Children’s activities, a formal ball and a worship service are planned this weekend in Indianapolis to celebrate Columbus native Mike Pence’s inauguration Monday as Indiana’s 50th governor.
The governor-elect and his wife, Karen, wanted inaugural events to be enjoyable and accessible to many Hoosiers, said Christy Denault, communications director for Mike Pence for Indiana.
“The goal was really to let as many Hoosiers as possible be a part of it,” Denault said.
The children’s activities will be Saturday afternoon, the formal ball Saturday night and the worship service Sunday afternoon. The traditional, outdoor swearing-in ceremony will be Monday morning.
All of the public activities are free except for the ball and dinner Saturday at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. Registration, however, is required for all activities to help organizers plan for the number of people.
Registration can be completed online at www.indianaworks.eventbrite.com and tickets printed out from home.
Tom Hodek of Columbus, a longtime friend of Pence, plans to attend the dinner and ball with his wife, Renney.
“I wouldn’t miss it. It’s not very often your childhood friend becomes governor,” said Hodek, who attended Parkside Elementary School with Pence and graduated with him from Columbus North High School in 1977.
Given the huge crowds expected for the ball in the JW Marriott ballroom, one of the largest in the Midwest, Hodek is not even sure if he’ll see his friend.
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll just be there supporting him,” Hodek said.
Columbus businessman Tony Moravec long has been a supporter of Pence as he served in Congress and then in his run for governor. This weekend, Moravec will celebrate Pence’s political success and look forward to his leadership for Indiana.
“I’m honored to support him as a local guy, and I know he has the background and experience to do a great job,” said Moravec, who will attend a private dinner Friday in Indianapolis and the Saturday ball.
“It definitely will be a time to celebrate,” he said.
Angela Robertson, of Columbus, who served as Pence’s volunteer county coordinator since he first ran for Congress, plans to attend all of the weekend activities, including the ball with her husband, Bud.
“Everything was put together so that as many Hoosiers could take part as possible,” Robertson said, adding that opportunities still are available to participate.
“This is an opportunity for the public to be part of this historic event,” she said.
For families that want to take part in weekend festivities, three hours have been set aside at the Dallara IndyCar Factory in Speedway, where children and their families can take tours of the plant.
They also can have their photos taken and faces painted, enjoy food and even watch the Indiana University basketball game in the factory theater.
“It will be a way to celebrate with the whole family,” said Denault, who plans to take her two young children to enjoy the fun.
Worship and music groups from around the state will take part in the Sunday afternoon Praise & Worship Service in the Indiana Convention Center, which will have plenty of room for a big audience.
The Hunter Smith Band, featuring former Indianapolis Colts punter Hunter Smith, will perform at the inaugural worship service. Smith has led the country/pop/rock band since 2011.
The group’s album, “Green,” includes a mix of personal ballads of life on the road and tongue-in-cheek conservative tunes knocking Washington, D.C.
Karen Pence said she was thrilled to host Smith’s band.
Seating will be limited for Monday morning’s inauguration ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol, but standing room will be available.
“We’ve ordered 3,000 hand warmers and plenty of coffee and hot chocolate,” Denault said. “We’re planning on one hour from start to finish.”
Denault noted that no tax funds are being used to pay for the inaugural activities. Donations to a nonprofit corporation set up specifically for the events will take care of the costs. Any leftover money will go to a fund to support Indiana National Guard families.
People attending any of the events are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items, which will be donated to Midwest Food Bank. Monetary donations also will be accepted.
Denault said the governor-elect is aware that many Hoosier families are struggling, and Midwest Food Bank is able to leverage its resources to turn every $1 in donations into $33 worth of food.
Once all the weekend festivities are complete, Pence will be ready to start his new job.
“As soon as the ceremony is over Monday,” Denault said, “he’ll go right into the governor’s office and go right to work.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.