WASHINGTON — Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, watched snowflakes falling outside his office window Tuesday and talked about how cold it's likely to be on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

The thought of freezing weather, however, hasn't stopped people from wanting to attend the inauguration, and Herger has been swamped with requests for tickets.

Like other members of Congress, he received 98 tickets to the swearing-in ceremony. The tickets are to be distributed free of charge.

Herger said on Tuesday he'd already received more than 300 requests for tickets from residents of the 2nd Congressional District. He's had to allot his supply on a first-come, first-served basis. In fact, he said, some other members of Congress have asked him if he had extra tickets, and all he could tell them was "sorry."

There hasn't been this much excitement over an inauguration since the Kennedys moved into the White House in 1961, he said.

President-elect Barack Obama's being the first black president and "the nature of this campaign" have generated tremendous excitement, Herger said. As many as 4 million people are expected to show up to watch Obama being sworn in. Usually, the audience for this event, numbers 800,000 to 1.2 million, he said.

The swearing-in will take place on the steps of the west side of the Capitol. Herger said he thinks the crowd may stretch along the open area known as The Mall all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, a distance of nearly two miles. Herger said he'll be at the inauguration himself, along with other members of Congress and senators.

Bob Mulholland, a Chicoan who served as a delegate to the Democratic Convention, said he and his wife, Butte County Supervisor Jane Dolan, also a delegate, haven't received tickets to the event yet, but they expect to.

Mulholland said delegates normally receive their own tickets. They don't have to ask members of Congress or senators for them.

He said he figured quite a few people from the north valley will travel to Washington for the inauguration. He added he didn't think tickets were needed to try to find a distant spot on The Mall from which to stand and watch, but that the tickets allow their holders to get relatively close to the ceremony. The swearing-in ceremony, which might last 90 minutes or so, is just one of a number of inauguration events. There's also a parade, a ball and other activities. Mulholland said he thought tickets for the parade would become available on the Internet at some point.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Joint Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, is in charge of the upcoming inauguration.

On Tuesday, Feinstein introduced legislation that would make selling tickets to the swearing-in ceremony a misdemeanor, according to the Washington Post.

While the tickets are supposed to be free, they have been advertised for large sums on Web sites like eBay and Craigslist, the newspaper reported.

Feinstein said she hoped her legislation would be approved this week.

Staff writer Larry Mitchell can be reached at 896-7759 or lmitchell@chicoer.com.