Obama inauguration tickets sell for high price
Some 250,000 tickets have already been printed for the inauguration - and though they are supposed to be free, some are being offered online for exorbitant prices.
There is huge demand for the tickets and congressional officials, who distribute the tickets, have been inundated with calls from people trying to get access to Obama's swearing-in ceremony on Inauguration Day, January 20th, 2009.
Tickets are required to sit in the area in front of the Capitol building where Obama will be sworn in. Areas further away from the scene of the action will not require tickets and people will be able to watch the ceremony on huge video screens.
Huge demand has turned what's traditionally a giveaway into a thriving online marketplace.
A quick search of the Internet found site after site -- many of them legitimate ticket brokers -- promising a view of Barack Obama being sworn in as the next president for a precious price.
Reserved, VIP tickets are being offered for sale at $20,377.
Howard Gantman is the senate staffer tasked with pulling off Washington's biggest event.
"We think it's absolutely insane to be selling those tickets. We understand some people want to try to make a buck, but for those people thinking of buying tickets, it's buyer beware," Gantman said.
Ticket brokers are middlemen -- selling tickets they say they buy from Capitol Hill staffers or people who get them free-of-charge through their members of Congress. But because those tickets are only given out at the last minute, Gantman said brokers can't be sure they will get as many as they've sold.
If you buy one, you could end up in a hotel room with nothing more than a refund.
Here are some tips on how to have a successful inauguration day experience:
Tickets to the swearing-in ceremony are free. They will be distributed through members of Congress, and requests should be made of your senator or congressman's office.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has received 2,000 requests. He received 400 tickets for the 600 people who wanted to attend the 2005 ceremony for Bush.
"We're putting names on a list, and it will be first come, first served," said spokesman Bryan Gulley.
About 250,000 tickets will be available. The Joint Congressional Inaugural Committee, which is organizing the events, has not said how many tickets each lawmaker will receive. Tickets will be distributed to congressional offices the week before the inauguration and will require in-person pickup.
Scammers already are hawking fake tickets. On one Web site, ticket brokers are asking $20,000 for a VIP ticket to the swearing-in ceremony. Another site shows a map of the parade route with ticket prices from $695 to $1,950 for positions along the route.
The parade, which starts at 2:30 p.m. on Inauguration Day, is free and open to the public. No tickets are necessary.
Remember: You don't have to have a ticket to watch the swearing-in at 11:30 a.m. But if you don't have one, you'll be 250,000 people back.
Experts say flights to Washington will only go up in price as the date nears. Flights from Palm Beach International Airport for the inaugural dates were starting around $300 Saturday. Find a place to stay now. Most of the 95,000 hotel rooms in Washington are booked. On Friday a few hotels still had rooms in the city, starting at $565 a night, and most require a three-night stay. A campground in Maryland - normally closed in the winter - has 85 spots reserved.
There are creative lodging options. One Craigslist ad offers a fully furnished basement apartment in exchange for "(2) tickets to the official inaugural ball and (2) tickets to the swearing-in ceremony."
Hotel rooms are said to be selling out fast - and private residences are also being offered for sale.
Mr William Hanbury, president of Destination DC, the District of Columbia's convention and tourism arm, says the area's 95,000 hotel rooms are filling up faster than for previous inaugurations. Marriott, for example, expects to sell out most of its Washington area hotels in about a week, he said.
Mr Hanbury expects the demand to be so great that there will be many 'innovative accommodations'.
'It is an extraordinarily historic event,' he said. 'The church group from Atlanta, the high school from Chicago - they're all trying to find places to stay. You're going to have people sleeping in church basements and high school cafeterias.'
Local residents are offering to rent rooms, apartments and even homes to those coming for the event.
On website Craigslist, a seven-bedroom estate in Fairfax Station, Virginia, billed as a 'lovely place to relax or host a celebrity reception', was offered for US$18,000 for the week.
It is, of course, too early to tell how many people will attend.
'I've heard numbers as high as 1.5 or 1.6 million,' Mr Hanbury said.
Interest in the inauguration also extends to the celebrity world. Pop diva Beyonce has said she's more than willing to perform for Obama, should she get the call.
"I'm there," she told The Associated Press. "I can't wait. I feel like all of us, we're ready to do whatever we have to do. Whatever they want — if they need me to volunteer, they need me to sing, I'm there, and I'm ready. I've never been so patriotic! I'm just beyond excited."