ST. GEORGE – Democrats from across Southern Utah and Mesquite, Nev., celebrated the presidential inauguration marking Barack Obama’s second term in office.
A gala coinciding with the inaugural festivities was held at the Dixie Center St. George by the Washington County Democratic Party. Dorothy Engelman, county party chair, said the event sold out and was a success as people came to celebrate the beginning of the president’s second term.
“There are lots of folks here I know,” she said. “And a lot that I don’t know.”
Washington County boasts around 6,000 registered Democrats, Engelman said, and of those, some from the far points of the county – Virgin, Rockville and Springdale – came into town for the event. Others traveled to St. George from Iron County and Mesquite.
Gala attendees watched the inauguration live, as they enjoyed live music and dancing. Cardboard cutouts of Barack and Michelle Obama were also on hand for photo opportunities.
“It’s a nice turnout, an exceptional turnout,” Angelo DiSante, of Ivins, said of the gala. As with other Democrat-sponsored events held over the last year, the gala sported numbers that surprised those who attended.
“This is by far the biggest turn out I’ve ever seen,” he said.
At least 320 people were in attendance, as ticket sales indicated.
DiSante said he was looking forward to the president dealing with the issue of immigration over the next four years, as well as the hotly contested issue of gun control. He said no one is looking to do away with the Second Amendment. The focus needs to be on background checks and mental health.
“I think there’s common ground there,” he said.
Dorothy Engelman also said she would like to see immigration addressed more, and believes the economy will continue to improve under the Obama presidency.
Former Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam was also at the gala, and led a toast in the president’s honor.
He said it was fitting that on the day remembering Martin Luther King, Jr., the inauguration of the nation’s first black president was also held. “It’s a double-whammy day,” Van Dam said.
In a way, he said he looked at the president’s election and re-election as a fulfillment of the dream King had set in motion. “That’s a powerful symbol to me,” he said.
Van Dam added that the president had helped move the country forward despite little help from Republican elements in the Congress, and related that struggle to that faced by Washington County Democrats. Though still small when compared to the Republican influence in the county, he said they are moving forward.
“There’s a bigger thing involved here,” he said, “and it’s the life of our republic.”
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