Inauguration Watch

David Nakamura and Nikita R, Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, January 12, 2009 12:00 PM

Washington Post Inauguration Watch bloggers David Nakamura and Nikita R. Stewart were online Monday, Jan. 12 at noon ET to discuss all the events, hype and hoopla surrounding the swearing-in of Barack Obama and how the city is preparing for Jan. 20.

The transcript follows.


Arlington, Va.: Where is the Inaugural Store? I recall for Clinton's first and second inaugural, there was one near Federal Triangle. Can we only buy our inaugural tschotskes online?

Nikita Stewart: The store opened this weekend at 625 E Street NW.


David Nakamura: Hi everyone -- we're about a week out before the big day. Happy to answer your questions about all things inaugural. We'd also like to hear tips from you about what you're finding as you make your plans. Let us know.


Washington, D.C.: I've been very lucky so far in my attempts to see the inaugural celebration in person. I have swearing-in tickets (congressional - assume they're far away) and parade tickets (bleachers, obtained in the instant they went on sale).

With tickets in hand, do you think there's any chance I can make both events? I know everyone has advised not to try for both, but I really, really want to make this work.


Nikita Stewart: Try pushing your way through the crowd. There is some wiggle room. Obama will eat lunch with Congress after the swearing-in. The parade is set to start at 2:30. Bleacher seats that are not filled by the parade's start will be opened to the public for free so you could lose your seat if you don't get there on time.


Columbia Heights, D.C.: I was wondering who was playing at the concert on Sunday? Is it really Bruce Springsteen or is that a rumor?

Nikita Stewart: We're hoping to confirm everything for you today. Stay tuned. Or stay online.


Salt Lake City: If I'm going to the swearing in, and then to the bathroom (long lines/waits?) and therefore can't stake out a Parade viewing spot in advance of its start, where do you recommend trying for a last-minute viewing spot? I don't mind hoofing it a mile or more if it means I will have a better chance to see something. I guess my last question is: Where's the last parade viewing spot to fill up?

David Nakamura: Hi Salt Lake -- it's not going to be easy to get a spot along the parade route. Crowds will be lined up hours in advance. However, the Newseum is hosting a viewing event in its building, which has a great view of the parade. The Newsuem's 4,000 tickets sold out already, but I am told that the building will likely sell a number of day-of, walk-up tickets depending on capacity. So you might check that out -- and you can be warm while watching.


Boston: Any guess on when the Lincoln Memorial event time will be announced? Or will this be sent by text message a few hours before like some high school party? (Sorry for the sarcasm but can't they at least announce the start time or did I miss this?)

Nikita Stewart: There should be an announcement with details today.


Washington, D.C.: I requested two inauguration tickets from both of my state Senators, thinking that only one would grant my request. I was recently notified that both Senators have granted my request, meaning that I have two extra inauguration tickets. Can I give the extra two tickets to a friend or am I the only one allowed to use the tickets?

Nikita Stewart: I believe you are the only one who can actually pick them up. However, your name is not on them. You can give them away. Remember they are cracking down on scalpers. Are you really scalping them?


Baltimore: Will Obama and company still make a major stop in Baltimore now that our mayor has been indicted? I notice that the specific plans have yet to be announced, just a few days before the scheduled train trip.

Nikita Stewart: As far as we know, the indictment has not changed the travel plans. The Presidential Inaugural Committee has not announced the details about any of the stops, which also include Philadelphia and Wilmington.


Washington, D.C. : It seems that tickets to the official inaugural ball have become the holy grail of the inauguration weekend. Have you heard anything as to if/when the PIC will be releasing tickets for the public to purchase for $150 as they've mention on their Web site?

David Nakamura: No word yet on the tickets being available to the general public at the $150 rate. The PIC has announced you can guarantee yourself a ticket to an official ball with a donation of $500; $1,000 will get you a choice of one of three balls; $2,500 will get you the ball of your choice. See the PIC Web site for details.


