Columbia woman sings national anthem at Independence Ball on Inauguration Day


Donna Greenwald, who in 1993 embarked on a quest to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" at every major league baseball park on the continent, opened the Florida Inaugural Ball for President Bush's inauguration in 2001.

Last week, her clear vibrato opened the Independence Ball at the Washington Convention Center with the national anthem.

"The ballroom was probably the size of four football fields - enclosed," Greenwald said. "Acoustically speaking, it wasn't what one would want."

But the 50-year-old Hickory Ridge resident had reason to take it in stride.

"I felt like I was in a fairy tale," she said. "I had my own driver. If I wanted a cup of coffee, he would [quickly] bring me a cup of coffee. Masood was wonderful; he made sure I got where I needed to go.

"I had front seats for everything, even tickets to a candlelight dinner - and that was magnificent. It was a very happy time in my life because, I have to tell you, we were seated at the table with the Anheuser-Busch crew. Between the beer and the wine, I really was a happy camper. There were three floral arrangements on every table and yes, indeed, it was all candlelit."

The guests each received a crystal bowl from Tiffany's, engraved with a picture of the Capitol and the words "Inauguration of President and Vice President 2005," Greenwald said.

"Everybody left with one of those, and it came in a great big beautiful turquoise box, with a ribbon on it that said 'Tiffany's.' And there was a card saying how honored they were to be part of the inauguration," she said. "Condoleezza [Rice] came in, and the president. Every few minutes, somebody was coming in and talking from the podium.

"We started off with lobster crab timbale - it looked like a great big piece of sushi - surrounded by mandarin oranges and a light lime syrup. Then we had horseradish-crusted beef tenderloin. It was delicious. Then we had our string beans, probably the best I've ever had. They put it in a sauce and it tasted like it might have had peppercorns in it. Then we had citrus souffle cake, and on top of it was a white chocolate medallion with that 'inauguration of president and vice president 2005' symbol with the Capitol on it.

"And then we were entertained by the president and his wife and Vice President [Dick] Cheney and his wife. They got up and they thanked everybody for being there and working hard to achieve the momentous occasion. This whole thing was called 'Celebrating Freedom and Honoring Service.' "

Greenwald, who performs at patriotic and historical events, dinner theaters, and with the Washington Savoyards, sings with her children and grandchildren. She completed her baseball tour in 1999.

"It wasn't a race," she said. "What I wanted to do was to teach my children that we have a treasure called freedom - to come and go as we please, to meet people from all walks of life."

For the past five years, Greenwald has been trying to launch a dessert company.

"It's called Anthem Ladies All American Apple Pie and Desserts," she said, "and my trademark is, "Flagged With a Traditional Taste."

- Fay Lande

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