WASHINGTON — Though President Barack Obama's second Inauguration Day will be a smaller affair than four years ago, there are still people — such as a Colorado Springs ballet troupe — willing to go to great personal expense, even in debt, to be a part of history.
Twelve dancers from Ballet Folklorico were selected to perform in the Inaugural Parade, but they are so financially strapped they've had to nearly max out credit cards and beg for private money to help pay for the trip to perform for the president of the United States on Monday.
The folkloric dance group is among hundreds of Coloradans descending into the nation's capital for Obama's second inauguration.
The affair is notably smaller than four years ago — when almost 2 million people huddled on the National Mall to try to get a glimpse of the swearing-in. Inaugural planners this year are planning for 500,000 to 800,000 people.
At the Colorado level, each state congressional office received between 200 and 400 tickets — senators usually get 400 tickets, and House members usually get 200 — and granted them to Coloradans on a mostly first-come, first-serve basis.
Both Democratic Senate offices of Mark Udall and Michael Bennet held lotteries (Udall's office had more than 1,800 requests for tickets). Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, doled out tickets to whomever asked and then shared extras — apparently there isn't a big demand for tickets in the 3rd Congressional District — with the senators and Rep. Ed Perlmutter's office.
Most offices reported over the weekend not having many tickets left, though the demand is far lower than four years ago when people were camped out in the congressional office buildings hoping for a last-minute ticket.
"Four years ago, we had so many requests for tickets we had to have a lottery, but this year we gave them as a first-come, first-served," said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, whose whole family is coming out for the events. "But we seem to have some last-minute requests, so I don't know."
Amber Carlton, a 45-year-old writer from Colorado Springs, was among the roughly 400 people who received tickets out of Udall's office. It's her first trip to Washington and her first inauguration ceremony.
"It's only once every four years. Say I live to be 80; it would only happen 20 times in my life," she said.
Connie Benavidez, founder of Ballet Folklorico, received a call three days before Christmas from the Presidential Inauguration Committee, asking whether her troupe could perform in the Inaugural Parade.
Benavidez says they had two hours to decide. She was honored and excited but said she didn't know where they'd find the money — a little more than $1,000 per person — to fly 12 dancers and four moms and grandmom chaperones out to D.C. on such short notice.
"Everyone who knows us is trying to get sponsors to help pay for it," she said. "We have $4,000 raised, but that's just a drop in the bucket."
Ballet Folklorico will try to see some free Smithsonian and other sites through the weekend and rehearse before their Monday performance. To save money, they are staying in a less-expensive hotel in Arlington, Va., are allotting only $40 a day for food and will take trains — rather than cabs or charter buses — to save money.
Benavidez has forked out more than $1,000 of her own money, and other parents have maxed out credit cards to get everyone here, she said.
"It's a big honor we got asked; we're not sure why we were asked," said Benavidez, 74, whose dancers are between 6 and 32 years old. Benavidez has two great-grandkids dancing in the parade.
Benavidez said she tried to get help from her congressman, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, but didn't hear back. Bennet's office didn't help financially but offered to help them with logistics of parking during the parade.