Columbia, Md.: I'd like to see the setting for the inaugural on the Mall without dealing with huge crowds. Would going down this weekend be a good time to do that? What about Martin Luther King day on Monday? Are large crowds expected that day?

Nikita Stewart: The King holiday has been dedicated to service. Visitors are asked to log on to USAService.org and sign up for community service projects. If everyone's out in the community, the Mall could be your playground. I would recommend sightseeing that day. Maybe after you do your community service.


U Street: Still no information on when the tickets for the Youth or Neighborhood Balls will go on sale? It's 8 days away...

Nikita Stewart: We know. We know. When we know, you'll know.


Vermont: I'll be in town for the inauguration and have tickets to both the swearing-in ceremony and bleacher seating at the parade. Any chance I can make it to both? Didn't all the big donors get tickets to both and it is somehow possible to make it?

Also, are there any details on the Youth or Neighborhood ball? Do we ever think tickets will be released publicly?


David Nakamura: Everything we've been told is that it is next to impossible to see both the swearing-in and parade live. Those who chose the swearing-in are likely to find the parade route jammed up by people camped out there. I was told by one big donor, who did get offered tickets to both, that he chose only one of the two because he figured he would be unable to navigate through the crowds. We still haven't heard any information about how to get tickets to those two balls.


Philadelphia: Any tips for someone arriving into Union Station around 10:30 a.m. with tickets on Inauguration Day?

Nikita Stewart: To the parade or swearing-in?


I believe you are the only one who can actually pick them up: When I work for the state party, I was given inauguration tix by the Clinton campaign. I couldn't afford the tix, trip, dress, so I sold them at cost to a state senator. Perfectly allowable.

David Nakamura: Sen. Dianne Feinstein is trying to outlaw the sale of swearing-in tickets (except by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is giving tickets to donors). You probably can sell inaugural ball or parade tickets, though.


Locals watch on TV: Hearing about all the twists and turns of the parade, the mall, the bridge closures, etc., I think the local folks will find the largest tv screen and have a great brunch for company.

I've been asking many co-workers, friends, and relatives who is going and I only have about 7 people going.

Local eateries would do good just to rent big screens and serve a fantastic buffet. Movie theaters, if possible, should charge admission to watch in their venue.

I want to go to the Mall and the parade but I really do want to SEE and not the back of everyone's head.

Champagne brunch at my home is sounding better and better!

Your thoughts?!

David Nakamura: Yes, I think you're right that there will be a lot of viewing parties. In fact, the Post published a story about just that phenomenon two days ago.


Washington, D.C.: I'm a DC resident, do you happen to know if Del. Holmes-Norton has already notified constituents who are the lucky ticket holders for the swearing-in?

Nikita Stewart: This just in from Norton's office:

"As promised, the Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today announced that 100 inaugural swearing-in tickets were randomly chosen by two members of the D.C. National Guard. The names, drawn by Maj. Millard Pooran, M.D., of the Air National Guard, and Sgt. Edward Weldon III, of the Army National Guard, both D.C. residents who have served in Iraq, were drawn from residents who contacted Norton's office before 6 p.m. on Nov. 7 when Norton's office was compelled by the huge demand to cease taking names. Residents whose names were drawn will be contacted by Norton's office no later than 6 p.m. today. Norton's office asks that residents refrain from calling the office to avoid jamming the phones. That office will notify all ticket holders. Residents will be asked to personally pick up their tickets, show identification, and sign for them, or give written permission for an authorized person to receive the tickets and not to sell these free tickets. Only stand-up tickets are available."


Washington, D.C.: Any more details on the Sunday event at the Lincoln Memorial? Any idea on why the inauguration committee has been so reluctant to release details about events such as these?

David Nakamura: The rumor is Bruce Springsteen to headline that event, which is free to the public. But we're told the official announcement about who will perform will come later today, hopefully along with the start time of that event. We've heard crowd projections of 500,000.


