WASHINGTON - The inauguration was still a day away, but there was already a party vibe Monday among the nearly 1,000 Minnesotans who flocked to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's office here.
Some had tickets to the swearing-in, but most didn't, and that made for a lotto-style atmosphere. Dressed in everything from fur coats to high school letter jackets, people lined up for up to two hours in mid-20-degree weather for a last chance to get one of the coveted tickets. Failing that, they could at least get their picture taken with the senator and eat a Spam puff or a Sweet Martha's cookie, take a sip of Buhl water or try some wild rice bread.
"You can feel the energy even in the subway," said Brenda McDaniel, 63, of Minneapolis, who faced segregated buses, doors and restaurant counters as a child growing up in New Orleans.
Jonathan Krause, 36, of Owatonna had come to pick up his two tickets to a standing-room area of the National Mall at the inauguration.
"I'm going to witness the exchange of power and our country's ability to exchange that power without violence," said Krause, who is studying philosophy here. He wore his red-and-black Minnesota winter plaid proudly.
David Baldrica, dean of students at Oak Point Intermediate School in Eden Prairie, was videotaping every moment to share with his students via YouTube.
Plenty of young Minnesotans were observing, too. Margaret DiGiornio, 14, and sisters Olivia, 9, and Isabella, 6, drove with family friends from Roseville and were blogging about the experience.
Diane Rustad, 65, from Moorhead, was enjoying a solitary moment sampling potica -- sweet walnut bread -- with friend Hannah VanHook, who lives in Falls Church, Va. "Everyone is happy, smiling, excited," Rustad said. "We have a wonderful president-elect."
Several hours into the buoyant gathering, Klobuchar took a break from photos and the schmoozing to thank the Minnesotans who had traveled so far, many on buses, and to share her enthusiasm for this moment in history. And she hoped everyone enjoyed the chocolate-covered potato chips from Crookston.
At 4:30, a long line of hopefuls was sent back into the not-so cold (by Minnesota standards) empty-handed. All 565 of the allotted tickets had been claimed. It didn't matter. The hearty Minnesotans shifted to Plan B: rising today before dawn to stand with the expected millions as close to the Capitol as they can.
"I didn't think I would ever see an African-American president in my lifetime," McDaniel said. "That's why I'm here. I had to come."
Gail Rosenblum • 612-673-7350