Black Tie Gala Closes Out Texas Inaugural Festivities
A black tie ball capped a day of Texas inaugural festivities celebrating the state’s first new governor in 14 years that began with a prayer service at the First Baptist Church in downtown Austin.
Three different musical acts — along with six cash bars — entertained an estimated 10,000 guests throughout Tuesday evening at the Austin Convention Center event. The crowd included state lawmakers from both parties, legislative staff, Capitol lobbyists and some of the state’s top political donors.
The gala finished a packed 36 hours of inaugural programming, including the swearing-in of newly minted Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on the Capitol steps, followed by a barbecue picnic and parade down Congress Avenue. The celebration started Monday night, with a party for the under-40 set at Austin’s Moody Theater. Altogether, the events were expected to cost over $4 million, a sum raised through donations and ticket sales.
Abbott takes the job left by fellow Republican Rick Perry, who stepped down after 14 years in office, after defeating Democrat Wendy Davis in November. Patrick, who served eight years in the state Senate and faced Democrat Leticia Van de Putte in the general election, replaces David Dewhurst after defeating him in a bitter Republican primary battle.
Speaking about two hours into the night, both Patrick and Abbott kept their addresses short.
Avoiding the strident political tone he struck earlier in the day, Patrick announced that he would be expecting his fourth grandchild, saying his daughter had told the family she was pregnant that day.
Accompanied on stage by his wife, Jan, along with their two children and their spouses, he thanked his family for their support of his political career.
"Anyone who runs for public office knows, if your family is not there with you, it is very difficult to win and serve," he said.
When it came time for his speech — which followed a few biographical video clips, including one where he described the accident that left him paralyzed — Abbott made a dramatic entrance. The lights dimmed and a spotlight briefly captured the image of his wheelchair in silhouette.
"I have been to many of these inaugural events, but I have never seen people look better than they do tonight," he told the crowd, his wife and daughter by his side.
After his remarks, Abbott was joined on stage by Patrick and his family. The two took a selfie together in front of the crowd, while confetti rained down on them.
Performances from country music stars Pat Green and Lady Antebellum bookended the speeches. On stage between songs, Green took the opportunity to praise Abbott, whom he called an “amazing man” and close friend.
“He leads from the middle. He makes everyone that I know feel important,” he told the crowd, amid scattered applause. “He’s one of those guys who can do it.”
Bobby Blanchard and Christine Ayala contributed reporting to this story.