By traveling to D.C., Texans will watch history unfold -- again

Posted Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Local celebration

Area Democrats will be celebrating the second inauguration of President Barack Obama on Monday.

The Tarrant County Democratic Party will hold the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Ball -- with dinner and dancing to music by the James Hinkle Band -- from 6 p.m. to midnight at the Hilton Fort Worth, 815 Main St. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m., the inaugural ceremony will be replayed at 6:30, and dinner and dancing will run from 7 p.m. to midnight.

The event is black tie optional. Tickets are $100 each.

Call 817-335-8683 or email keith@tarrantdemocrats.org.

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Oscar Avila had hoped to attend the historic inauguration of Barack Obama four years ago.

But he lost his job a couple of months before the 2009 ceremony, becoming yet another victim of the economic downturn, and he knew he couldn't make it to Washington, D.C.

This year is a different story.

Avila is now general manager of a women's clothing store in downtown Fort Worth and business -- coincidentally -- puts him in New York City this weekend.

So he's going to hop in a car and drive four hours to Washington on Sunday.

By Monday, he will be standing in front of the Capitol with hundreds of thousands of other Americans, watching Obama take the oath of office for his second term as president.

"I have been a huge supporter of him over the past four years," said Avila, 26, of River Oaks. "He said he would make things better for me, not only socially but financially. And he did."

The inauguration "is one of those things I have always wanted to be part of," he said. "It's something so sacred. ... And it's very important for me."

Avila will be among an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people nationwide who will show up Monday to witness the inauguration festivities.

While that's a sharp drop from the nearly 2 million who were on hand four years ago, it would still make the 2013 inauguration one of the best-attended, officials say.

"It's going to be amazing," Avila said. "I'll be enjoying it with a whole lot of Americans just like myself. This is going to be something I'll never forget."

Opal Lee, an 86-year-old retired Fort Worth teacher, will be among those watching Obama take the oath of office.

Lee, a longtime community activist, said she was grateful to witness Obama's first inauguration -- and doubly blessed to see his second.

"I am extremely excited," she said. "I never thought I would see the first one. ... To be able to witness this momentous occasion, it's a lifetime experience."

Lee got a ticket to watch the inauguration from U.S. Rep. Mark Veasey, D-Fort Worth. Each member of Congress receives about 200 tickets to distribute. But even without official tickets, the public can witness the inauguration from the National Mall.

Lee has a second mission while she's in D.C. this weekend. She wants to personally deliver letters to Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

In the letter to the president, she'll ask him to make a national holiday of Juneteenth, which is already a holiday in Texas and other states.

In the letter to Michelle Obama, she'll ask the administration to help her nonprofit food bank -- as well as people released from jail who can't find jobs -- by encouraging local entities to donate 50 acres that can be farmed. That will provide food for the food bank and generate enough fresh vegetables and fruit for the former inmates to set up a minimarket and earn money for caring for the crops.

"Getting a message to each of them is something I will look forward to," Lee said. "It's a goal."

Marvin Sutton of Arlington will also witness his second Obama inauguration.

Four years ago, he said, he went to celebrate a hard-fought victory in helping Obama get elected.

This time, with as hard as he and others worked to get out the vote, it's "the icing on the cake," he said.

While he plans to attend the parade and other festivities, Sutton said, he's most looking forward to hearing Obama take the oath.

Four years ago, he said, it was a moment he will never forget.

"When he raised his hand, and the chief justice gave him the oath, it's just silence," said Sutton, a 50-year-old air traffic controller. "You can just hear heartbeats.

"Then there are cheers, people are hugging you and it's so surreal -- the feeling, the emotion," he said.

Inauguration stage

Alyssa Oliver and Aaron Ingraham -- who both grew up in Tarrant County and now attend Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn. -- will be among the 200 students selected to sing at the inauguration with the Lee University Festival Choir.

"It's very exciting," said Oliver, 22, an Arlington Heights High School graduate. "It's crazy to think that we got chosen for the honor."

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., invited the group.

Only 200 of the more than 350 vocalists on campus will go.

But Oliver and Ingraham were among those chosen to board buses Friday for the trip.

"I think it's a great opportunity ... for the entire School of Music and the university as a whole," said Ingraham, who graduated from Bethesda Christian School in Haltom City and is a freshman at Lee majoring in church music with a vocal emphasis.

The choir has had several rehearsals outside -- at night -- to prepare for performing in the cold. "We have been training for the cold like nothing else," Oliver said.

Lone Star bash

Among the inaugural events open to Texans is the Lone Star Project Inauguration Celebration, hosted by the Lone Star Project, a Democratic advocacy group.

The event, from noon to 3 p.m. today at Hill Country Barbecue in Washington, honors Texas' five new Democratic members of Congress, including Veasey.

Among the featured speakers: state Rep. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.

"This will be the largest Texas Democratic event at the inauguration," said Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project and the brother of political strategist J.D. Angle of Fort Worth. "Democrats coming up from Texas can feel good about going to this event. It's affordable and where they would have fun."

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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