Inaugural bash

Juneau celebrates the state's new administration

Posted: Monday, January 27, 2003

About 850 men and women, most of them fully decked in formal attire, braved the snow and wind Saturday night to attend one of the few events in Juneau where tuxedo pants outnumbered Carharts and high heels won out over Xtratufs.

Gov. Frank Murkowski's fourth inaugural ball was held at Centennial Hall, Merchants Wharf and the Goldbelt Hotel. The first three balls were in Anchorage, Nome and the Alaska State Fairgrounds in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Ketchikan had its inaugural ball Sunday and others are planned for Kenai and Fairbanks.

The ball began at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and lasted until early Sunday morning. Attendees paid $35 for general admission or $75 for a seat at a table to enjoy four bands, four dance floors and three buffet tables. Each venue had its own color and food theme, and each was designed to have a different feel, organizers said.

The Juneau chairwomen of the Alaska Inaugural Committee - Alison Browne, Laraine Derr and Paulette Simpson - worked with more than 100 volunteers to bring the event to fruition.

"This is the fun part," said Simpson, clad in a gown she bought on eBay.com and antique rhinestones.

Though Republicans dominated the scene, the ball drew a crowd of many political and social leanings.

"I'm here because I'm really happy about the new governor and the lieutenant governor," said Helen Troutt, a former Juneau resident who moved with her family to Washington, D.C., seven months ago when her husband took a position with the Bush administration.

Bruce Botelho, attorney general under the Hickel and Knowles administrations, said he attended the ball to celebrate Alaska.

"I think the inaugural ball is a time to set aside partisan politics and celebrate the fact that we have an orderly, peaceful, democratic transition from governor to governor," Botelho said. "It's a chance for Juneauites to be proud of being the capital city for every administration that comes into office.

"Also, I like to dance."

Botelho wasn't alone in his enthusiasm for dancing. Vincent Allen, 19, a sophomore at the University of Alaska Southeast, didn't put the slightest political slant on his decision to attend the ball.

"I'm just here because I like to dance," Allen said. "There's not anything happening in Juneau these days."

The governor and lieutenant governor mixed politicking and socializing at the balls.

Murkowski and his wife Nancy traveled with Lt. Gov. Loren Leman and his wife Carolyn to each of the three venues, toasting the new administration and showing their stuff on the dance floor.

"This is an exquisite crowd here," Murkowski said at Centennial Hall. " ... I'm just so pleased to be here."

He went on to discuss the legacy today's Alaskans will leave for future Alaskans, and reiterated his emphasis on building a strong economy.

• Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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