After an eight-year hiatus, the inaugural gala is back.
Wednesday, more than 2,000 attendees crowded the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia for Gov. Nikki Haley’s $250-per-couple ball featuring South Carolina-themed food including fried oysters grits, shrimp barbecue sandwiches, pork tenderloin and peanut brittle and live music.
“You’ve inspired us to get to work quick,” Haley told the crowd. “But tonight is all about having a good time...Laugh a lot. Enjoy your friends a lot and have a great time because this is all about South Carolina tonight”
Haley wore a midnight blue, one-shoulder, taffeta gown with a ruffle across the neckline, designed by Teri Jon.
Haley and husband, Michael Haley, dressed in a bow tie tuxedo, led the first dance, “She’s A Lady,” performed by Hilton Head band The Headliners.
Later, The Mights Kicks, out of Orangeburg, performed.
Senators, House members, new constitutional officers and supporters made good on Haley’s instructions, dancing on a black-and-white checkered dance floor and eating at small tables draped in blue tablecloths with white carnation centerpieces.
The whole crowd was gathered under a tent, made of white, gold and blue cloth, creating an intimate feel in the large arena where USC’s men and women basketball teams play.
“The inauguration is a historic event,” said Rep. Phil Owens, R-Pickens, as he waited in line for hors d’oeuvres. “It’s only appropriate we celebrate this evening the accomplishments of Gov. Haley and the promise she offers our state.”
Other attendees including Pam Lackey, AT&T president, ate beforehand but still enjoyed the event.
“It was fun, seeing everybody,” she said.
Former Gov. Mark Sanford chose to forego a black tie gala for both his first election and re-election in favor of a low-key barbecue at the State Fairgrounds.
Haley’s event was paid for through private donations. Top sponsors included BlueCross BlueShield, Boeing, Duke Energy and SCANA.