Governor’s Ball draws 1,400 celebrants

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(Host) A week of ceremonies to mark the beginning of the new administration of Governor Jim Douglas ended Saturday night with an Inaugural Ball. It was the first such occasion in over a decade.

As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, 1,400 people braved a cold, blustery night to attend:

(Sound of emcee) “Please welcome the 77th governor of the great state of Vermont and the first lady of Vermont, the Honorable James and Dorothy Douglas.” (Applause from the audience.)

(Zind) Governor Douglas shook an entire campaign’s worth of hands Saturday night. The governor and his wife Dorothy stood for hours greeting a seemingly endless line of enthusiastic well wishers who crowded the Norwich University armory in Northfield.

Black tie was optional for the Inaugural Ball, but many men chose to exercise the option. Women in gowns mixed with crisply dressed cadets, officers of the National Guard and state police. They danced under a billowy canopy of parachutes hung from the armory rafters. Some came to celebrate a political victory:

“It’s time to celebrate the change.”
“I was very happy that Jim Douglas was elected governor and I just wanted to be here tonight.”
“There’s no question that we’ve been waiting for this for a long time. I think it was extra sweet this year because all the polls had us not winning this year, either. So this is an extra sweet victory.”

(Zind) Others came to mark a moment in Vermont history:

“I just always wanted to come to the Inaugural Ball.”
“I’m a freshman legislator. I’m a Democrat. I got an invitation, decided – what the heck? Might not get an invitation to another Governor’s Ball for a while.”

(Zind) The crowd was dotted with Democratic stalwarts and others from the non-GOP reaches of the political landscape. But out on the dance floor, Republican heels kicked the highest. (Sound of the Vermont Jazz Ensemble playing, “String of Pearls.”)

The Vermont Jazz Ensemble has been playing inaugurals since the first Snelling administration. Bandleader Rich Davidian says the group made a few minor adjustments for this event.

(Davidian) “The two unusual things were that they asked for the theme from “Rocky,” – ‘Gonna Fly Now.’ That we put away a dozen years ago, so we had to dig it out of the dead file again to play that for Governor Douglas. They also asked for some marches. That isn’t normally part of our repertoire.”

(Zind) The evening’s dancing officially begins with the traditional first dance featuring the governor and his wife.

(Davidian) “They just asked for something slow and short. So, I’ve chose that we do “Misty,” a pretty popular old standard.” (Sound of the ensemble playing “Misty.”)

(Zind) As the music began, the governor and his wife danced alone. A crowd ringed the floor, cameras flashed, and there was applause. Then other couples stepped onto the floor and in a few moments the Douglas’s were lost from view among the dancers.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind at Norwich University in Northfield.

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