Christmas came early this year for Cynthia Coleman.
After weeks of waiting, the Chattanooga resident got an e-mail from U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp’s office informing her that two tickets to President-elect Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration were waiting for her.
“I got tickets,” she said. “I’m going. I’m so excited.”
The inauguration may be the hottest ticket of 2009. Tens of thousands of requests have poured into the offices of congressional members, who only had a few hundred to give out each.
On auction Web site eBay, tickets to events and accommodations for inauguration week are going for thousands of dollars. For instance, one auction offers buyers a week in a house in northern Virginia and four tickets to an inaugural party for a “Buy It Now” price of $16,000 with the starting bid at $8,000. As of Christmas Eve, there were no bidders.
Ms. Coleman volunteered for the Obama campaign earlier this year, traveling to North Carolina and Kentucky to canvass and phone bank. But she said it was a previous meeting with Rep. Wamp, R-Tenn., that may be the reason she scored the hard-to-get tickets.
“In 1994, when he ran for (former U.S. Rep.) Marilyn Lloyd’s position, I had just retired from the military,” she said. “I had brought back to his memory how I had met him (then).”
A former captain in the U.S. Navy, Ms. Coleman also used her military connections to find a place to stay about an hour away from booked-up Washington, D.C. She’ll be staying at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, where she was stationed nearly 30 years ago.
“It’s going to be like deja vu going back,” she said.
Another Chattanooga-area resident who gets to be a part of the inauguration festivities is Ocoee Middle School eighth-grader Alexis Fay, who’s going with the Junior Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference. Alexis is one of about 285 students from across the country chosen to go, said her mother, Tiffany Fay, and gets to be part of the inaugural parade.
“What a life-changing event,” said Ms. Fay. “It’s a huge, huge honor.”
Ms. Fay said the family must pay their part for Alexis to go — tuition for the conference is $2,440, which includes transportation, meals and housing, according to its Web site — but it’s well worth it.
Chattanooga resident Jermaine Harper wasn’t so lucky. He applied for tickets through Rep. Wamp’s office, but said he has not heard anything back.
“It looks like I may be staying in Chattanooga,” he said.
But Mr. Harper said he’s not too disappointed. For one thing, he’d probably have to go to Richmond, Va., Philadelphia or New York City to find a place to stay.
And on top of that, he’s just glad the inauguration of the first black president is happening.
“I’m excited for the country,” he said.