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Published: Wednesday, 1/21/2009

Ohioans have a ball in D.C.

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

WASHINGTON - Ohioans danced, chatted, sipped, but refused to rest the night away at the Midwestern States Ball to wrap up a historic event that has given Democrats a reason to celebrate.

Newly inaugurated President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were expected to make a late-night appearance at the Midwesterner ball held in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, like four other balls.

The ball, one of 10 opulent gown and black-tie affairs held in Washington's convention center spaces, followed the historic inauguration ceremony that despite brittle temperatures attracted record crowds estimated at up to 3 million to a presidential inauguration.

The hall was so big there were bands at either end. The guest entertainer was Sheryl Crow and her band.

Ohio shared space with other Midwestern states: Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Inauguration officials refused to estimate the attendance, but it may have been several thousand. Guests paid between $150 and $500 for tickets. Bill DeMora, of Cleveland, who chaired the Ohio Celebration gala Sunday night, said tickets for the balls were selling online for as much as $900.

Mr. DeMora said he wound up buying and selling ball tickets, but he insisted he sold them only for what he paid for them, including $50 for the Neighborhood Ball.

"The Neighborhood Ball was the cheapest but everybody wanted in," because that was where Mr. and Mrs. Obama planned make their first appearance.

Dave Kolbe, a former Toledoan and former Henry County commissioner who is now political director in Washington for the Teamsters Union, said he brought his mother-in-law and daughter-in-law along to all the inaugural events.

"I ran 'em ragged," he said.

Guests mingled, enjoying beverages that started at $3 for a soft drink and $6 for a beer, and munched on pasta and veggies.

Some guests took the opportunity to just sit down in the few available chairs after a day that for most began before dawn and involved hours of standing. Others said they'd rest some other time.

"The excitement kind of keeps you going," said Mr. Kolbe's daughter-in-law, Carmen Kolbe, who works for the Toledo Clerk of Courts.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland) was at the ball with his wife, Elizabeth, and his younger brother, Frank Kucinich, of Sandusky. He called the day "extraordinary," and said the speech was one for "broad themes," with details to come.

"President Obama certainly understands the economic challenge," Mr. Kucinich said. Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz skipped the Midswestern Ball and went to the Neighborhood Ball because Mr. Obama planned to give a special message there about community organizing. The Toledoan and his wife Sarah lost their 2002 Chrysler minivan to thieves late Sunday night, but heard from Maryland police yesterday that the vehicle had been found abandoned, with only minor damage to the steering column, news Mr. Kapszukiewicz took as a good political omen.

"[President Obama's] already bringing positive change for America. On his first day in office we found the van," Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. "A lot of people are running out of adrenaline. But these events only come once every four years."

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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