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There seems to be some confusion among which events are considered to be "official" inaugural balls and which are just regular balls. But one thing is for sure, there will be a lot of them.
What denotes an official ball from an unofficial one is if it is sanctioned by the Presidential Inauguration Committee (PIC), and if so that means that the President will make an appearance at the ball.
Some state societies are planning balls already, but these are not official balls.
Memory is a bit cloudy for most of us who have done this sort of thing before, because the last Democratic inauguration was 12 years ago.
What are the balls like? Well, they can vary greatly. In 1997 I only attended the California Ball, which had entertainment by the Doobie Brothers and served boxed lunches. It wasn't great. But I was told that the Arkansas-Tennessee Ball with Hootie and the Blowfish (they were big back then) hosted at Union Station was a lot of fun, as was the MTV youth ball. MTV will be hosting a ball again in 2009 as reported on DCW last week. For a bit of insight on some of the balls from 1997, you can read the Washington Post's summary here.
So what's the best ball to attend? Well, only you can answer that. Many unofficial balls will still be a hot ticket and just as fun (or more?) than some official balls. My recommendation is to go to a) go to a ball that has a connection to where you are from, b) or to a ball where you'll know the most people or c) any ball that you can manage to get a ticket to get into.
As of this writing, the PIC hasn't announced any of its official balls just yet.
You can get a list of all of the Inauguration Week balls and events from our DemConWatch Inauguration Calendar.