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PREPARATION

Inaugural Rehearsal Set for Jan. 11

Construction of the inaugural stand continues in front of the Capitol ahead of President-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration, which is expected to draw millions to Washington.
Construction of the inaugural stand continues in front of the Capitol ahead of President-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration, which is expected to draw millions to Washington. (By Alex Wong -- Getty Images)
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By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Can't get tickets to the inauguration? No hotel rooms to be had that week? No problem. Avoid the crowds, traffic and expense, and check out the inaugural rehearsal.

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It's scheduled for Jan. 11, and you can watch the whole thing twice that day.

Few of the VIPs will be present -- they'll be portrayed by stand-ins wearing name placards -- and there won't be an inaugural address, but you can't have it all.

Just tell the grandkids you saw the simulated first family, the simulated swearing-in and the simulated parade.

In tradition-bound Washington, the "all hands" inauguration rehearsal is itself a tradition. It's traditionally on a Sunday, and traditionally early: 5:30 to 9 a.m. this time.

It is staged by the military and congressional and presidential inaugural committees to make sure that all goes well for the real inauguration Jan. 20.

Although many inauguration details are still being worked out, the elite U.S. Marine Band will be at the rehearsal and will play the swearing-in ceremonial music, probably including "Hail to the Chief," according to Gunnery Sgt. Amanda Simmons, a band spokeswoman. The band will probably play as the rehearsal moves along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route, she said.

So will the 99-piece U.S. Army Field Band, which leads the first division of the parade, said spokesman Sgt. Maj. Mike McGhee.

Several hundred service members and probably other military bands will run through the rehearsal of the swearing-in at the west front of the Capitol and the parade, officials have indicated.

Thomas Groppel, director of ceremonies for the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, told a group of military officials at a recent briefing that the plan is to rehearse the program twice that day.

"The first time, we'll start and stop," he said. "If we make mistakes, we'll stop and correct ourselves and go back. The second time . . . we'll do it all the way through," he said. "Everybody by then will know the entire program."

Some parts of the rehearsal might be in restricted areas of the Capitol, officials said. But the event traditionally is open to the public.

Committee spokesman Navy Lt. Mike Billips likened it to a military drill.

"You get your people," he said. "You get your equipment. You train. You rehearse. And then you execute."

"We're hoping both of these go well," he said. "It's a place to work out things and potential logjams or problems in the way. When you rehearse, you'll see things that you didn't see when you did it on paper."


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