RELEASE DATE: January 5, 2002
SPRINGFIELD - Due to an outpouring of requests from people across the state of Illinois who hope to take part in the affordable and accessible inaugural activities planned for next weekend, Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich and his inaugural staff have taken additional steps to enable more people to attend the events designed to celebrate the state's history and traditions and usher in a new administration.
Planners of the inaugural activities received a tremendous volume of requests for tickets from members of the general public who were attracted by the opportunity to attend free-of-charge events as well as an inaugural ball that was open to the public at the low cost of $35 per ticket.
In response to the high volume of interest, the Illinois Inauguration 2003 committee has announced that it will now hold a pair of inaugural balls on the state fairgrounds in Springfield on the evening of Monday, January 13.
Likewise, to accommodate additional people who hoped to attend the swearing-in of Blagojevich and other constitutional officers midday on Monday, inaugural planners have now opened up an additional venue -- a 2,000-seat auditorium at the University of Illinois-Springfield -- where the official inaugural ceremony will be played on large-screen television.
The newly-scheduled ball -- to be held in the Orr Building on the state fairgrounds Monday evening -- will be held at the same time as the original ball scheduled to be held in the nearby Exposition Building on the fairgrounds. Live entertainment will appear at both venues; both will be similar in décor; and, the new Governor and his wife, Patti, will be in attendance at each ball.
By holding two such functions, the inauguration committee will be able to accommodate approximately 2,000 additional guests on Monday evening. Approximately 4,000 people would have been able to attend the evening's activities when it was limited to one inaugural ball.
"From the beginning, it was our goal to make this the most affordable, accessible set of inaugural activities possible," said Blagojevich, "and it is gratifying to see people respond with such enthusiasm."
"Clearly, this outpouring of interest is the result of our decision to invite people from across the state -- people who are our longtime friends, as well as new friends whom we have yet to meet, but who share our interest in bringing real change to Illinois," he said.
Thousands of people from across Illinois sent in requests for tickets after having contacted the inaugural planners and asking that they be sent an invitation packet. More than 18,000 packets were mailed throughout the state. Additional tickets to the ball, as well as free-of-charge tickets to the inaugural ceremony and Sunday afternoon barbeque were distributed via Ticketmaster.
A capacity crowd of approximately 3,500 people of all ages will be in attendance at the family-oriented barbeque to be held Sunday afternoon on the state fairgrounds. The event is intended primarily to provide parents and children the chance to enjoy together for an afternoon of food and entertainment. In addition to a diverse line-up of musicians, the free barbeque will consist of many activities and performances designed "just for kids."
Approximately 5,000 tickets have already been distributed to the inaugural ceremony at the Prairie Capital Convention Center where Blagojevich and other constitutional officers -- including Lt. Gov-elect Patrick Quinn -- will take their oaths of office on Monday. Such tremendous demand for tickets led to the planners’ decision to open up the Sangamon Auditorium at U. of I.-Springfield to view the ceremony on large screen television.
"We have been deeply gratified by the tremendous level of interest in these events and I am very pleased that we have found ways to accommodate more guests who want to take part in this celebration of our state, its values and traditions," Blagojevich added.
The themes of openness, accessibility and public involvement that will be central to the inaugural weekend will be evident even before the governor-elect reaches Springfield. He will make the journey from Chicago to the capital by train, making scheduled stops along the way in Joliet, Dwight and Bloomington-Normal where he will meet with residents of local communities.
"It was our goal to hold a 'people’s inaugural'," Blagojevich added, "and I am pleased that so many people -- even more than we had originally planned -- will have the chance to take part."
In addition to being affordable to the guests who will attend the events, the weekend's activities are being financed at no cost to the taxpayers. In recognition of the state's budget crisis, Blagojevich rejected the opportunity to accept state money to defray the costs of the inaugural. Likewise, he also turned down state money that had been available for the operation of his transition team.