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Christie to forgo black-tie gala

Bowing to economy, $500 inaugural tickets call for business attire.

TRENTON - Opting for business attire over black tie, New Jersey Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie will take a more low-key approach to his inauguration than some of his predecessors have taken.

The Republican has said the celebration will be "dignified" but will also be mindful of the state's budget problems and the hard economic times.

"I think we need to be sensitive to the idea that a lot of people out there are unemployed and a lot of people are suffering," Christie said. "The idea of having something called a ball, with black ties and everything, just doesn't feel right to me."

Gov. Corzine also showed deference to the state's financial woes in 2006 by holding his gala at Jadwin Gym on the Princeton University campus.

That was restrained in comparison with galas thrown by some governors. Christie Whitman transformed an airplane hangar at Newark International Airport into a "Winter Wonderland" for her second inaugural in 1998.

Christie's inaugural celebration will be more of a cocktail party than a ball, said Christie's brother, Todd, the lead organizer.

The day will begin and end in Newark, New Jersey's largest city and Christie's birthplace. Archbishop John J. Myers will preside over a morning Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

At noon, Christie and running mate Kim Guadagno will head to Trenton to be sworn in at the War Memorial, marking the first time in the state's history a lieutenant governor will take the oath.

A luncheon with lawmakers will follow, as well as a private lunch with family at the governor's mansion in Princeton.

The day will end back in Newark with a $500-a-ticket party at the Prudential Center, headlined by the B Street Band, a Bruce Springsteen cover band that played at Christie's election-night victory party.

Organizers had hoped to get the Boss himself. "It looks like that is not going to happen," Todd Christie said, "but I think getting sworn in as the 55th governor will be enough excitement for my brother for one day."

Todd Christie said the inaugural committee was trying to dedicate at least 30 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales to charity.

He has said the committee is voluntarily following the state's pay-to-play fund-raising rules that prohibit anyone with contracts worth more than $17,500 from donating more than $300 to state campaigns. The laws, enacted to thwart the exchange of campaign cash for state contracts, do not explicitly cover inaugurations.

In such cases, the committee is asking people to donate the remaining cost of the ticket to charity, Todd Christie said.

"If they come looking for this big, stuffy thing, they won't find it," he said. "Hopefully, they'll get that it's about charity."