'Label Your Kids' Among Tips Suggested by Swearing-In Vets

(By Chris Hondros -- Getty Images)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hand warmers, bloody marys, binoculars and milk crates.

Those are some things that veteran inauguration-goers swear by to survive this grueling and giddy American celebration.

It will be cold and crowded, standard for most inaugurations past. Some years, visitors navigated raucous protests -- students lobbing ink-filled balloons at Richard Nixon and demonstrators hurling eggs at George W. Bush.

That probably won't be an issue this time. Tuesday's special challenge will be unprecedented security. Dealing with the Secret Service's long list of what-not-to-bring nixes some survival tools (folding chairs, umbrellas, thermoses and coolers.)

But we have the great resource of experience in our midst.

Our neighbors here in the Washington area remember sitting on the stone steps of the Capitol eating the bean soup served to spectators of Harry S. Truman's inauguration; seeing Jimmy Carter walk the parade route during his down-home, "Y'all come" inauguration; and buying ski outfits to weather the burning cold as Ronald Reagan's limousine drove by without fanfare because the parade was put on deep freeze.

Their experience, fortitude and in some cases fanatical dedication give us a list of tips to survive and perhaps even enjoy this historic inauguration.

The Crowd

It will be an event that many parents want their children to remember. But the crowd, forecast at between 1 million and 3 million, can swallow a 4-year-old quicker than his baby sister can gulp a penny.

"Please, label your children," D.C. Child and Family Services spokeswoman Mindy Good said. "Somewhere on their clothing or body, put your name, telephone number and address." Because the mobile phone networks may be jammed, it's also a good idea to add a home telephone number, perhaps Grandma's as she watches the inauguration from her warm kitchen, so that the lost child can be reunited quickly, Good said.

Walkie-talkies or mobile phones are also smart. As is printing out a map to carry, especially one highlighting security restrictions.

The crowd along the parade route is usually 8 to 10 people deep, so without tickets for the bleachers, those who aren't basketball stars will have a hard time seeing much. Gary Jacobsen of Woodbridge usually totes milk crates. "They are easy to carry about, and when interlocked they will make you 22 inches taller," he said.

Milk crates are one of the few items not specifically on the Secret Service list of prohibited items.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company