Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Natalie DiBlasio and Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON -- When President Obama, Vice President Biden and their wives take their celebratory walk from the U.S. Capitol to the White House after being publicly sworn in to office on Monday, they will be followed for the entire mile by more than 8,800 people representing 58 groups, almost 200 animals, floats, high school bands, kids on unicycles, folk dancers and military units.
The Inaugural Parade marks the beginning of America's party and the real fun for the hundreds of thousands of people expected to line the route to enjoy the festivities.
What they can't see, they will hear as the Kamehameha Schools "Warrior" Marching Band from Hawaii passes by, or the United States Navy Band or the Palmview (Texas) High School Mariachi and Folkloric Group.
Yes, the parade marks the start of the biggest public inaugural bash. The viewing stands and bleachers along Pennsylvania Avenue have been in place for days. The parade will follow the Obamas and Bidens until they reach the reviewing stands at Lafayette Park, across from the White House.
"We have been in a lot of parades, but nothing like this," says Jon Cahill, director of the Gym Dandies Children's Circus that came from Scarborough, Maine, Sunday morning to participate in the parade. "It's like the Olympics of parades."
The circus will perform with kids as young as 9 and no older than high school seniors. Watch for 41 kids riding 6-foot unicycles.
Hargrove Inc. is building the floats for the 17th presidential inaugural parade in a row. The company started preparing before the election and spent 3,000 man-hours. Work will continue until the last minute, says Lana Ostrander, director of marketing and public relations for Hargrove.
Floats will include The Hawaii State Float, featuring a large volcano, to honor Obama's birthplace, and an Illinois State float, a nod to Michelle Obama's home state. There also will be Pennsylvania (Biden's birthplace) and Delaware (Jill Biden's birthplace and the Bidens' home) state floats.
Martin Luther King Day will be 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 is scheduled to be the last float in the parade.
Veteran announcer Charles Brotman will announce participants for the Obamas and Bidens as they reach the reviewing stands. It will be the 15h Presidential Inaugural Parade Brotman announces - every one since Truman. He told CBS that his favorite was Ronald Reagan's in 1981 because of all the Hollywood celebrities it brought.
"The President's Own" Marine Band has an even longer history than Brotman. It has been performing at inaugurations since Thomas Jefferson's in 1801.
"We are very, very excited to be here and be doing this," says Drum Major MGySgt (Master Gunnery Sergeant) William Browne. "Every inaugural is unique even though the ceremonies are all the same. It is such an honor and we are thrilled to death about it."
The Marine Band may have marched in scores of Inaugural Parades, but for many in the 99-piece band it's their first time.
"They are nervous, they are excited," Browne says. "They don't want to be the one out of alignment or the one whose horn freezes."
Many participants have the jitters.
"I'm most nervous about appearing on national television," says 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."