Alexandria, Va.: Will there be security checkpoints to get into the non- ticketed sections of the swearing in? Also, what would be the "quickest" way to get from the swearing in to the parade route? Are those crossovers on the parade route going to be open as Obama walks by?


David Nakamura: Those going to the non-ticketed area will not have to go through security. Those with one of the 240,000 tickets to the inauguration or a parade ticket will have to go through special security checks.


Burtonsville, Md.: The Jonas Brothers did announce that they would be performing at the inauguration. Any clue on how to get tickets to the kids concert on the 19th? Also any news on MTV's ball?

David Nakamura: Not sure where the Jonas Brothers will be or how to get tickets, but we've heard that MTV has canceled their inaugural ball at the Reagan Building and will instead broadcast live from the Youth Ball.


Santa Ana, Calif.: Maybe I've missed it in all my searching around. I've seen nothing about inaugural license plates. Have you any information about how to order them? Thanks.

David Nakamura: The Presidential Inaugural Committee has an official souvenir Web site here: http://pic2009.inauguralcollectibles.com/

but I don't see anything about license plates.


Bluffton, Ohio: Will non-ticket-holders have to provide ID to watch any events?

David Nakamura: If you do not have a ticket, you do not have to go through security.


You probably can sell inaugural ball or parade tickets, though. : my bad, that is what I meant, ball tix. But if I sold swearing-in tix AT COST, I see no harm. It would only be scalpling at more than cost which would be offensive.

David Nakamura: The inauguration swearing-in tickets have no face cost; they are being distributed free by Senate and House offices across the country, as well as by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, so technically they are not to be sold, under the legislation Feinstein is trying to get approved.


Woodley Park : Is there a start time for Barack Obama's speech at the Lincoln on Sunday? I assume that since Bruce Springsteen will be playing at the Lincoln too that day, his concert will be in conjunction with that event..a start time would be great to know!

David Nakamura: No start times announced yet. There is supposed to be an announcement later today about the entertainment and, we hope, the logistics.


Washington, D.C.: So now that MTV is covering the Youth Ball it seems like a lot of big name performers and celebs will be there. Any rumors floating around?

Nikita Stewart: Well, someone on this chat says the Jonas Brothers. Unfortunately, we have no information yet about how to get tickets.


Washington, D.C.: I am curious if there will be any restrictions on cameras in the tickets area to view the swearing in ceremony. Will telephoto lens be permitted?

Nikita Stewart: The only restrictions listed are tripods and camera bags.


Rockville, Md.: So let me get this straight -- there are no backpacks allowed anywhere on the Mall, even the non-ticketed areas?

David Nakamura: You CAN bring backpacks and other things to the Mall if you stand in the non-ticketed areas. If you are within the security zone (i.e., if you have a ticket) they backpacks, chairs, strollers, etc... are banned. See here for the complete list: http://inaugural.senate.gov/2009/ceremony.cfm


San Francisco: Will you be posting a list of all the INFORMAL events (bars and clubs, etc.) that will be going on the night of the 20th? Some of us don't feel like dropping a grand on two tickets to a ball, but would like to go out and celebrate anyway.

washingtonpost.com: A good place to start: Going Out Guide

David Nakamura: Yes. We have a lot of them in our Going Out Guide and on our Inauguration Watch blog (under The Balls on the lefthand side).


Washington, D.C.: I haven't seen much about security for those who don't have tickets, but plan to be on the Mall. Will there be security entry points to the Mall? Where? What time will they open? What can't we bring?

Nikita Stewart: The Mall, we're told, is always open. However, expect random security checks like those that have started on the Metro. You can bring chairs, coolers, food, strollers onto the Mall. It's a free-for-all, but explosives, weapons, etc., are prohibited. That may sound like a no-brainer, but security officials keep saying that so I thought I may prevent it.


Baltimore: Hi. As I expected, hotels and trains into DC for Inauguration Day and the weekend were pretty much impossible to get, but we actually managed a plan where we'll rent an RV and park it at a campground not far from Greenbelt. I know there has been some talk that access to DC via 495 will be cut off. My question is do you know the day and time that the travel restrictions will be set, and do you know if local roads will also be blocked off? Will suburban Metro buses run normally?

