No tickets for G'ville students at Obama's inauguration

Published: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 5:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 5:28 p.m.

A group of Gainesville high school students from the Pre-Collegiate Club traveling in Washington, D.C., for Tuesday's inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama do not have tickets to see the event up close as they had wanted.

Eastside teacher Shirley Feagin, director of the Pre-Collegiate program, said she did not receive a message from Sen. Bill Nelson's office informing those requesting tickets that there were not enough to fulfill the flood of requests. The group of 13 students, plus chaperones and parents, left Gainesville on Wednesday for the nation's capital.

Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for Nelson, said an e-mail was sent to Feagin on Dec. 22, 2008, informing her of the lack of tickets.

On Jan. 10, Feagin wrote letters to Michelle Obama, Gov. Charlie Crist, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Nelson's office, among others, asking them to help secure 45 tickets for the group, with no success.

McLaughlin apologized for whatever confusion there may have been.

"No slight to President Bush, but in 2005 we only had 600 requests for tickets compared to 50,000 people asking for 250,000 tickets for the Obama inauguration," McLaughlin said.

He said Nelson's office received 393 tickets, which were distributed to elected officials in Florida such as mayors, city council members and others, the senator's staff, and the remainder were available on a first-come-first-serve basis.

"No one received more than four tickets," McLaughlin said "And those who received tickets were sent instructions of where to pick them up."

McLaughlin said the good news is that tickets will not be needed to view the inauguration since the National Mall is open for people to gather and watch the ceremony.

Feagin spent time on Friday trying to straighten out the mix-up with Nelson's office. She has attended two previous inaugurations with students from the club.

"I'm under the impression that with all the big-named stars coming in for this inauguration that our kids were slighted," Feagin said.

Follow the students as they blog from Washington, D.C.

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