The crowd is full of people from Baltimore and its suburbs, happy to feel they are "part of something" related to the inauguration after campaigning and voting, said Welch, who has attended past events and plans to be there this weekend.

"This is something that makes them feel this is the culmination of all of their efforts, and they really are excited to be a part of it," he said.

Former state Sen. Larry Young, now a radio personality in Baltimore and an honored guest at the ball in 2009, said he was impressed by the number of people Johnson was able to attract. "It looked sold out," he said of that event.

This weekend, there will be two events at the arena — a business-casual cocktail party on Saturday and a "dress to impress" ball on Monday. Johnson expects more than 500 people to attend each one.

Johnson, who heads the Maryland Unified Licensees Beverage Association and holds board positions for various other groups in the state as well, maintains oversight of the events from start to finish. The work ranges from obtaining sponsors, which this year include the arena and media conglomerate Radio One Maryland, to approving the catered menu from Mo's Crab and Pasta Factory.

A live DJ will work at each event, she said. It's a departure from the live bands that performed covers of The Temptations at the first inaugural party, but part of Johnson's effort to maintain a contemporary feel for guests.

Richard Johnson Jr., who was helping his mother decorate the arena this week, said the party and ball are both "meet and greet" opportunities meant to give local residents and small business owners a chance to network while having fun — something she has always done well.

"She's constantly evolving and participating in things to better our community, to help organizations grow," he said.

In the past, Johnson has printed event programs listing menus, bands and sponsors. This year, with funding low and Johnson wanting to keep admission affordable, there will be no program.

But the prospect doesn't seem to faze her. Johnson has focused instead on details that are delighting her this year, like the fact that a live feed of the inauguration in Washington will be played on televisions throughout the arena.

"It will be a constant party all night," she said.

Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

krector@baltsun.com

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