Area high schoolers don't have tickets to Obama's big show


Published: Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 10:54 p.m.

A group of Gainesville high school students traveling to Washington, D.C., for Tuesday's inauguration thought they had tickets to see the event up close, but it turns out they do not.

Eastside High School teacher Shirley Feagin, who helped coordinate the trip, said she did not receive a message from Sen. Bill Nelson's office informing her that there were not enough tickets to fulfill the flood of requests.

The group of 13 students, representing not only Eastside High but also Buchholz, Gainesville, Newberry and Santa Fe high schools, left Gainesville on Wednesday for the nation's capital, along with parents and chaperones.

The students are all members of the Pre-Collegiate Club, and Feagin is the club's director.

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

On Jan. 10, Feagin wrote letters to Michelle Obama, Gov. Charlie Crist, House Speaker 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 Sen. 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 said. 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 Sen. Nelson's office.

She has attended two previous inaugurations with students from the high school 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 through their blog on gainesville.com.

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