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Political fun-raiser

How to celebrate the inauguration in your own home

How to celebrate the inauguration in your own home

January 14, 2009|By CHRIS COPLEY

On Tuesday, Jan. 20, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

You could:

A. Heat up frozen pizza or TV dinners and watch the inauguration events on your favorite news channel.

B. Invite over six or eight friends, buy chips, dips and drinks, and watch the evening's festivities on your favorite TV cable channel.

C. Throw an honest-to-goodness party, an event to mark the inauguration of the first black American to be elected U.S. president.

Let's go with option C. Say we throw a party for 12 to 20 people that's memorable and timely. Hold it this weekend or on Tuesday night as TV news covers inauguration events in Washington.

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So what can do? Some experienced party planners offered their perspective.

Obama's heritage

Linda Frakes, an event organizer at Zion United Church of Christ in Hagerstown, suggested basing an inauguration party on Obama's ethnic heritage.

"I heard this morning that Obama's grandmother is coming over from Africa. He was raised in Hawaii," Frakes wrote in an e-mail. "Both have very distinct customs, landscape, clothes and food."

This might lead to foods, drinks and dcor that reflects Obama's Kenyan heritage. Frakes also suggested developing activities related to selecting national or tribal leaders in Kenya or in pre-statehood Hawaii.

Political stripes

Susan Snyder, administrative assistant to Herald-Mail publisher John League, hosts an annual Christmas party in her home for about 100. With such a crowd, she said, planning is key. Snyder's planning tips:

o Make sure you have foods that are easily picked up with toothpicks - chunk cheese, chips, relish trays or the like - along with main dishes.

o Limit the alcohol to just beer and wine, and don't go overboard with the amount on hand.

o Give yourself at least an hour before the party to relax.

o For inauguration-themed party dcor, Snyder suggested a patriotic approach. "I would certainly make it a red, white and blue theme," she said. "Mix and match the colors from the paper goods to the silverware. Sprinkle confetti stars around the tables and use small flags as centerpieces."

Party organizing basics

Robin Straley, a graphic artist with The Herald-Mail, holds an annual Low Country boil - sausage, corn-on-the-cob, shrimp and crab legs and the fixins' - at her home for about 14 guests. She encouraged inauguration party-throwers to thoroughly plan their event, but keep things in perspective.

"Don't fret over wanting everything to be perfect," Straley said. "Just relax and enjoy the time and fellowship with friends and family. That's most important."

Straley's other party-planning tips:

o Go through recipe cards and cookbooks to pick your menu. Make a grocery list. Plan for foods that can be made ahead and be frozen or refrigerated until party time.

o Make to-do lists for each day leading up to party.

o On the day of the party, start prep work early so you're not pressed for time and in the kitchen all day.

o Plan time, after everything is ready, for a hot bath.

o Finally, evaluate afterward. Document which recipes were a hit and which weren't. Make notes on what to improve for the next party.

Party outside the box

Rob and Pam Rubisch of Hagerstown hold parties that are so distinctive, friends schedule their social schedules around them.

"We love to have parties," Rob Rubisch said. "We usually have 75 to 100 people. It takes us about a year to prepare."

Rubisch said he and his wife throw themed parties. This year, they're planning a Bonnie-and-Clyde party commemorating the 75th anniversary of the death of the infamous criminals. They'll ask guests to dress in early-1930s fashions. The invitation will resemble a 1934 newspaper.

The Rubischs also like guests to learn as well as have fun, so food, drinks and activities tie in to trivia and other information about the theme.

Here are some of their inauguration party ideas:

o For quick invitations to a last-minute party, send e-mail or make phone calls.

o For easy, last-minute party costumes, consider asking everyone to wear white socks. (Chicago White Sox - get it?)

o For decorations, the Rubischs focused on Obama's Chicago roots. Ideas: a "Sears tower" (a stack of Sears products or boxes with logos, maybe?), a Windy-City reference (a fan greeting guests at the door) and Wrigley chewing gum (another Chicago baseball reference).

o Food ideas: Rubisch said he learned that two of Obama's favorite foods are chili and trail mix, Rubisch suggested setting out "Campaign Trail" mix, chili, "Sloppy Joe" Bidens and Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. All easy to make ahead of time. And, for dessert, maybe Hawaiian wedding cake.

o Party tunes? Try Miles Davis and Bob Dylan - reportedly two of Obama's favorite performers - plus the Blues Brothers ("The Blues Brothers" was set in and around Chicago) and early music by the pop-rock band Chicago.

o The Rubischs like games and activities at their parties. Rob Rubisch suggested a TV-watching bingo-style game: Hand out bingo cards with words related to Obama's life and to the presidency. When players hear a word spoken during inauguration coverage, players mark their cards. Winners get a prize. Another idea, this one with political overtones: Have Democrats and Republicans go mano-a-mano in a video game, maybe "Wii Sports" boxing.

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