Inauguration invites cause confusion

Bridgett Byrd opened up a piece of mail Monday that turned out to be a gold-sealed invitation to one of the most highly touted events of the year.

"God showed favor, and here I am with an invitation," the Hephzibah woman said Tuesday. "Everyone didn't receive one, so it's an honor and a blessing."

Mrs. Byrd was one of a million supporters of President-elect Obama to receive the invitations enclosed in an envelope that reads "handle with care."

The Presidential Inaugural Committee sent out the invitations, accompanied by a letter explaining they are commemorative, said Melanie Roussell, spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Despite the explanation, the Washington, D.C.-based organization has received several calls throughout the week from supporters believing the invitations to be their admission to inaugural events Tuesday.

"We invite them to participate from their living rooms, the inaugural celebrations in their town, and they can still come to the National Mall to watch the event on the jumbo screens," Ms. Rousell said. "They can be a part of this historic event no matter where they are, but they will need tickets to attend any of the inaugural events."

Tickets to Mr. Obama's swearing in were made available by members of Congress, Ms. Rousell said.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss's office received about 30,000 requests and gave out 400 tickets months ago, said Ashley Nelson, the senator's press secretary.

About 200 tickets were distributed to the 22 counties in U.S. Rep. John Barrow's district this week, said Jane Brodsky, communications director for the congressman.

Although she understands the invitation is a commemorative, Mrs. Byrd said she and her husband, Terrell Byrd, are planning to travel to Washington this weekend.

"This is something that will never happen again," she said. "I'm just happy I was chosen, and I'm excited to attend."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.