Brett Flashnick, Associated Press
First Gentleman Michael Haley, left, and Governor Nikki Haley, right, are announced at a gala celebrating her inauguration at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C., Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Hours after being sworn into office, Gov. Nikki Haley thanked more than 2,000 people celebrating Wednesday night at South Carolina's 95th inaugural ball.
"You've really inspired us to get to work quick, but tonight is all about having a good time," the 38-year-old Republican governor told attendees after walking in to applause shortly before 9 p.m. "So, what I want to ask is, laugh a lot, enjoy your friends a lot, and have a great time, because this is all about South Carolina tonight."
Haley and her husband Michael then kicked off a night of dancing to "She's a Lady," on a black-and-white checkered dance floor, played by the Headliners of Hilton Head Island.
The second song, played by the Mighty Kicks of Orangeburg, was "Celebrate Good Times."
The state's first female governor was dressed in a midnight blue, one-shoulder taffeta gown by Teri Jon, decorated with flowery ruffles along the neckline and a large flare. Michael Haley, who donned his National Guard uniform earlier in the day, wore a bow tie tuxedo.
The inaugural was at Columbia's Colonial Life Arena, home to the University of South Carolina basketball team. The floor of the arena was transformed into a giant tent, with cloth draped from the center-court scoreboard. Centerpieces of white carnations decorated blue tablecloths.
The Southern-focused food at the $250-per-couple ball included fried oysters, grits, shrimp, pork tenderloin, and barbecue sandwiches. Desserts included chocolate-covered strawberries and peanut brittle. Centerpieces at the food tables included palmetto fronds.
The stage featured the state seal on a blue backdrop. It was flanked by screens that showed photos of the inauguration, until the procession of lawmakers and statewide officers, which concluded with the Haleys.
Event sponsors also scrolled across the screens. Health care and energy providers topped the list of donors, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Duke Energy, and SCANA. Boeing was also a top donor.
Haley has said the event was all privately funded.