David Nakamura: Here is the story related to street and bridge closings: http://twp.com/detail.jsp?key=334891&rc=to&p=1&all=1 and a followup with some clarifications: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/inauguration-watch/2009/01/security_officials_ease_restri.html


Spencer, Falls Church, Va.: Much of your coverage has been how to attend the Inauguration - how to get into the city - where to park, access routes, which bridges are open, security point,s etc. but I haven't read anything about what happens when the inauguration ceremony is completed: How soon will there be easement in traffic flow, or will restrictions remain in place through the evening, especially if you have plans to return to one of the balls that evening? Thank you.

Nikita Stewart: We're told that it will run much like the Fourth of July. After the fireworks, traffic lights are timed so that people leave with a little more ease. In the evening when returning for a ball, expect restrictions around the Washington Convention Center where I believe seven of the 10 official balls are being held.


Bethlehem, Pa.: Okay, I scored one of the 5,000 bleacher seat tickets along the parade route. The official advice is to get to your place ASAP, the earlier the better (gates open at 7 a.m.; the parade starts 2:30 p.m.). Question: Will the swearing-in ceremony be visible from the bleachers or will there be big screens set up?

David Nakamura: The swearing-in almost certainly will not be able to be seen live from the parade route and the best guess for a great spot is: the earlier the better. No list of the 22 Jumbotron locations yet, but we expect there will be one before Jan. 20 so stay tuned.


Washington, D.C.: Does a Camelbak (hydration) backpack fall into the "no backpack" rule on the parade route?

Nikita Stewart: I wouldn't take any chances. Items will not be returned if confiscated.


Northern Virginia: Where can I find an exact time at which bridges into DC will be closed? Heading downtown the night before the inauguration, hoping bridges aren't closed at midnight.

David Nakamura: See previous link to the bridge closing story.


Penn Quarter DC: There is a lot of confusion (we are "in the zone"). Will we be able to leave our apartments after 8 a.m.? will we be able to return to our apartments during the day on the 20th? No one seems to know...

Nikita Stewart: You should be able to leave. I know there are going to be some restrictions for watch parties. For example, if you're using the community room of your building to host inauguration guests, they may have to be "in the zone" or in your building by a certain time. You need to check with your apartment management, condo board or neighborhood association. The Secret Service and law enforcement officials have been meeting individually with such groups to inform them of the rules that could affect residents that day.


DC: Do you have any information on the Whistle Stop tour? I wonder when they will leave Philly, and then when they arrive at each stop? What are they planning to do at each stop? Will he and Biden be on the back of the train Truman style? Any sort of time table would be appreciated. Many thanks!

Nikita Stewart: As soon as we have a schedule, we will post it. Keep reading.


Arlington, Va.: We have parade tickets and will be attending with our four-year-old. I know there will not be food vendors, but see nothing about food being prohibited. Can we bring water and snacks without having them confiscated?

Nikita Stewart: Yes, the food should be snack-sized. Water bottles are permitted.


Washington, D.C.: With huge crowds of people jamming onto Metro beginning at 4 a.m., what kind of mob scene do you anticipate at the checkpoint entries for ticketed people for the Inauguration? Are they still opening those checkpoints at 8 a.m.?

Do you think that so many people will be scared from driving into DC that there may be parking in parking areas off New York Avenue and other open Maryland into DC arteries?

David Nakamura: They are opening checkpoints for ticketholders to the swearing-in at 8 a.m. See here for your entry points if you have a ticket: http://inaugural.senate.gov/2009/index.cfm

As for parking, I wouldn't count on it being easy to find a spot, even if people are scared to drive downtown. It's possible that entrepreneurial businesses/homeowners might open their parking spaces for sale, a la sports events.


Washington: Any idea what the weather will be like? Any snow or extreme cold could mean a lower turnout.

