It's the vision thing, sort of.
The joint congressional inaugural committee, which controls the tickets to Thursday's swearing-in ceremonies, chose "A Vision of America" as its theme for the 2005 presidential inauguration, to salute both the bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition's reaching the Pacific Ocean after 18 months in the wilderness and the centennial of the wilderness-loving Theodore Roosevelt's swearing-in.
But the viewing thing is trickier. Admittance to the ceremony on the grounds of the Capitol requires tickets, which were officially available only from the offices of the president and vice president and members of the 109th Congress. Senators were given about 400 passes each to hand out to friends, family and constituents, House members 200 each and the White House more than 60,000. You could try calling your representative to see if any are left or going online to buy a ticket from one of the online vendors. (The markup is high, though; they start at about $150.) About 40,000 of those tickets will be for seats, 110,000 for standing room on the lawn and 100,000 more for an area at the east end of the Mall.
Even if you do have tickets for the swearing-in, you will have to pass through unprecedented security checks, including a series of screenings and probably longer lines than in previous years. The list of proscribed articles is longer than ever as well: You will not be allowed to bring in any packages, bags or backpacks; vacuum bottles, coolers, food or any beverages, especially not alcohol; firearms, knives or pocket tools; explosives or fireworks; umbrellas (ponchos are permitted) or strollers; animals (except service animals); laser pointers, mace or pepper spray; or pole-mounted posters or signs. You may carry placards made of cardboard, poster board or cloth, but no larger than 20 inches by 36 inches. You may bring cameras but not tripods or large gadget bags; all handbags will be inspected. In addition, security officers may confiscate other items at their discretion.
Gates open at 9 -- about the time that President and Mrs. Bush will cross Lafayette Square to attend the traditional service at St. John's Church. Tickets are color-coded according to the entrance you must use, but even those for seating sections are first-come, first seated; see map.
Plan your trip carefully, and allow extra time. Roads will be closed for several blocks around the Capitol, parking restrictions will be stringent, and downtown bus routes will be disrupted, so participants are being encouraged to use Metro; most stations will open Thursday at 5 a.m. and remain open until 3 a.m. Friday. It would be a good idea to have a prepaid subway pass ready. A one-day pass is available for $6.50 from fare card machines, and some stations will be offering special commemorative passes. However, three Metro stations close to the parade route, the Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter, Smithsonian and Mount Vernon stops, will not open until 6 p.m. Thursday; so Federal Triangle, Judiciary Square, Gallery Place/Chinatown, Metro Center, Union Station and Capitol South will have to handle extra traffic. Also note that there may be additional station closings or entrances blocked to limit access; check Thursday news reports or visit Metro's home page at www.wmata.com.
Arrive early, wear reasonable walking shoes and be prepared to stand for long periods of time. Portable toilets will be set up around the Capitol grounds (the Capitol itself will be closed to the public), but you should recognize that it will be difficult to move out of your seating section once you get in. Weather is often a factor (see story on 27); statistically speaking, on Inauguration Day, Washington's noontime temperature averages 37 degrees, and it's frequently wet in some fashion.
Early arrivals will be rewarded with entertainment: Starting at 10, there will be performances by service bands as well as the Alcorn (Miss.) State University Concert Choir and gospel singer and "Lawrence Welk Show" veteran Guy Hovis. Formal ceremonies begin about 11:30, with remarks by Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott. Following the invocation and benediction, and performances by sopranos Denyce Graves and Susan Graham, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (Ill.) will swear in Vice President Cheney at 11:50, and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist is scheduled to administer the oath of office to the president at noon. After the president's swearing-in, an honor guard will render a 21-gun salute; the Army Herald Trumpets will play "Ruffles and Flourishes"; the U.S. Marine Band will launch "Hail to the Chief"; and the president will deliver his inaugural address. Then he will withdraw to Statuary Hall for a lunch with the vice president, congressional leaders and other dignitaries, emerge to review the honor guards and then get in his limousine for the motorcade to proceed to the reviewing stand in front of the White House.
The parade, on the other hand, really is a vision thing, and organizers expect as many as 400,000 on hand to view the two-hour show -- plus however many protesters gather as well. The inaugural parade route is about 1.7 miles from the U.S. Capitol to the White House, passing the official reviewing stand and dispersing at about 17th Street. The parade forms up on Constitution Avenue north of the Capitol, turns west on Constitution to Pennsylvania Avenue and continues along Pennsylvania to 15th Street by the Treasury Department and back onto Pennsylvania to 17th.
Standing room is free, first-come, best-located; however, if you want to get a seat, the inaugural committee also has a limited number of reserved bleacher seats for $15, $60 and $125; they can be ordered either from the inaugural committee (www.inaugural05.com or 202-314-2600) or through commercial ticket vendors, who may charge more because they buy and resell the tickets. (Currently tickets are listed as up to $495.) You should also expect security checks along the parade route, although not perhaps as stringent as those at the Capitol.
You will be allowed to access the parade route only at specific points: Second Street NW north of Constitution Avenue and Third Street south of C Street NW (nearest Metros: Judiciary Square or Union Station); Constitution Avenue east of Seventh Street NW, Seventh Street north of Constitution and Seventh Street south of D Street NW (Judiciary Square or Gallery Place/Chinatown); and 12th Street NW south of E Street and north of Constitution Avenue, E Street east of 13th Street NW, and 13th and 14th streets north of E (Metro Center or Federal Triangle).
Those wishing to see the parade groups forming up on the Mall must enter through one of two gates on Seventh Street NW, one on the south side of Constitution Avenue and the other north of Independence Avenue (L'Enfant Plaza or Federal Southwest). However, those gates will not provide direct access to the parade route; you will have to go through security again. If you have managed to score tickets to the White House reviewing stand, the most exclusive seats in town, you will be directed to other security points.
The parade is scheduled to begin about 2:30, and will include floats; marching bands; and K-9, horse and motorcycle brigades -- 11,000 two- and four-legged participants, many, not surprisingly, from Texas. Among area performers are the Ballou High School and St. John's College High School marching bands, the American Originals Fife & Drum Corps of Annapolis, the VMI and Virginia Tech bands, the American Rescue Dog Association of Woodford, Va., the Liberty High School marching band from Clarksburg, W.Va., and Halau Ho'omau I KaWai Ola 'O hula troupe of Woodbridge. You can probably expect some unannounced entertainment in the form of flyovers as well.
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