At a recent pre-Inaugural Ball dress swap, Cindy Cashen floated regally into a meeting of Juneau Republican Women at the Aspen Hotel, wearing stretch velvet and fur. A gaggle of onlookers swooned near the door, someone in the corner made catcalls, another remarked, "Oh, isn't that fun!"
"Does it take 10 pounds off? Does it? Does it?" joked the slim Cashen, clipping on dangling beaded earrings. "I think this ball is going to be more fun than I thought, if this is a taste of what it will be like."
This month's meeting of Republican Women was charged with excitement as women unloaded glittery partywear at dress-swap prices while chatting, like brides-to-be, about accessories, shoes and last-minute, fit-into-the-dress diets. Inaugural Ball organizers buzzed through room, making volunteer assignments and detailing their plans for this weekend's ball in honor of Gov. Frank Murkowski. Republican Women last planned Gov. Walter Hickel's inaugural ball in 1990.
"This is going to be just a wonderful opportunity for Juneau to put its best face forward as a capital city," said Alison Browne, one of the three co-chairwomen of the Inaugural Committee, adding that the event will attract party-goers from all over Southeast.
The ball will be a sparkling occasion swathed in bolts of shiny brocade and spray-painted tree branches, dedicated to the theme "Celebrating Alaska's Future," organizers said. Gold, spangling like the nuggets once panned from Gold Creek, will be the theme color. As she folded a long piece of cream and gold fabric at the dress swap, Chris Wyatt explained that she picked the material up in the United Arab Emirates when she was visiting her husband, who works in Abu Dhabi.
"I got it for a great price," she said. Wyatt will be decorating the Goldbelt.
The Governor's Inaugural Ball will start at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, and run until 1 a.m. at Centennial Hall, the Goldbelt Hotel and Merchants Wharf. Each venue will have a no-host bar, with substantial hors d'oeuvres that revolve around a theme. The Wharf, for example, has an Asian theme. The Goldbelt will serve seafood.
"There will be no cheese and crackers at this event," declared organizer Paulette Simpson.
Thunder Mountain Big Band and Top Cover, which is part of The Air Force Band of the Pacific, will play at Centennial Hall. Fleetstreet Jazz Band will play at the Goldbelt, and Anchorage's ThumbTax dance band will play at Merchants Wharf. There also will be music from pianist Tom Locher and a DJ spinning disco.
"Did you know, there is a tremendous resurgence of disco dancing in this country?" remarked Browne.
Tickets are $35 at Hearthside Books. They buy a bracelet that admits guests to all three venues. Ball-goers will receive a Rie Munoz commemorative Inaugural print depicting the northern lights when they purchase a ticket. Cabs will be available to take people home. Dress is formal, "festive and creative," organizers said.
On Saturday before the ball, the governor and the first lady will lead an indoor parade at the Nugget Mall. The family event will begin at 1:30 and will feature the Boy Scout Color Guard, Stroller White Bagpipes, Ati-atihan Filipino Drummers and Dancers, the Juneau-Douglas High School Band and the All Nations' Children Native dancers, along with games, clowns and a teen rock band. Cookies and punch will be served. The parade is free and open to the public.
"Everyone is welcome (to the ball and the parade)," said Centennial Hall decorator Charlotte Richards. "You don't have to be a Republican. Just come as a citizen and have fun."
Julia O'Malley can be reached at email@example.com.