Four years ago, tickets for the second inauguration of President George W. Bush were not such a hot item, Jon Schneider, district director for U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, recalled.
“That is in no way a knock against President Bush,” Mr. Schneider said. “It’s just that the demand for the congressman’s tickets was not that high.”
At that time, Mr. Schneider said, Mr. Bishop made calls to Republican officials asking if they wanted the tickets. “We wanted them to go to good use,” Mr. Schneider said. “We were literally giving them away.”
But now, as the nation stands on the brink of the historic inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, Mr. Bishop’s tickets are golden.
“I was campaigning in Port Jefferson a few days before the election, and someone asked me about getting tickets. And based on my ’04 experience, I said, ‘No problem,’” Mr. Schneider said. “But soon as the election was over, the phone started ringing off the hook with requests.”
As a member of Congress, Mr. Bishop receives 197 tickets, 21 of which are for seats and the rest for standing near the platform. According to Mr. Schneider, most of the tickets go to friends and family. What’s left goes to the general public.
“We set up a computer-generated lottery for our constituents,” Mr. Schneider said, adding that Mr. Bishop and U.S. Representative Steve Israel rented a reception room in the House building for Suffolk County residents unable to get tickets but who were making the trip down to the nation’s capital anyway.
Mr. Schneider said that for the first time in history, the mall in Washington would be open to the general public.
“A lot of people will be attending because they want to be part of something historic,” he said.
Tenth-graders Spencer Kuzon and Devon Leaver, both students at the Ross School in East Hampton, were selected to participate in the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference. Both students will be making the four-day trip to the capital and will have lunch with former Vice President Al Gore and will also have the chance to listen to such speakers as former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. received two tickets from Mr. Bishop and said he was excited to be attending the momentous event with his son, Michael Thiele, who worked on the Obama campaign. “I want him to see the fruits of his labor,” the Republican lawmaker said. “This event transcends politics.”
Mr. Bishop also gave two tickets to Southampton Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, who said she regretted being unable to attend the inauguration but was honored that the congressman selected her.
For those unable to make the trip but who wish to take part in the historic event, the Southampton Town Democratic Committee is holding a celebration on inauguration night, Tuesday, January 20, starting at 7 p.m. at the Southampton Inn in Southampton Village. Saxophonist and vocalist Charles Certain, who has lived on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation since 2001, is slated to perform.
Civil rights activist and author Bob Zellner will be making the trip to D.C., accompanied by Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Trustees Lance Gumbs and Fred Bess. Mr. Zellner, a native of Alabama, helped to organize the famous march in Selma in 1965. Mr. Zellner said he was in Boston organizing marchers to gather in Selma when he was beaten up. “I was a southerner getting beat up in the north and sending northerners to get beat up down south,” Mr. Zellner said.
The member of the Freedom Movement of the 1960s said he supported the president-elect from the start.
“I was with him in March 2007 when he gave the keynote address at the Brown Chapel in Selma for the re-enactment of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge,” Mr. Zellner said, adding that President-elect Obama credited civil rights leaders for his success.
“It’s impossible not to connect the election of Obama to the civil rights movement,” Mr. Zellner said. “Who would have thought back then that a black man would be elected president of the United States?”
Staff writer Beth Young contributed to this story