The sight of grown men dancing to country music while donning cowboy hats with blinking white lights attached made it clear – the Texans are in town.
On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, nearly 10,000 Texans and wannabe Texans packed into ballrooms in the massive Gaylord National Resort just outside of Washington for the Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball.
They were treated to a Texas-sized spectacle.
A musical performance by Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers kicked things off, and things got political really fast.
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“I don’t give a rat’s ass what they think, we won,” lead singer Larry Gatlin told the crowd, who hollered back with whoops and cheers. “I ain’t going to get bipartisan with you.”
Donald Trump’s election created a different feeling among attendees from the country’s largest Republican state compared with previous editions in 2008 and 2012.
I ain’t going to get bipartisan with you.
Larry Gatlin, of Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers
“This one’s just so much more vibrant,” said Vicki Clifton of Houston, who also attended the 2012 edition of the Black Tie and Boots Ball. “I like this one better, for sure.”
Clifton and others were treated to performances by mega acts like the Beach Boys along with groups with a Texas flair like the Lil’ Wranglers and the Rangerettes.
“I’m waiting for the Beach Boys,” Clifton said. “You’ve got to respect longevity.”
Thursday night’s ball brought in the well-heeled and politicians of all stripes, and it was all put together under the direction of Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, who served as the ball’s president.
“If you’re a Donald Trump supporter you’re probably here tonight,” Williams said. “It’s been fun reaching out to all types of Texans.”
Williams said some Democrats were in attendance, but Trump clearly brought out the crowds and excitement from a state that could be primed for a bigger role in Washington, with the potential nomination of Texans Rick Perry and Rex Tillerson to Trump’s Cabinet and a slew of Texans with powerful roles in Congress.
“There’s an electricity in the air,” said Stan Cromartie of Houston, who came to Washington for the first time to see Trump’s inauguration.
“I’m a little disappointed in the Democrats that aren’t coming to the inauguration,” Williams said. “But we’ve got 11,000 of our friends here.”
The ball, which was expected to drag into the early hours of Friday morning, could see an appearance from the man who arguably deserves credit for transforming the ball into an even bigger party than normal.
But Williams was coy at the idea that Trump and his wife, Melania, would show up late in the night.
“Is it the fifth that people plead?” Williams asked rhetorically. “I’m going to plead the fifth.”