Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 | 3:12 a.m.
The nation’s capital is playing host to dozens of parties, balls and events this weekend as the country prepares to welcome its 44th president.
The range of events – and VIPs attending them – is as diverse as the country itself.
One of the distinctly different inaugural galas is the Green Ball, which was held Saturday night at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.
Billed as the party with “maximum celebration, minimal impact,” the event featured organic hors d’oeuvres, energy-smart LED lighting and environmentally conscious practices from start to finish.
“This is a new day,” the opening band, Just Live, proclaimed. “The only way to be hip, the only way to be cool, the only way to be with it, is to be green.”
Party-goers had to put their money where their mouths were: Tickets to the green gala – which were printed on recycled paper, of course – cost a cool $500 apiece.
The event was presented by an eco-friendly D.C.-based events company called Event Emissary and benefitted a range of nonprofit organizations
Despite the hefty fee, the pricey-yet-planet-friendly soirée sold out and revelers packed the handsome auditorium for the night’s program, which included a 90-minute performance by legendary hip-hop artist, Wyclef Jean.
When Jean hit the stage he treated the audience to a redux of recycled songs, including tracks from the likes of Cypress Hill, Bob Marley and Shakira.
The artist, who has been a vocal supporter of President-elect Barack Obama, stopped at one point to put a makeshift hat on. He taped a novelty banner reading “BaRack My World” to his forehead, then resumed his performance.
Jean was a natural choice for the au natural celebration because of his established environmental record, organizer Jenna Mack said.
The performer has been named one of treehugger.com’s greenest celebrities.
“The environmental approach is key and to have a cat like Wyclef here is key,” Damien Escobar said.
The 22-year-old musician’s group, Nuttin’ But Stringz, is scheduled to play MTV’s “We are the Change” ball on inauguration night.
He and his older brother/bandmate, Tourie Escobar, stopped by the Green Inaugural Ball on Saturday as the pair of Long Island, N.Y., musicians got acquainted with the D.C. party scene.
The eldest Escobar said he is looking forward to Tuesday night’s show but knows even the best performance will not overshadow what will take place earlier in the day.
“We’re going to tear it down,” Tourie Escobar said, “(But) I think the biggest thing is going to be the inauguration itself.”
The brothers weren’t the only ones hoping Obama’s inauguration would bring with it a greater emphasis to environmental issues.
Charles Blackburne, of Los Angeles, said he is hoping the president-elect will convince more people to go green once he takes office next week.
“He’s such a forceful leader,” Blackburne said. “I think more people will hear the message coming from him.”
He said events like the Green Inaugural Ball helped to show people that you can have fun and throw a great party while still being green.
“It’s a start,” he said as he nibbled on an assortment of both organic and patriotic desserts, which included chocolate-dipped, star-shaped brownies and American flag cookies.
All of the food and most of the beverages at the event – including the scotch, rum and beer – were organic.
Meanwhile, the candles were made of soy wax and decorators decided against using flowers to minimize their carbon footprint since flowers would have had to have been imported at this time of year.
Everyone seemed to take reducing, reusing and recycling very seriously.
All food waste was diverted from the landfill and instead sent to be composted at a local farm, and VIPs were escorted to and from the event using electric and/or hybrid vehicles.
Al Gore will host a second, separate Green Ball – “The Green Ball: Inauguration of a New Green Economy” -- on Monday at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. That event will feature a performance my Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, Melissa Etheridge, Maroon 5, and John Legend. It, too, will benefit a range of environmentally friendly organizations.