Inauguration day in Tallahassee: a speech, a toast, a gala and more

TALLAHASSEE — Tallahassee’s streets were swarmed by visitors in blazers, high heels and the occasional Gov. Ron DeSantis hat Tuesday as the governor was sworn in for his second term.

Attendees from across Florida came packed into bleachers and an overflow standing area to witness the governor’s remarks as well as a 19-gun salute from the Florida National Guard and a flyover from the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing. In addition to DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, incoming Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody each took the oath of office in front of the Historic Capitol in Tallahassee.

The day’s events began with a private prayer event with faith leaders. The evening before, there was a private dinner catered by the popular New York-based Italian restaurant Carbone. Following the swearing-in ceremony, there was a “Toast to One Million Mamas” event at the Governor’s Mansion.

The inaugural ball was scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. Shortly after it was set to begin, a long, winding line of guests in tuxedos and floor-length gowns wrapped around the building. Reporters were not allowed on the property and were told to stand across the street.

Most of the events outside of the swearing-in ceremony were not open to reporters and the general public.

Police officers and other security were visible throughout downtown Tallahassee during the day as people walked under a gray, muggy sky on streets that had been partially blocked off to cars and temporarily renamed in honor of DeSantis and the state Cabinet members. Nearby restaurants filled with people with lanyards around their necks designating them as inauguration “attendees” or “VIPs.”

One vendor stationed outside the Historic Capitol sold “make America Florida” and “hot chicks vote Republican” pins. The most popular pin of the day was a grinning photo of DeSantis in aviators, with bold blue text that read, “LUV MY GUV!”

Michael and Michelle Rhyce drove up from Boca Raton to watch the inauguration from an overflow standing area.

Michelle Rhyce, 55, said she had seen the governor speak once before, at former President Donald Trump’s golf club during DeSantis’ campaign in 2018.

She said she doesn’t “want to share” the governor with the rest of the United States just yet, saying that she hopes he runs for president in 2028. That said, she added, she’d vote for him if he did run for the White House in 2024.

Streets in all directions around the Governor’s Mansion were blocked off about a block in each direction, although buses carrying guests destined for the “Toast to One Million Mamas” event were able to drive in closer.

That event is a reference to “mamas on a mission,” a segment of DeSantis’ campaign that focused on education policy and has championed parental control in schools among other initiatives.

Donors who spent more received more tickets for the ancillary events, along with VIP seating at the swearing-in ceremony. A list of inauguration sponsorship packages showed options for donations ranging from $25,000 to $1 million. Donations went to the Republican Party of Florida, which did not immediately release details of the inauguration’s sponsors.

For his first inauguration in 2019, DeSantis had a roundtable lunch with legislators and held an event honoring military members and law enforcement. There was also a breakfast to honor Lt. Gov. Nuñez as the highest-ranking Hispanic woman elected in Florida’s history.