away in Texas-themed ballrooms across the sprawling hotel complex.
President Bush took the stage shortly before 10 p.m. to thank the crowd.
"Its nice to be home! Well, as close to home as you can get in Washington," Bush said. "I was going to start off my remarks by saying behave yourself, then I remembered I was at Texas' Black Tie & Boots."
The president thanked first lady Laura Bush, the Bush twins and vice president and Mrs. Cheney who joined him onstage.
"I'm looking forward to tomorrow," Bush told the crowd. "And if you get to bed early enough, you'll be looking forward to it too."