- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Presidential Inaugural Committee is expected to announce today the official theme and details for the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony of President Bush. But insiders already know what the unofficial theme will be: Texas, Texas, Texas.

“The interest is overwhelming,” said a spokesman for Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who said the office has received 3,000 requests from constituents for tickets to the various inaugural events. The office only has 400 tickets.

Usually the president’s home state holds a distinct advantage over the rest of the country and this year is no different. Although the theme, which one inaugural committee member called “Vision of America,” will attempt to honor the anniversary of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, expect the Texans to be upfront and in your face.

From Nacogdoches to Jasper, Abilene to Alice, Odessa to Bastrop, they will storm the Capitol’s West Front in waves decked out in Lucchese boots, Dubya duds and custom-fitted Stetsons.

Don’t forget the armadillos from the Fort Worth Zoo, which will make an appearance.

Not to mention Mr. Bush’s favorite candy from Midland.

“He loves my Kickers,” said Susie Hitchcock-Hall, owner of Susie’s South Forty Confections about her praline candies. Miss Hitchcock-Hall started her candy-making company in 1991, and now her creations, especially her Kickers and pecan praline crunch known as Texas Crude, are hand delivered to the president.

The candy maker and other Lone Star vendors will participate in the Texas Fair at the Wardman Park Marriott Hotel on Jan. 18 and 19. The fair is free to the public and will also feature Texas landscape paintings, ponchos, cowboy pajamas, 14-karat-gold belt buckles, Texas mesquite cutting boards, pies, jams, cobblers and a particular style of interior design called “Ranch Furniture.”

“Cowhides are really popular down here,” said Nancy Ames, whose Houston-based event planning company was hired by the Texas State Society to coordinate the fair. “We also have Stetson hats that can be made that day to fit your head.”

Lucky ticket holders for the sold-out Jan. 19 Texas State Society “Black Tie & Boots” ball are already shopping for proper attire.

“So far, we have gotten calls from as far away as California from people wanting boots for the inauguration,” said Walter Pie, president of the Pinto Ranch Fine Western Wear, just down the road from where former President George Bush lives in Houston. “Especially from women.”

The boots sell for between $1,000 and $3,000, with the all-alligator skin model going for $6,000.

Mr. Pie explained the appeal of Texas wear: “It’s not like Illinois or Indiana. There’s a real lifestyle here in Texas.”

Pat Svacina, spokesman for Republican Rep. Kay Granger, president of the Texas State Society, agreed.

“Texas has got its own aura,” Mr. Svacina said.

That aura will soon envelop the capital. Look for Texan bands in the parade, although the final number has not been formalized. More than 340 groups nationwide are competing for the honor of marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, but only 75 groups — including marching units, horses and bands — will be selected.

No doubt the swearing-in ceremony will have Texas touches, but the biggest nod to the sons and daughters of Texas will be the Black Tie & Boots ball. Enterprising scalpers joined the Texas State Society four years ago for the sole purpose of getting their hands on tickets to the ball. This year is no different as some tickets are being auctioned off for thousands of dollars on EBay.

“I really don’t get it,” Miss Ames said. “The tickets are nontransferable. These people were selling tickets before they had them in hand. I’d kick them out of the society.”

The ball — featuring Lyle Lovett, Lee Ann Womack, Robert Earl Keen and other country singers — has a waiting list of sponsors eager to pony up $50,000 (joining high profile businesses like Wells Fargo and Edison Electric) to be represented.

“We just can’t fit anyone else in there,” Miss Ames said.

As a special gift for the president, Pinto Ranch is busy designing a custom pair of alligator boots to give to Mr. Bush on the night of the ball.

As to whether he will don them on stage, Mr. Pie couldn’t say.

“He probably already has his outfit picked out,” he said.

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