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Sat Jan 19, 2013, 11:58 PM

Off-Kilter Festivities Promise to Put Fun Ahead of Formality


WASHINGTON—As thousands cram into the official ball this weekend sporting black ties and gowns and hoping for a glimpse of President Barack Obama, Miss Joule will be hosting a gala that entertains a different inaugural vision. Hers features hula hoops. Miss Joule—the stage name of a government-worker-by-day—will be co-hosting a vaudeville-themed ball, just one of the alternative bashes set to coincide with Washington's quadrennial celebration of a new presidential term. There's a ball for chefs, another for artists and one for beer snobs.


"Washington takes itself very seriously," says Betsy Platt, concert chair for the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. The same goes for the city's official inaugural balls, she says, "but if you've ever been to one they're kind of awful." Her antidote: Monday's $20 Folklore Society and World Music and Dance Institute ball in suburban Maryland.

Swing dances, the waltz and the tango are the main attractions, along with cardboard cutouts of the president and his wife, Michelle. The recommended attire? "Black tie optional; Hawaiian shirts will not be turned away," Ms. Platt says. But guests beware: There is no heat in the historic 1930s-era Glen Echo Park Spanish Ballroom. "People come in layers and then they dance a little and they heat up," Ms. Platt says. She concedes this may be one reason the ball isn't expected to be the most popular party in town.


At the Brewers Ball, guests have their choice of 50 to 60 suds, part of Greg Engert's "tap takeover" at the ChurchKey restaurant in Washington. They won't, however, be serving the home brew that the Obama White House now makes regularly. "I get asked about that beer on a daily basis," he says. "I'm sure it's very good." Instead of hob-knobbing with Alicia Keys and Katy Perry, guests can sidle up to the brewmasters behind their favorite inebriants.



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