Dressed up and ready to go: The inaugural date night one senator saved

Sharon and Blake Ilstrup, with their children Anna and Alec, received inaugural ball tickets from Sen. Patty Murray.

Story highlights

  • Seattle couple was shut out of inaugural ball tickets after ticket vendor mix-up
  • Sen. Patty Murray heard about the story and offered them ball tickets
  • Spokesman: "She told staff that she thought 'their enjoyment was the best use of my tickets"

Thanks to Sen. Patty Murray, Sharon and Blake Ilstrup can have their big inauguration date night after all.

Last week, the Seattle-area couple, along with many others, were shut out of the first-come, first-served official Presidential Inaugural Ball ticket sales when a mistake by Ticketmaster, the ticket vendor, inadvertently released tickets for both the inaugural ball and parade early, as CNN first reported.

Ticketmaster and the Presidential Inaugural Ball later apologized for the mix-up, but thousands of potential partygoers were upset and flocked to Facebook and social media demanding a remedy.

So the Ilstrups -- who had planned on breaking out their finest formal outfits for Monday night -- found themselves and their two kids headed to Washington with no ball tickets in hand.

But after seeing their story on a Seattle TV station Friday morning, Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, came to the rescue. Murray called her office and told them to track the couple down.

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"Sen. Murray was touched by how much effort (the Ilstrups) had made to try to go to the ball and felt (terrible) that even though they were online so early an error dashed their hopes," Murray spokesman Matt McAlvanah told CNN. "She told staff that she thought 'their enjoyment was the best use of my tickets.' "

DNC chair on inaugural address
DNC chair on inaugural address


    DNC chair on inaugural address


DNC chair on inaugural address 02:46

But Sharon Ilstrup said the office had a hard time tracking them down in time since the family had already left for Washington. Finally, just hours before the big event, the office was able to locate her cell phone number and made the connection.

The Ilstrups, who planned the almost 2,800-mile trip to Washington as a part of an educational experience for their two children, Alec, 14 and Anna, 11, were touring the National Mall on Sunday when they got the call from Murray's office offering them the tickets.

"We just walked across the street," Ilstrup said. The Russell Senate Office Building, where Murray's office is located, is a couple of blocks from the Capitol and a hop, skip and a jump from the Mall. "They were so excited to give it to us."

Murray's office later tweeted a picture of the happy family.

While Alec and Anna won't be attending the ball with their parents, they won't miss out on all of the fun. The whole family will attend the President Barack Obama's second inauguration ceremony on the western front of the U.S. Capitol, with tickets they secured from U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Washington.

With her gown secured, Sharon Ilstrup, an Obama supporter, said she was most looking forward to the ball for "the energy."

"Just being there and the energy of the day ... just to be a part of another celebration of Barack Obama and of our country and not to be in my hotel room packing to go home."