Most of the 700,000 visitors expected to come to Washington to witness President Barak Obama's second inauguration will spend their time waiting in long lines, braving the cold and fighting the crowds - to participate in this celebration of democracy. But for those who can afford it, the inauguration can be a luxurious and privileged excursion tour.
For only $57,000, two lucky people can stay at the Park Hyatt hotel’s presidential suite in Washington. It's part of a four-day inauguration package that includes personal butlers and chefs preparing some of President Obama’s favorite foods, and a closet full of Sax Fifth Avenue designer clothes to wear.
The Hyatt’s public relations director, Renee Eisman, says the presidential inauguration brings the country’s rich and famous to Washington and high-end hotels must offer something extra to compete for their business.
“I think everyone is looking to create some buzz and to try to make these, you know, presidential packages for guests just to draw up some additional attention that this is a very busy, and sort of the Oscars time of Washington D.C.,” Eisman said.
For $100,000, guests at the Ritz Carlton’s presidential suite will get what is considered the standard high-end package. It includes limousine service, guided tours of historical sites and a prime reserved viewing spot for the inauguration parade at the Newseum, the journalism museum. The package also includes a private cupcake decorating party at the gourmet Georgetown Cupcake shop.
Ritz Carlton general manager Elizabeth Mullins says there is also a public service element involved: The hotel chefs will work with culinary students at DC Central Kitchen, an organization that feeds the homeless - to develop a special inaugural meal for their elite guests.
“What an experience it will be for the students of the kitchen to be able to give back in this way and to learn and cook alongside our team in this very exclusive experience,”Mullins said.
President Obama’s second inauguration is not expected to draw the record crowds it did in 2008, so many of these extravagant presidential packages are still available.
Edward Berkowitz, a history professor at George Washington University, says generally speaking more rich donors are affiliated with Republicans - considered the party of business - and come out less for Democratic presidents, who are seen as more closely allied with labor unions.
“The Democrats are in power, so they’re also giving money and trying to gain favor with the Democrats but in general I think the Republicans have the better ties and I think the Republicans are more into the ‘glitterati’ sort of side of the inauguration,” Berkowitz said.
Still, the presidential inauguration is a chance to see democracy in action. And those who can afford it can experience it in comfort and style.