Despite the cold and the rain, the 54th Inaugural Parade, themed “Celebrating America’s Spirit Together,” drew a large and enthusiastic crowd on Saturday.
The parade began at the Capitol Building at about 2:40 p.m. - almost an hour later than originally scheduled due to delays at the inaugural brunch.
While the new and former presidents and vice presidents brunched at the Capitol, local acts and trivia questions from the announcers, including guest announcer Pat Sajak, entertained the thousands of spectators.
The two-hour inaugural parade was, according to tradition, two parades. The first included the U.S. Army band, a police escort of motorcycles and cars, members of the new cabinet and various dignitaries.
Military escorts representing the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast guard, as well as a colonial fife and drum band, members of the press, the new president, first lady, vice president and his wife also participated.
Though George W. Bush traveled most of the parade inside his limousine, he exited at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, walking with his wife, Laura, until he reached the Presidential Reviewing Stand in front of the White House.
Many spectators were upset that they could not see the President through the tinted windows. “It would have been more personal if he had gotten out of the car. Waiting to say the glare in the window was disappointing,” Jillian Clayman, a freshman in the Kogod School of Business, said.
Following Bush was the U.S. Army staff, including one specially selected cadet from West Point Military Academy, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, and members of the National Park Police.
As President Bush passed each section of the parade route, noticeable crowds could be seen exiting, seeking warmth and shelter from the rain. Others took advantage of the exodus to find better seats for the second parade.
After Bush joined his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, his nephew George P. Bush and his parents - former President and First Lady George and Barbara Bush - at the Presidential Reviewing Stand, the second parade began.
The second inaugural parade is the official Inaugural Parade, and is divided into five divisions, each led by one branch of the U.S. military.
Collectively the official parade included 10,900 participants from 44 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, 11 floats and 45 marching bands.
Following the presidential motorcade by about ten minutes, the first division included a Texas float ridden by celebrities Wayne Newton and Bo Derek, marching bands from Florida State University, University of Massachusetts and Georgia State University.
Also in Division One was the North Carolina chapter of Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association and a giant U.S. flag carried by George Washington University students.
The second division of the parade was led by the U.S. Marines, and contained a float representing Cheney’s home state of Wyoming, Pearl High School marching band from Mississippi, the University of North Carolina Marching Tar Heels, a marching band from Bush’s hometown of Midland, Texas, and Latin dance troupe Urban-15 Carnival de San Antonio.
A brigade of Hummers were ridden by actors Drew Carey, Delta Burke, Kelsey Grammer, and Marie Osmond. The parade continued into the third division, despite the rain turning into sleet and a trickling crowd.
Muttered complaints about the speed and length of the parade could be heard from the crowd, though the quality was praised.
“The parade was pretty standard, but I guess that’s the tradition of it,” Bob Nardo, a School of Public Affairs freshman, said. “Considering the weather, it was too long and too slow, but it was very good.”
Division Three included the Empire Statesmen, a marching band from Rochester, N.Y., the Wyoming All-State band from Worland, Wyo. and several floats representing America’s spirit.
In the fourth division, more traditional groups such as the Robert E. Lee Marching Band from Midland, Texas, were joined by the less traditional group, the “Precision Lawnchair Demonstrators,” who brought laughter to a crowd that refused to have their spirits dampened by the cold and the rain.
In Division Five was another comedic group, the “Red Hot Mamas,” hailing from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The 70 “Mamas” danced with red, white and blue grocery carts in sequined dresses, carrying full grocery bags.
They were followed by the last float, “Old Glory,” and the last band, from Texas’s Prairie View A&M University.
Overall, the marching bands were commended for their skill, as were those in charge of the parade for making sure the bands each received the attention they deserved. “The marching bands were spaced well, and also very tight, very impressive,” Nardo said.
Though Inaugural Parades have been a tradition since Thomas Jefferson rode a horse from his swearing in ceremony at Congress to the White House in 1801, the 54th Inaugural Parade will be remembered for its tight security, hordes of protestors, memorably miserable weather and the divided state of the country of which its guest of honor took the reins.
“I went to do something historical, to be a part of history. It was the most controversial election and it was interesting to see it come together in the end,” Clayman said.