RALEIGH — Republicans waited 24 years for a party like the one Friday night.
Dressed in crisp tuxedos and jelly-bean-colored ball gowns accessorized with sparkling diamonds, the once-downtrodden party faithful reveled in the moment as Gov. Pat McCrory was celebrated by more than 3,500 at the Inaugural Ball hosted by the Junior League of Raleigh.
John Cooper, a Republican lobbyist, said that after McCrory won: I told my wife, Get ready, were going to it all.
A similarly jubilant Dallas Woodhouse, state director for the conservative Americans for Prosperity, added: I told my wife if we wait another 24 years, we may be toes up.
From the start, McCrory wanted to make something clear: Im not a black tie kind of guy, he said during a brief interview. My wife looks much better.
McCrory recounted seeing his wife for the first time in her gown as she walked down the big staircase at the governors mansion. She blew me away, he said.
Ann McCrory, wearing a black beaded gown with cap sleeves and a simple high rounded neckline, retreated to a private room behind the stage after being announced during the governors reception.
But McCrory stayed for a TV interview and shook hands with a throng of well-wishers.
Didnt my wife look great? he asked the gathering.
Asked who she was wearing, the governor laughed and said, I have no idea.
Former U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick of Charlotte wearing a fitted, cobalt-blue, floor-length gown with a necklace of large pearls and colorful pendant was there with her son, new Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and her grandchildren.
Forest, who lives in Raleigh, called the event awesome.
Winning is better than losing, he said.
There are some audiences that even the mighty Avett Brothers cant rouse into motion.
The Concord-based Americana band, dressed for the occasion in black suits, played a two-song mini-set: Live and Die and February Seven. Both are from their latest album, the Grammy-nominated The Carpenter. It was quite nice, although the setting and their short time onstage didnt lend itself to their usual ways of cutting loose.
The black-tie audience mostly kept to their seats, but as the Avetts waved goodbye and left, the crowd did reward them with a very polite standing ovation
Among the ball-goers was Gary Pendleton, the first Republican Wake County commissioners chairman since 1896. The retired U.S. brigadier general, t wore his Army military dress uniform with nine medals hanging from the left breast pocket and braided gold epaulettes on his shoulders.
They are just for the look. They dont mean anything. The rank is down here, he said, pointing to the single star on his sleeve.
Pendleton said the last inaugural ball he attended was former Gov. Jim Martin, many years ago.
Democrat Wayne Goodwin, the states insurance commissioner, said he didnt feel out of place among the Republican celebration. My grandmother was Republican, he said. I enjoyed her company, and I enjoy the company here tonight. Im meeting a lot of new friends because a lot of them have never been here before, he said.
Goodwin and his wife, Melanie, a former state lawmaker, said they are most looking forward to Saturdays swearing-in ceremony because their children, 10-year-old Madison and 4-year-old Jackson, will stand on stage with them. That will make it extra special, he said.
For the McCrorys, the evening ended with the first dance. The couple danced to Van Morrisons Crazy Love as flash bulbs and TV lights made them glow. Forest and his wife joined them on the dance floor before the chorus and others soon joined, losing the first couple in the middle of the crowd. Ann McCrory hurried from the floor as soon as the song ended, but McCrory seemed to want to stay. He shook a few hands and hugged supporters as the band played Brown-eyed Girl.
Staff writer David Menconi and Charlotte Observer staff writer Cristina Bolling contributed.