At least four people from Juneau will represent Alaska at inauguration events in Washington, D.C., this week, including the swearing-in of President-elect George W. Bush on Saturday. Other Alaskans attending the ceremonies include four-time Iditarod winner Susan Butcher and one of her sled dog teams.
Local Republican activists Paulette and Budd Simpson and husband-wife psychotherapists Bill Platte and Mary Bardone are leaving Wednesday morning for a long and historic weekend.
Bardone is a 40-year acquaintance of Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, and she will renew their friendship at a 90-minute event at the official vice presidential residence at the Naval Observatory on Sunday.
Paulette Simpson was one of a dozen Alaskans who met with the future president in Seattle in October 1999 to discuss resource development issues. She said the strong ties between the state and Bush prompted her to attend her first inauguration. Simpson was a delegate to last year's Republican National Convention.
"After being at the convention and seeing how really involved and esteemed our congressional delegation is in those circles, it's really exciting being an Alaskan," she said. "It's just fun. And they're close to Bush."
Butcher, from Fairbanks, will participate in Saturday's Inaugural Parade with what's billed as her "championship sled dog team." She has the 45th position in about 80 parade entries from around the nation.
Attendance by Alaskans seems to be up this year, said Donna Murray, who works for Alaska U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski.
"It's incredible. I'm shocked," Murray said. "I think there's a good 80, if not more, Alaskans coming down."
Each member of Alaska's Republican delegation - Sens. Ted Stevens and Murkowski, and Rep. Don Young - is having a reception. In addition, the Alaska Society, consisting of about 150 former Alaskans or Alaskans temporarily working on Capitol Hill, will have a reception.
Inauguration night balls are split up among groups of states. Because of her inside connection, Bardone will take her husband to the Wyoming-Texas ball, where she figures she has her best chance of meeting Bush.
Bardone and the future Lynne Cheney attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs in the early 1960s. Cheney, who was a year ahead, was Bardone's freshman dorm counselor, and they were next-door neighbors the next year.
"She was so smart, so I always studied with her," Bardone said. She also met Cheney's husband-to-be several times back then and later lunched with the couple at the Pentagon when he was defense secretary under the elder Bush. She remembers him as "a really nice guy, really genuine, low-key, modest."
Lynne Cheney came to Juneau in the early 1990s while she headed up the National Endowment for the Humanities, Bardone said. She said she and her husband took Cheney in a skiff to their cabin on Shelter Island.
Although Bardone was a political science major, her connection with the Cheneys isn't partisan, she said. "We're registered party members of a different party."
Bardone also noted her niece and her husband will be going to the inauguration to protest the way Bush won the critical electoral votes in Florida.
"We're covering all the bases," she said with a laugh.
Bill McAllister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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