Thousands streamed into the Baltimore Convention Center on Wednesday evening for a gala celebrating the inauguration of Gov. Larry Hogan.
They shrugged off heavy fur coats, stamped road salt off high heels and straightened bow ties emblazoned with the flag of Maryland. This was their night to celebrate.
Guests said Hogan's victory in an overwhelmingly Democratic state made the celebration even sweeter.
"It's hard being a Republican in Maryland," said Pat Hasenei, 59, of Marriottsville. "We've waited for this for a long time."
Hasenei sat with a half-dozen fellow Carroll County Republicans who had volunteered on the campaign of state Del. Susan Krebs, who said she felt like she was "in a dream."
Krebs said she was hopeful that Hogan's election would change the tenor of state government. She served in the House when another Republican — Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. — was governor, before Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's two terms.
"It's a whole different mindset," she said. "It's about personal responsibility, helping people achieve their goals instead of giving people things."
The crowd was heavily dominated by Republicans, including elected officials from around the state, such as Sen. Adelaide C. Eckardt of Cambridge and House Minority Leader Nic Kipke of Anne Arundel County.
But in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1, more than a few Democrats were sighted.
"Divided government will be good for Maryland," said former Del. Sam Arora, a self-described moderate Democrat who decided not to run for re-election last year after alienating his Montgomery County base with his vote against same-sex marriage.
Tickets for the event cost $100, less than some other recent inaugural balls. Some guests wore black tie and shimmering gowns; others opted for slacks and blazers.
More than two dozen sponsors were listed in the event's program. Gold sponsors included the Johns Hopkins University, Sagamore Development Co. and the Washington Redskins.
The Baltimore Ravens, the University of Maryland, Comcast, Verizon and CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield were Silver sponsors. The program did not say how much each sponsor gave to the event.
Oversized globes and streamers in the colors of the state flag — red, gold, black and white — hung from the ceiling of a ballroom in the convention center. A 17-piece band played.
Sarah Kim of Fairfax County, Va., posed for a picture with her father, Young Kim, who is a relative of the First Lady, Yumi Hogan.
"It's really big for the Korean society and our family," said Sarah Kim, 23, an interior designer. "It shows that Asians are interested in politics."
Hung-Bin Ding, a business professor from Elkridge, echoed Kim.
"It's not just limited to Korean-Americans," said Ding, 44. "I'm Taiwanese-American, and it's exciting for me too."
Many said they were hopeful that the Hogan administration would fulfill their campaign promise of boosting business in the state.
"We're very optimistic about businesses coming in and businesses expanding," said Kirkland Murray, 47, who works for Anne Arundel County's quasi-public development arm, the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp.
His friend James Rzepkowski, 41, was hopeful that a better business climate would lead to a new job. He lost his last year. The Glen Burnie resident wore a tuxedo and Maryland flag bow tie.
"This is the kick-off of change in Maryland," said Rzepkowski, echoing Hogan's campaign slogan. "I just wanted to be part of it."
As 10 p.m. approached, Kelly Schulz was getting ready to leave — but not because she wasn't having a great time. Schulz, who resigned as a Frederick County delegate Tuesday to take a new post as Maryland's labor secretary, had a busy day ahead. She planned to brief the House Economics Matters Committee Thursday.
"I will show up bright and early in Annapolis," she said. "Tonight is all about the future."
Baltimore Sun reporters Michael Dresser and Colin Campbell contributed to this article.