In January 2009, the Open Space for Arts & Community, a brand-new venue at the time, was the site of a rousing celebration for the inauguration of Barack Obama. More than 500 Islanders flooded into the cavernous new event center to eat, dance and celebrate the induction of the country’s first African-American president.
“The inaugural ball was our inauguration too, really,” said Open Space co-founder David Godsey.
Four years later, Obama’s election isn’t quite so momentous and most are familiar with the venue now affectionately called the O Space. But the upcoming inauguration is still a chance to celebrate, Godsey said. He and his wife Janet McAlpin are once again putting on a Grand Inaugural Ball, this year scheduled for the evening before the inauguration, Sunday, Jan. 20.
“It’s still a wonderful opportunity as a community to put forward our hopes and dreams, to come together … and just to dance till we drop,” Godsey said. “It will be a fun and nice night.”
A few things will be the same as four years ago. The Portage Fill Big Band with vocalists Maggie Laird and Lou Mangione will fill the large space with danceable tunes, and a DJ will fill in during breaks. Islanders are again invited to come dressed in their finest formal wear — ball gowns, tuxedos and the like — or whatever they feel comfortable dancing in. And food will be on hand, this time from the popular Mexican restaurant Zamorana.
A lot has also changed at the Open Space since the last election, Godsey said. They’ve installed a better lighting system, a state-of-the-art sound system and a stage.
“In terms of what we can provide, it’s so much more,” Godsey said.
For the ball, the Open Space will bring in a portable Marley dance floor that will cover the concrete and make for a better toe-tapping experience. The flooring was recently purchased “for a song,” Godsey said, when the Pacific Science Center sold off some items it had in storage
“For people who like to dance, it will be much better,” he said.
Godsey said he expects the turnout won’t be quite as big as four years ago, as there isn’t as much excitement surrounding Obama’s second win. To that end, the Open Space is minimizing its advertising so it can focus on throwing a great ball. There are few posters around town, no advance ticket sales and no use of brownpapertickets.com. Organizers have also chosen to hold the event on a Sunday night, which they hope will feel like a weekend night since the following Monday, the day of the actual inauguration, is a holiday.
While there is a suggested donation for the event, Godsey said no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
“We’re doing everything we can to open the doors for as many people who can come,” he said.
When asked if the Open Space would have thrown a ball had Mitt Romney been elected, Godsey quickly said “yes.”
“It’s not so much about the politics, and less now than it was four years ago,” he said. “It’s just a chance to have a good, big ball.”