Another inaugural gala for Ehrlich

Tickets to original fete sold out

more than 6,000 expected to attend events

January 10, 2003|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Overwhelmed by ticket seekers, Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced yesterday that he will stage a second inaugural ball because the first one sold out in about a week.

The additional gala will be held Wednesday night at Camden Yards at the same time as the original party at the Baltimore Convention Center.

"They will be exactly alike with the same decorations, same level of food," said Elaine Pevenstein, co-chair of Ehrlich's inaugural committee. "Each event will mirror the other."

At both events, black-tie party goers will pay $100 to eat carved turkey, mashed potatoes and pasta in ballrooms decorated in "a Maryland theme."

Ehrlich and Lt. Gov.-elect Michael S. Steele will split their time between the events.

The second gala was added after inaugural organizers sold more than 4,000 tickets to the first event, leaving hundreds of supporters desperate for a chance to join in the Republican celebration, Pevenstein said.

"We were overwhelmed. Ticket sales have far exceeded our expectations," she said.

An Ehrlich spokesman said the transition team was simply caught off guard. "We tried to plan for historic crowds, and we still were not prepared for the reception," said spokesman Henry Fawell.

"It's kind of a fun problem, but it is a problem," Ehrlich said at a reception in his honor last night. He continued to urge his supporters to attend the Camden Yards event.

Some of the people who feared being shut out of the gala are "notable" supporters, while others are Marylanders who simply want to join Ehrlich's celebration, Fawell said.

"These are the people who helped get people to Annapolis. They deserve a night of celebration," he said.

The strong ticket sales, Republican leaders say, are another indication that the GOP faithful are still energized by Ehrlich's victory.

"People call into party headquarters, `How can we get tickets?'" said John Kane, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. "People all across Maryland are excited about this."

An overflow crowd is also expected at Ehrlich's swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the State House in Annapolis.

Paul Schurick, an Ehrlich spokesman, said event organizers are expecting at least 2,000 people, which would be about triple the number of people who traditionally attend inaugural ceremonies.

"We've been wandering in the desert for 36 years. An awful lot of people want to come," Schurick said.

Kane said he was also impressed by the attendance Monday at a pre-inaugural fund-raiser in Washington for the Maryland Republican Party. About 450 people attended the $250-a-plate event, raising more than $200,000.

Pevenstein said the inaugural committee expects to sell 2,500 tickets to the Camden Yards gala. Both celebrations will start at 7:30 p.m., and bands will perform at each.

Four years ago, about 3,000 people attended Gov. Parris N. Glendening's inaugural celebration in Baltimore. A pre-ball inaugural reception was also held for Glendening in Prince George's County, the governor's political base.

Pevenstein said invitations to Ehrlich's ball were sent out just before New Year's Day. Since then, "people in droves" have responded with $100 checks, she said.

"In a way you were like, `Oh, my goodness!'" Pevenstein said. "The people, they just want to be there."

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