News Column

'Olympics of Parades' a Marathon

Jan 22, 2013

By Natalie DiBlasio and Haya El Nasser

Hundreds of thousands roared their approval Monday as President Obama, Vice President Biden and their wives took the historic trip from the U.S. Capitol to the White House, trailed by an eclectic parade that ranged from musicians to kids on unicycles.

The Obamas walked down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue waving to crowds screaming their names before climbing into their car at the corner of 12th and Pennsylvania.

At Lafayette Park, site of countless demonstrations over the years because of its attention-getting location across from the White House, there was not a trace of anger or dissatisfaction Monday. That's where the reviewing stands were set up.

Lisa Burton, 57, said she has lived in Washington, D.C., since age 9 but had never attended an inauguration before. When a friend with a ticket to the parade couldn't attend, she went.

"It's one of the things I needed to do once in a lifetime," she said. "It just seemed like a great opportunity."

That sentiment seemed shared by parade participants.

"We have been in a lot of parades, but nothing like this," said Jon Cahill, director of the Gym Dandies Children's Circus who came from Scarborough, Maine, to march. "It's like the Olympics of parades."

The circus performance included children as young as 9 and no older than high school seniors. A highlight: 41 kids riding 6-foot unicycles.

Hargrove Inc. built the floats for its 17th-straight presidential Inaugural Parade. The company started preparing before the election and expended 3,000 man-hours. Work continued until the last minute, said Lana Ostrander, director of marketing and public relations for Hargrove.

Floats included a Hawaii float, featuring a large volcano, to honor Obama's birthplace, and an Illinois float, a nod to Michelle Obama's home state. Also in the lineup: Pennsylvania (Biden's birthplace) and Delaware (Jill Biden's birthplace and the Bidens' home) floats.

Martin Luther King Day was honored with The Martin Luther King Jr. Float, The Civil Rights Movements Float and The Tuskegee Airmen Float (in tribute to the first African-American military aviators). The Inaugural "Our People, Our Future" Float was in line to come last.

Veteran announcer Charles Brotman presented participants to the Obamas and Bidens as they reached the reviewing stands. It's Brotman's 15th time, having worked every inauguration since Harry Truman's. He told CBS his favorite was Ronald Reagan's in 1981 because of all the Hollywood celebrities in tow.

"The President's Own" U.S. Marine Band has a longer history: It has performed at inaugurations since Thomas Jefferson's in 1801. Yet for many members of the 99-piece ensemble, it was their first time.

"They are nervous, they are excited," drum major Master Gunnery Sgt. William Browne said. "They don't want to be the one out of alignment or the one whose horn freezes."

Many participants admitted to some jitters.

"I'm most nervous about appearing on national television," said drum major Jeremy Black, with the 150-piece Georgia State University Marching Band. "I've performed in front of over 60,000 people live before, but that pales in comparison to knowing I could possibly be seen by millions of viewers all across America."

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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