Worker Todd Williams prepares the street on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. / Gerald Herbert, AP
WASHINGTON -- Tens of thousands of people on Monday were lining the route that President Obama, Vice President Biden and their wives were taking from the U.S. Capitol to the White House, trailed by a parade featuring more than 8,800 people ranging from band musicians to kids on unicycles.
The Inaugural 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 route follows the Obamas and Bidens until they reach the reviewing stands at Lafayette Park, across from the White House.
The park, site of countless protests and demonstrations over the years because of its attention-getting location across the White House, had not a trace of anger or dissatisfaction Monday.
Lisa Burton, 57, is enjoying the festive mood. She says she has lived in Washington, D.C., since she was 9 but has never attended an inauguration before. When a friend with a ticket to the parade couldn't attend, she decided to come.
"It's one of the things I needed to do once in a lifetime," she says. "It just seemed like a great opportunity."
That's a sentiment shared by the parade participants.
"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 performance includes kids 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 the 17th presidential inaugural parade in a row. The company started preparing before the election and spent 3,000 man-hours. Work continued until the last minute, says Lana Ostrander, director of marketing and public relations for Hargrove.
Floats 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 is being 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 is announcing participants for the Obamas and Bidens as they reach the reviewing stands. It's Brotman's 15th â?? 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."
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