Festival Atmosphere Found at SF City Hall

Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco was filled with thousands of Bay Area residents this morning watching the presidential inauguration progress on a big screen.

The orderly crowd included plenty of folding chairs, strollers and vendors hawking T-shirts and buttons.

Some attendees dressed for work, but other wore beads, flags and festive hats usually seen on New Year's Eve or Fourth of July.

Tony Imperial, director of NextArts, the cultural organization that sponsored the event, said this is the only outdoor simulcast in San Francisco, and estimated that up to 8,000 people will show up.

NextArts staffers battled with the screen, which suffered a few minor technical difficulties.

Like many attendees, Aurora Wood, 32, said she wishes she could be in Washington, D.C., "but this is the next best thing."

The Stanford graduate stood huddled with her friends eating scrambled eggs out of a Tupperware container she brought from home.

"I love the poetry of waking up to a new era and watching the sun rise over San Francisco," Wood said.

The crowd cheered as President-elect Barack Obama, his wife Michelle Obama, Vice President-elect Joe Biden and other dignitaries arrived.

Imperial expressed frustration with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who denied requests for assistance, including decorations and closing the street in front of City Hall.

Newsom is attending the actual events in Washington.

His spokesman, Nathan Ballard, said the office decided not to expend resources on an event sponsored by a private group.

Imperial said city police, fire and other law enforcement officials have been helpful.

Contact Us