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That’s the ticket: Sen. Murray gets Redmond couple into Obama’s inaugural ball

United States Sen. Patty Murray, left, with the Ilstrup family from Redmond: Blake, Sharon, Anna and Alec while they were in Washington, D.C. this week to attend President Obama’s inauguration. Blake and Sharon also attended the president’s inaugural ball via Murray’s tickets. - Courtesy photo
United States Sen. Patty Murray, left, with the Ilstrup family from Redmond: Blake, Sharon, Anna and Alec while they were in Washington, D.C. this week to attend President Obama’s inauguration. Blake and Sharon also attended the president’s inaugural ball via Murray’s tickets.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

When Sharon Ilstrup traveled to Washington, D.C. with her family last weekend, the big plan was to attend President Barack Obama’s inauguration on Monday.

The Redmond resident had wanted to attend the official inaugural ball later that night with her husband Blake as well. Unfortunately, Ticketmaster — the sales agent in charge of the ticketing process — had accidentally released the special login information for ticket purchases a day early and the couple missed their chance to get tickets.

“I was bummed,” Ilstrup said.

After the mixup, she told a friend who lives in Washington, D.C. that they would not be attending the ball. The friend, who works as an editor at CNN, asked why. After Ilstrup explained the situation with Ticketmaster, the 24-hour news network interviewed her for a story. KING 5 also interviewed Ilstrup and her husband. That story aired Jan. 18.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who was still home in the Northwest at the time, caught the KING 5 interview and called her staff in the other Washington and asked them do what they could to fix things for the couple.

All of this was happening unbeknownst to Ilstrup.

“We were in D.C.,” she told the Reporter. “All this stuff was happening and we didn’t even know.”

The Ilstrups made the trip with their 14-year-old son, Alec, and 11-year-old daughter, Anna, to give them a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience to witness history. They had requested inauguration tickets from U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and picked them up on Sunday.

Viet Shelton of DelBene’s office said members of Congress are given a number of tickets to distribute and they are usually handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“We were very happy that we were able to oblige them,” he said about getting the Ilstrups to the inauguration.

Shortly after leaving DelBene’s office, Ilstrup received a phone call from Murray’s chief of staff, who told her they were able to get her and her husband tickets to the ball.

“I thought that was amazing,” Ilstrup said about the senator and her office’s efforts to help them.

When Ilstrup and her husband arrived at the ball, they were directed to a ballroom filled with about 10,000 people, food and an open bar. Ilstrup was amazed and extremely impressed.

CNN wanted to do a followup interview with her and her husband about their situation but the media was nowhere to be found. Ilstrup quickly learned it was because she and her husband were at a private portion of the inaugural ball whereas the media was camped out at the public portion — with twice as many people — located in another ballroom.

“Patty Murray gave us her tickets,” she said.

In a story on CNN.com, Murray spokesperson Matt McAlvanah said the senator was touched by the effort the Ilstrups made to go to the ball and felt terrible that their hopes were dashed.

“She told staff that she thought ‘their enjoyment was the best use of my tickets,’” he said in the story.

Shelton added that it was great that despite all of the chaos of the events that things worked out for the family.

Ilstrup said they spent Monday evening going back and forth between the two parties and were able to catch a number of the musical acts from just about 10 rows back from the stage. They also witnessed the Obamas’ first dance.

Ilstrup said there was an energy of celebration in the room during the ball and described the whole experience as “amazing” and “incredible.” She said that same feeling was present during the inauguration, as well.


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