David Nakamura: So far, looking like high 30s and sunny. My colleague Nikita Stewart reports being "comfortable" at yesterday's dress rehearsal on the mall, at which the temperature was about that high. ("Dress in layers," she said.) Go here for regular weather updates: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/


Memphis, Tenn: Is the inauguration going to be broadcast live online anywhere?

washingtonpost.com: This very Web site, for starters.

David Nakamura: Looks like your first stop should be washingtonpost.com, where we'll have live video coverage online.


Washington, D.C.: I have tickets to see Oprah's show at the Kennedy Center on Monday. Any info on who will be on the show that day??

Nikita Stewart: No word yet. But there will be plenty of celebrities in town. The question is will THE man of the hour be there. We'll see if the Oprah tie is that strong and whether his schedule will allow it. And aren't you lucky? That was a hot ticket.


washington dc: do you know anything about the Oprah ball? Also, what's the best way to get tickets to one of the official balls?

David Nakamura: Have not heard that Oprah will host her own ball. Rumors she will have a party and reports that she will appear at theroot.com's inaugural ball. (Full disclosure: theroot.com is part of the Washington Post company.) Oprah also will be hosting her show from Kennedy Center (tickets long ago sold out).


Los Angeles, CA: Let's talk restaurants. 1) will most be open on Tuesday? 2) After the swearing in, can I get to the other side of Penn Ave to eat?

Nikita Stewart: Crossing Pennsylvania Avenue could prove difficult. Be sure to use our maps to guide you. Opentable.com is promoting inauguration week so many restaurants are taking advantage of the crowds. You may run into private parties that prevent you from eating in some of your favorites. Call first.


Baltimore: Any details about the train journey Obama and Biden will be taking to arrive in DC? It was supposed to pass through/stop in Baltimore, but I've seen nothing about a schedule.

David Nakamura: We have not seen a detailed schedule either and will post it on our Inauguration Watch blog as soon as we do, as well as write a story about it for the Post.


Washington, D.C.: For people who want to watch the parade but don't have tickets, what sort of restrictions are there on where we can stand? For example, will people be allowed to stand in front of the bleachers, or do those tickets also guarantee an unobstructed view?

Nikita Stewart: It's difficult to stand in front of the bleachers because they meet the street. Military and law enforcement officials will make sure you don't cross that line. I was at the rehearsal yesterday and they formed a human barricade all along Pennsylvania Avenue. Yesterday, you could walk right by them. On Inauguration Day, don't count on such freedom.


Maryland: What exactly is a large bag for the purposes of the swearing in? I have a purse that is a couple inches bigger than the size restrictions for the balls (they say 8X6X4 or something and I've got 10x8x4). Is that going to get me turned away, or do I need to buy a new bag?

Nikita Stewart: I just wouldn't take any chances. Buy a new bag.


Akron, OH: Someone previously asked when ball tickets would go on sale to the public for $150. Has an announcement been made that this is actually going to happen or is this a rumor?

David Nakamura: I've heard from people on Capitol Hill with connections that ball tickets are being distributed to some lucky folks with the price tag of $150 apiece. So far, however, the only ones going out to the greater public appear to be to those willing to donate at least $500 to the Presidential Inaugural Committee: https://donate.pic2009.org/page/contribute/jan20


New Orleans: Do you think Feinstein's legislation, outlawing the resale of tickets to the swearing-in ceremony, will pass?

David Nakamura: She seems confident that it will.


Reston, Va.: I keep hearing about people having viewing parties and the like for the Inauguration, but what about folks like me for whom its just a regular work day, and we don't have access to any type of TV in the office. Not a holiday for everyone, unfortunately. Business as usual at my company in the DC suburbs...

Nikita Stewart: If you have a computer, you can watch it live on washingtonpost.com.


David Nakamura: Thanks to everyone for your terrific questions. We'll be back later this week to answer more and, hopefully, have a lot more specifics on logistics, entertainment and official schedules.


Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2009 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive