OLYMPIA — Fiona Rimstad could utter just one word as she entered the Washington State Capitol on Wednesday night.
“Wow,” the 59-year-old Mukilteo teacher said.
Wow indeed. Around her rose a massive tent lined in ice sculptures of dragons and fish, filled with 40,000 separate appetizers from apple-cider-braised pork sliders to smoked-salmon pinwheels and bookended by dueling musical ensembles — jazz on one end, blues on the other.
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Some 3,000 people on Wednesday night crammed into the Capitol building — and the tent outside — to dance, drink and toast Gov. Jay Inslee, who had been sworn in earlier in the day.
The inaugural ball, a nonpartisan event which has been held for more than 150 years, offered a chance for both power players and regular citizens — and anybody else who paid $100 to get into the event — to see their Capitol up close. Really close.
Twelve-year-old Wulf Jinkins sat in the state House chambers, clutching a microphone and posing for a photo for his mom.
“I want to kind of be a politician someday,” Jinkins said.
Downstairs, all of the statewide elected officials opened their offices to visitors.
The most popular was the office of new Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
“I think it might have something to do with the chocolate fountains,” said Wyman, moving forward to avoid the heavy traffic while pointing to dark- and white-chocolate towers.
“Sam never had chocolate,” joked an passer-by, referring to just-retired Secretary of State Sam Reed.
“It’s all about change,” Wyman smiled, “and really thinking about the people.”
Only a brief program could interrupt the festivities. After a prayer from Sikh religious leader Jasmit Singh — he was the new governor’s only request of the night, in the interest of cultural diversity — an emcee introduced various dignitaries, and Inslee offered his toast to Washington state.
Back inside the tent, disability-rights activist Chris Hardin rushed around to take it all in.
“I’m going to be down here a lot this session. Why not start with a party?” asked Hardin, a longterm caregiver from Port Orchard. “We might as well get all dressed up and party before we get down to work.”
Brian M. Rosenthal: 360-236-8267 or email@example.com. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.