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Local Democrats plan all-day bash in honor of Obama's inauguration

Jean Morgan was so convinced Barack Obama would win the election that she and her husband, Mick, booked reservations to Washington, D.C., last September for the inauguration Jan. 20.

"We were for Obama," said the 67-year-old Ashland resident. "We knew he was going to win."

The Morgans are two out of 250,000 who are getting free tickets for the event, giving them a fairly close view of the inauguration. Their two granddaughters who attend South Medford High also will travel to Washington as part of a student leadership group.

From the Capitol Mall in Washington to the Democratic headquarters in Medford, a huge party will reverberate throughout the country next Tuesday as Barack Obama gets sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

The Washington Mall could be packed with millions of onlookers who weren't able to get a ticket for the main viewing area.

Closer to home, Jackson County residents will find other opportunities to celebrate Obama's inauguration.

The Jackson County Democrats plan an all-day free banquet hosted by local restaurants from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 20 at its headquarters, 40 S. Central Ave., Medford.

A continental breakfast, featuring among other things, grapes wrapped in Rogue Valley Creamery cheese, will be served before Obama's swearing-in ceremony at 9 a.m. Obama will place his hand on the Bible used by Abraham Lincoln as he takes the oath of office.

"This will be an historic day and people of all political persuasions are welcome to join us and share the moment together," said Robin Brown, vice chairwoman of the local Democratic Party.

She said the first restaurants that offered to help cater the event were Grilla Bites and 38 on Central. Others followed, and now the Ashland Springs Hotel has agreed to coordinate the many restaurants that are participating.

In the spirit of Obama's call for greater community activism, the Democratic Party will be collecting canned or boxed food and clothing for the Salvation Army and the Veterans Affairs' Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City. In addition, donations also are being accepted for the Southern Oregon Humane Society and Committed Alliance to Strays.

Denise Cyr, who heads the community outreach program for local Democrats, said Obama wants the days leading up to Martin Luther King Day to be considered a time of community service.

"The more things we can do at our home, the better this country can do," she said.

Cyr said Democrats will be organizing more community events throughout the year to help people, particularly in these tough economic times.

Other events are being planned locally that are both private and public.

After the Democratic headquarters closes, the Siskiyou Pub will feature a free concert with labor singer Anne Feeney at 7 p.m. at 31B Water St., Ashland.

The event is underwritten by the Southern Oregon Central Labor Council and Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice.

Julie Edwards, spokeswoman for Sen. Jeff Merkley, said House and Senate members together passed out 125,000 tickets for the inauguration in Washington. The presidential inaugural committee passed out another 125,000.

Edwards said most of the tickets for the main viewing area already have been given away.

The Mall also has been set up for viewing and hearing the inauguration with speakers and monitors positioned along the way.

"It's possible there could be three or four million people that day," she said.

The Morgans aren't sure how close they will be to Obama, but Jean Morgan said they will take lots of pictures. The Morgans don't have any specific plans to celebrate afterwards.

"We didn't get any invitation to any balls," said Jean Morgan. "The inauguration is the thing I want to see anyway."

If by some chance Obama hadn't won the election, Morgan said she would have still gone to Washington, but not necessarily to see the inauguration.

"I would have visited the Smithsonian that day," she said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.

Army Sgt. Derrick Brooks, standing in for President-elect Barack Obama, and Navy Yeoman 1st Class LaSean McCray, standing in for Michelle Obama, walk the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue during a rehearsal for the inauguration ceremony. - AP