FAQ: Everything you ever wanted to know about Obama Inauguration tickets

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You don’t need a ticket to see the Inauguration parade or the swearing in of President Obama for a second term, just warm underwear, comfortable shoes and a lack of agoraphobia. Four years ago, 1.8 million people crammed every inch of space on the National Mall to witness the swearing-in of America’s first African-American president.

The crowds are expected to be smaller this year, but if you want to see the ceremony with your own eyes — rather than on a jumbotron screen down by the Lincoln Memorial — you need a ticket.

When is the Inauguration?

Officially, the president must be sworn in on Jan. 20. But because that’s a Sunday this year, the president will be privately sworn in on the 20th, with the public ceremony on Monday, Jan. 21.

How do I get tickets?

Official tickets are only available from your member of Congress or senator; some may be resold at legitimate ticket sellers in January, but buyer beware — scams are everywhere.

Each congressional office gets 177 standing room tickets and 21 actual seats; Senate offices get about twice that number.

  • Senator Feinstein’s office has received request 9,300 requests tickets... so far. The good news: Four years ago, there were more than 20,000 requests
  • Your chances of getting one of those actual chairs is about the same as getting Eva Longoria as your date to an Inaugural ball
  • Here's the official word from Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez's office on tickets: "It is our goal to accommodate our constituents who wish to attend the Inauguration. Congressional offices receive a limited number of tickets to distribute, so while we do our best to accommodate all requests, nothing is guaranteed."

Each member gets to decide how and when to distribute tickets. Most have a lottery. And the deadline to enter is looming — most offices say “early December.”

Who do I contact, and how do I contact them?

You have to contact your own member of Congress; there has been misinformation that you could hit up anybody for a ticket.

This is complicated by California’s new district lines. If you don’t know who your new representative is, you can check who your new member is on these maps.

Or you can send in your request to your old representative and they will forward to the new one.

If your Representative is one of the 14 freshmen elected in November, it’s likely he/she won’t have either a phone or a website up and running. Instead, you have to call the Capitol Switchboard: 202-225-3121.

So, I won a ticket — how do I pick it up?

If you do win the ticket lottery, you must pick them up in person from the congressional office and present a valid photo ID.

You have to pick up your own ticket. You can do this when you come to Washington before the Inauguration.

What else is involved besides the oath of office?

There’s an entire week of celebrations planned, including a parade, a day of service — and lots and lots of balls.

On the day of the Inauguration, there’s a morning worship service. Everyone assembles on the west-facing Capitol steps where the oath of office is delivered for both the president and vice president. The president then delivers his inaugural address, laying out his goals and vision for the next four years. Lunch usually follows, hosted by Congress.

You can sign up for updates at the official website, 2013pic.org.

How does the oath of office go, just in case I get elected in four years?

"I do solemnly swear (now, if you don’t want to swear, you simply say 'affirm') that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Is there a theme for this Inauguration?

There’s a theme for everything in Washington these days.  It’s “Faith in America’s Future,” celebrating Barack Obama’s second term, but also the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the placement of the Statue of Freedom on top of the Capitol Dome.

Any chances for a photo opp?

If you do come to Washington, ask your Member of Congress for a special guided tour of the Capitol. You’ll get to see the best view of the Freedom Statue from underneath the Capitol itself.

What about the balls?

The Presidential Inaugural Committee will list about a dozen official balls in January, along with ticket information. Four years ago, tickets for many of the balls were for sale by invitation only. There’s nothing on their website yet, but you can sign up for their email list.

There are also lots of unofficial balls:

  • If you’re looking for some Bollywood entertainment, the Indiaspora Inaugural Ball is for you at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on the waterfront. Tux or Indian wear. Tickets are $500.
  • Environmentalists with deep pockets may want to attend the Green Inaugural Ball at the Marriott Wardman Park up in upper Northwest. It’s $1,950 per ticket, but you can wear your hemp gown.
  • There’s a Hip Hop Inaugural Ball, one for entrepreneurs, one that invites you to come dressed as your favorite politician, a Peace Ball, an Inaugural Pow Wow sponsored by the American Indian Society. You can even organize your own ball.

Here’s the website to organize unofficial balls.

Suppose I just want to stay in California where it's warmish in January?

No worries. KPCC will carry NPR coverage of the ceremony and Kitty Felde will be on the scene for live updates from Californians who braved the cold.

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