Inauguration is hub for 3 days of celebrations

Jan. 11, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Pat McCrory has been North Carolina’s governor for almost a week, but the celebrations are hardly over.

Thursday began three days of traditional festivities expected to attract thousands to honor the state’s new chief executive, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and the eight other Council of State members — capped by Friday night’s gala presentation and Inaugural Ball at the Raleigh Convention Center.

“It’s a great tradition and a great honor,” said Pat Wilkins, president of the Junior League of Raleigh, which has put on the charity ball since 1933. “We also do it to celebrate North Carolina and to impact the community.”

The hub for the glitter is Saturday morning’s formal inaugural ceremony on the south side of the old Capitol building, with the inaugural parade in downtown Raleigh to follow. A new conservative-leaning organization also is holding its own celebration Saturday that the governor and new first lady Ann McCrory plan to attend, the governor’s office said.

In contrast to custom, the governor and lieutenant governor took their oaths of office in a pair of smaller ceremonies inside the old Capitol — McCrory last Saturday and Forest on Monday. Both wanted to be installed before the new Legislature convened Wednesday. The two will take the oaths again outdoors Saturday as the remaining council members follow tradition and get sworn in during the public ceremony.

McCrory has held open houses this week in Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro and New Bern. He’ll also hold the traditional open house Saturday afternoon at the Executive Mansion.

“We also wanted to make the whole week an opportunity of getting to know North Carolina and meeting the people, and then having the final celebration here in Raleigh,” McCrory said recently. The location for Saturday’s ceremony, which will be broadcast statewide, also will be different. Most recent inauguration ceremonies have been held on the steps of the state library.

This year, Supreme Court justices will swear in 10 council members while looking down Fayetteville Street, the main thoroughfare in downtown Raleigh.

The new venue is “a signal that we’re opening up to the city of Raleigh, which is my new home and it’s not just a government inauguration,” McCrory said. “It’s a people’s inauguration on ‘Main Street.’”

The Junior League events began Thursday evening event with the $125-per-person Council of State reception at the Progress Energy Center for Performing Arts. McCrory planned to attend Thursday night’s informal “Rock the Ball” concert event at a theater designed to attract the younger crowd.

North Carolina-based music is a big part of the weekend, with folk rockers The Avett Brothers and country-rock notables Parmalee playing at the Gala Presentation and live music at the ball.

As with past inaugurals, individuals and North Carolina corporations are helping share the financial load for the event with sponsorship levels ranging from $600 to $50,000.

Wilkins said 3,500 people were expected to attend the Gala Presentation and Inaugural Ball and that ticket sales didn’t seem to have been hurt by Saturday night’s festivities by the new Foundation for North Carolina Inc.

The foundation says its two public events are sold out, with an expected 3,000 people attending. There’s also a separate private dinner featuring the McCrorys.

“It’s really just a celebration of North Caroilna,” foundation spokesman Dan Spuller said.

The foundation was formed after McCrory’s victory in November in part by Republican political activists, including McCrory campaign adviser Jack Hawke. The group intends to serve as a research think tank promoting policy proposals.

Patrons could pay $25,000 or $50,000 memberships to the foundation and receive tickets for Saturday night’s events and attend two conferences in which McCrory will participate, the foundation said. Single tickets were $75 to Saturday night’s reception and $1,000 to the VIP reception, Spuller said.