Politics & Government

Beshear's second inauguration will be more subdued, less costly

Inauguration decor coordinator Carol Mitchell, left, and Sara Osborne made a banner on the rooftop of the Capitol on Friday. Bob Stewart, executive director for Gov. Steve Beshear's inaugural on Tuesday, said the celebration should cost less than $400,000, about half of the cost for Beshear's first.
Inauguration decor coordinator Carol Mitchell, left, and Sara Osborne made a banner on the rooftop of the Capitol on Friday. Bob Stewart, executive director for Gov. Steve Beshear's inaugural on Tuesday, said the celebration should cost less than $400,000, about half of the cost for Beshear's first. ©2011

Two themes running through the inaugural festivities on Tuesday when Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov.-elect Jerry Abramson are sworn in will be frugality and family-friendliness.

"We're balancing economy with the fact that this is an historic day in Kentucky," said the inaugural's executive director, Bob Stewart, working on his eighth inauguration.

Four years ago, when Beshear was elected the first time, his inaugural bash cost about $800,000. With cost-cutting measures in place this time, expenses are expected to be less than $400,000, Stewart said.

Most inaugural expenses are being paid with private donations.

"After all is said and done, we will make a report to the state Registry of Election Finance, but our goal is to be very sensitive to the current economy, spend half as much as four years ago but make the event appropriate, fun, traditional and respectful."

Cost savings today are in contrast to past inaugurations that were relatively lavish. About 700 private donors shelled out $874,176 for Gov. Ernie Fletcher's inauguration in 2003. That combined with $220,000 from the state for Fletcher's transition and inauguration expenses put the cost near $1 million for Republican supporters to whoop it up to welcome the first GOP governor of Kentucky since 1979.

In 1999, marking his second term, Gov. Paul Patton's party cost less than $130,000. His 1995 celebration cost less than $200,000.

Gov. Wallace Wilkinson's inauguration in 1987 racked up at least $860,000 in costs, paid by private donors. The state paid $205,000 in inaugural and transition expenses.

This year, the inaugural organizers saved money by recycling, reusing, reducing and eliminating as much as possible, event organizers said.

Banners hung along Capitol Avenue were used four years ago. Recently, they were pulled from storage, shaken out and put up again.

And the inaugural platform where Beshear and Abramson will stand is half as large as it was 2007. Stewart's committee figured out ways to set up chairs on bricked areas in front of the Capitol for guest seating.

For previous inaugurations, three large white tents were set up on the lawn between the Governor's Mansion and the Capitol for special guests and big donors. Each tent was decorated with chandeliers hanging from the ceilings, floral arrangements on each table, columns wrapped in greenery, a food buffet, two bars, a band and bathrooms.

Those tents have been eliminated "for a big cost savings," Stewart said.

Instead of three inaugural balls, there will be one in the Frankfort downtown convention center. A bar will be set up in the front lobby, food in the back lobby, tables in the middle of the arena. One band will provide music.

"I am pinching every penny possible. Buying everything on sale, everything from Kentucky," said Carol Mitchell, decor coordinator for the inauguration.

Mitchell spoke from a state-owned lift that had raised her near the arena's 30-foot ceiling where she was helping hang 2,000 silver balls.

"We purchased them, but they were very, very cheap. But it takes a lot of work to hang them," she said.

Cables were stretched across the arena ceiling, and the ornaments hung from the cables by fishing line.

Tree branches, 12 and 14 foot long, were cut from a farm in Franklin County, sprayed white and wrapped in white lights. Those will decorate the lobbies and the arena. Round tables where guests sit will be covered with white cloths made from recycled plastic bottles. After the inauguration, the cloths can be laundered and reused. Linen table cloths go over the top of them.

"We're not contracting things out this time, where somebody comes in, does the work and we pay triple for it," Mitchell said. "We're doing the work ourselves. And a lot of it is very labor-intensive."

She has a corps of 15 volunteers, plus others who contribute when time permits, to help decorate the arena and drape bunting around the exterior of the Capitol.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, the Thomas D. Clark Center for History at 100 West Broadway will be open for activities aimed at families and children, including three museum theater performances and live music in the afternoon.

Admission and all activities at the history center, the Kentucky Military History Museum and the Old State Capitol will be free. Coupons for 20 percent off on Kentucky-made items for sale in the gift shop will be available at the front desk of the history center, said Chelsea Compton, marketing manager for the Kentucky Historical Society.

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