In the shadow of last year's state dinner -- best known for the gate-crashing by socialites Tareq and Michaele Salahi -- the White House is hoping that today's state visit, honoring President Felipe Calderon of Mexico and his wife, will be free of distractions.
With a new social secretary, new security protocols and one state visit under its belt already, the Obama White House has expressed confidence that the day-long visit will run smoothly, culminating in a glamorous black-tie state dinner this evening.
The spotlight today – the White House says – will be on the ties between two neighbors.
"We're two societies that are woven together by millions of family and friends, by common interests and a shared future," President Obama said at a Cinco de Mayo reception in the Rose Garden earlier this month. "It's the friendship and cooperation that we'll deepen when we host President Calderon and First Lady Margarita Zavala for their state visit and dinner."
State visits are events soaked deep in history and tradition. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will first welcome President Calderon and his wife in a formal and official welcome ceremony on the South Lawn. Last year's welcome ceremony was moved inside to the East Room due to weather, so this will be the first of the Obama administration.
The grandiose welcome was rehearsed on Monday at the White House, a U.S. Army Herald Trumpets conductor seen directing the position of the musicians for the arrival music.
After meeting bilaterally and then with their delegations, Obama and Calderon will emerge in the Rose Garden to answer questions from the press. Calderon will attend a lunch at the State Dinner and then sit down for more meetings at the White House and State Department.
In the afternoon the two First Ladies will travel together to The New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland for one of Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move!" events, focusing on combating childhood obesity.
The evening will bring the main event – with all the glitz and glamour that most state visits are known for. It is a black-tie dinner, where both couples, as well as roughly 200 invited guests, will don their best. The president will greet the Calderon and his wife on the North Portico and then host the state dinner in the East Room.
Mr. Obama will make the traditional toast, and President Calderon will return with his own. Following dinner the group – and likely some additional guests – will attend performances in a large tent set up on the South Lawn of the White House.
Menu, Guest List Under Lock and Key
Many of the behind-the-scenes preparations and details for tonight's state dinner have been kept under proverbial lock-and-key by the First Lady's office. Her staff has been planning the fete for months.
The First Lady's office confirms that the Obamas will be flying in one of their favorite chefs from their hometown of Chicago -- Rick Bayless, celebrity-chef of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.
The Obamas were regular customers at Bayless' restaurants when they lived in Chicago, last dining at Topolobambo with friends in November of 2008, shortly after winning the election.
Bayless, winner of America's Top Chef Masters, will be teaming up with White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford to create a Mexican menu that will, in his words, create "aromas in that kitchen that have never been there before."