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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pearl Presidential Inaugural Gala could be option for D.C.-bound

 •  Day, time of Dunham death clarified
 •  Obamas shown around White House

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Hawai'i State Society's first-ever presidential inaugural ball is now the hot ticket in Washington, D.C., and the organizers of a separate ball by Asian Pacific Islander groups hope for the same kind of buzz.

In an online story yesterday headlined, "Aloha State Moves to the A-List," the Washington Post called the sold-out ball organized by the Hawai'i State Society of Washington, D.C., "the hottest ticket in town."

And President-elect Barack Obama hasn't even confirmed that he will make an appearance.

Kohono Mossman, the Hawai'i ball's Maui-born chairman, has been humbled and overwhelmed by the demand for the original 750 or so tickets, each costing $200.

The society yesterday was able to get more room in the Mandarin Oriental hotel for 150 more guests but those extra tickets disappeared instantly to people on a waiting list.

The organization will continue to take names on the waiting list in case more tickets become available, Mossman said.

He now hopes that people who make the 5,000-mile flight from Hawai'i without any inaugural plans turn to the Pearl Presidential Inaugural Gala scheduled one day before on Jan. 19 in the same Mandarin Oriental hotel.

It's not Hawai'i specific. But like the 2009 Hawai'i Inaugural Ball, the first-ever Pearl Presidential Inaugural Gala also designates attire as black tie or native dress.

"The Pearl Inaugural Ball is definitely geared toward Asian Pacific Islanders," said Hawai'i-born Jocelyn Hong, who works as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and is one of the ball's organizers. "A lot of people in Hawai'i will want to attend this."

The ball is being thrown by various Asian and Pacific Islander groups, Hong said, and is selling 1,200 tickets for $250 each.

Hong did not know yesterday how many were left. The ball's Web site yesterday could not process requests for ticket sales.

Although this will be the initial Pearl Presidential Inaugural Gala, it is not the first ball for its co-chairwomen, Francey Lim Youngberg and Gloria T. Caoile. They also orchestrated the first Asian Pacific American Inaugural Ball in 1996, which sold out its 1,200 tickets, Hong said.

"I have been to 10,000-person balls before in Washington," Hong said. "I would never go to another (big) D.C. ball again. They're horribly impersonal.

"But this event is going to be representative of what we're trying to do, and it's going to be in one of Barack Obama's favorite hotels."

Her parents, Tai and Pat Hong of Hawai'i Kai, are even making the long flight to Washington, D.C., with 10 friends and relatives including members of their bridge club and everybody has tickets to both balls.

They've visited their daughter often but never thought about making a special trip for a presidential inauguration, Pat Hong said.

"I would never go to the inauguration of someone who wasn't truly going to make a difference," said Pat Hong, 70, who used to teach at 'Ewa Beach Elementary School and Barbers Point Elementary. "But for this man, we'll go. Because of the ticket prices, we might be on food stamps in February, but we want to be there when he's sworn in."

Tai and Pat Hong booked their airline seats on Election Day and planned to cancel within 24 hours if John McCain won.

Instead, they have airline tickets and tickets to two island-themed balls and are working Hawai'i's congressional delegation to snag tickets to see Obama sworn in as the nation's 44th president on Jan. 20.

"We're on hands and knees to the Hawai'i delegation to get tickets to the swearing in," Pat Hong said.

They're also trying to figure out what to wear and how to brace themselves for winter in Washington.

"People have been telling me we have to get electric mittens and electric socks," Pat said. "But we haven't investigated it."

Tai Hong a 75-year-old, retired Hawai'i Air National Guard fighter pilot doesn't have anything special in his closet to wear to Washington.

If he and Pat should get to attend the actual inauguration, Tai won't put on a suit "just my regular clothes," he said.

And, because he doesn't have a tux of his own for the balls, Tai is borrowing one from a friend of a friend.

But Pat wants to make sure she represents Obama's birthplace.

She's hoping to find a gown with a distinctive Hawai'i theme that's worthy of a president.

"They said native dress," Pat said.

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com.