A raucous crowd filled the Missoula County Democrats’ inaugural ball Tuesday night. Despite being situated some 2,300 miles away from the National Mall and congregating nearly 8 hours after the official swearing-in ceremony concluded, more than 500 giddy locals flocked to the Elks Lodge in casual attire and the occasional evening gown to experience a bit of history.

But history—after eight agonizing years with George W. Bush—had to wait a little longer.

Organizers planned to show a replay of Barack Obama’s inaugural address, preceded by a special taped message from Sen. Jon Tester. One problem: The sound on Tester’s speech wasn’t working. Organizers decided to run Tester’s tape sans audio, leaving Mayor John Engen to offer his best impression of what Tester may have been saying.

“That John Engen’s the best mayor in the state,” he said to a roar of approval. When the monologue grew stale, Engen sang “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead,” “We Shall Overcome” and Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” a capella. 

After a 30-minute delay, the technical difficulties were fixed and Obama’s address was seen and heard in its entirety. Perhaps the episode was a sign, as the new president opened his remarks by referring to the nation’s challenges: “They are serious, and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.” One A/V issue down, just a few more serious issues to go.

As Obama listed those one by one, and his resolute optimism for solutions, the local crowd roared its approval—even in spots that weren’t necessarily intended to draw applause.

Obama: “We will restore science to its rightful place.”

Crowd: “Yaaaaaaaaaay.”

The outpouring of emotion didn’t stop there. We watched as one young woman sent a text message to a friend reading, “I love him. I love him. He’s so beautiful.”

Such unabashed adoration should normally be reserved only for dogs and grandparents, but on a day like Jan. 20, 2009, all that went out the window. Even on tape, the moment elicited goosebumps and a few watery eyes. It’s not often hundreds of neighbors join together to essentially watch television and cut a rug to Tom Catmull and Bob Wire.

It’s hard to believe, but it was worth the wait.
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