County residents celebrate Obama inauguration
By Maris Willis
Forget Pennsylvania Avenue, Capitol Hill and Washington, D.C., Bellingham’s Cornwall Avenue was the place to be Tuesday night to partake in inauguration day festivities in Whatcom County. More than 400 people attended the ObamaBall Inaugural Party to celebrate Barack Hussein Obama’s first hours as the 44th president of the United States of America.
The event was held at the Leopold Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom, where attendees such as Blaine resident Mimi Freshley could enjoy food, drinks, a band and live television coverage of Obama and wife Michelle’s whirl wind tour from one inaugural ball to the next.
“It feels like the whole country is celebrating with us tonight,” Freshley said. “It’s really amazing to be a part of something like that. I’m happy to be celebrating here with my community.”
Freshley and her fellow democrat husband Bob Butterfield have been married for 10 years, eight of which were spent with George W. Bush in the White House.
Freshley joked that she and her husband are unsure what they will talk about without a president and foreign policy to complain of.
Butterfield said the political pendulum had swung too far to one side over the last eight years and needed a more balanced centering. He said today was just the beginning of that political readjustment.
“It feels like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders,” Butterfield said.
Freshley and Butterfield said they are looking forward to Obama’s presidency not because they think he won’t make mistakes, but because they think he will seek advice from a broad spectrum of views and opinions.
“He’s asking for us to be a part of it all and I think that’s why we are having parties like this. We feel a part of the administration, we feel a part of this country again,” Freshley said.
Freshley and Butterfield were not the only Whatcom County residents who chose the ObamaBall as their inauguration day destination.
Tickets for the ObamaBall sold out 10 days prior to the event and more than 75 people were put on a waiting list, said Marie Marchand, executive director of the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center.
Marchand helped organize the event and said the evening was made possible by progressive community groups that are focused on human rights and bringing peace to the nation.
Sponsors of the ObamaBall included Whatcom Peace and Justice Center, MoveOn.org, Whatcom Democratic Woman’s Club and Veterans for Peace, among others.
“Our goal was to bring our community together and celebrate a new direction for our country,” Marchand said. “I think we accomplished above and beyond that tonight.”
Marchand said the planning committee strove to be nonpartisan and represent a social movement rather than a political party. She said although the evening was largely celebrated by democrats, anyone who purchased a ticket was welcome to attend.
“To look around and see all these smiles is very encouraging,“ Marchand said. “There is a lot of joy in this room tonight.”