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Thursday, Jan. 15 at Noon ET

Inauguration: Planning the Events

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Marvin Bond
Spokesman, Hargrove Inc.
Thursday, January 15, 2009; 12:00 PM

How do you put together something as monumental as a presidential inauguration? Hargrove spokesman Marvin Bond was online Thursday, Jan. 15 at noon ET to take your questions and to take you behind the scenes of how a inauguration gets produced.

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Maryland event planning firm Hargrove is assembling the floats for the inaugural parade and decorating and staging the 10 official balls, a prayer breakfast, three candlelight dinners as well as staging a number of other events at which the president will appear.

The transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: If you didn't have tickets, where would you try to be to observe the swearing-in or the parade?

Marvin Bond: Probably along the initial part of the parade route, up near the third street end of Penn. That's where the elements feed into the parade and go on along Penn., so that's where you get to see some of the unusual things that happen.

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Aldie, Va.: How much is this all costing the taxpayer? Is it safe to say that this will be the most expensive in U.S. history?

Marvin Bond: That's really outside of my area -- the inaugural celebrations are paid for by the inaugural committee, which raises private money for it. Beyond that there are security and other costs, but that's something I'm not at all familiar with.

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Who is responsible for porta-johns blocking the view on the Mall?: People on the Mall West of 4th St. will look towards the U.S. Capitol and instead of seeing the inauguration platform, will see porta-johns blocking their view. This is not how I want my friends to experience the inauguration. How do we get that row of johns moved?

Marvin Bond: You would have to talk to the Park Service and the Capitol police on those issues.

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Akron, Ohio: Is there a seating chart for the parade bleachers? I got my tickets yesterday and was hoping to know where I'd be sitting. Thanks!

Marvin Bond: The inaugural committee Web site has some information I think on that, if not, you can call the PIC and they can tell you what they've worked out.

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Arlington, Va.: Which ball are you most looking forward to? If I can only attend one, which would you recommend?

Marvin Bond: Well, I think the one that, this might be a surprise, but the one that tends to be the most emotional for me is the one they call the CIC ball, which is primarily attended by enlisted military folks. There's a certain element of that ball that is very very emotional and very very interesting. There was a photo in the post in 2005 of the Bushes dancing on a carpet Hargrove made, and they were dancing with a different enlisted person. It's just a different thing that the typical black-tie ball most people think of.

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Greenbelt, Md.: Where do you recommend attendees, without tickets to anything, go to be able to reasonably see the inauguration via Jumbotron and exit in enough time to see the parade?

Marvin Bond: I think, quite frankly, the security blanket is such, it gets pushed back every inauguration, that's a tough call. If you don't have a ticket and you're down by the Capitol -- if you can see a Jumbotron from someplace on the Hill, then work your way down Penn., which will be closed at the Capitol, you might be able to get to the Third street side and see something of the parade as it forms.

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Washington, D.C.: I have been offered tickets to the standing room-only area for the swearing-in. Is there any real benefit to being in this area rather than just being on the Mall?

Marvin Bond: I presume, just that you're closer. I can't say for sure there's any better view or anything.

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jumbotrons: Any update on whether there will be jumbotrons along the parade route?

Marvin Bond: I do not know the status of that right now.

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Thin blue line: John Kelly commented on the blue line painted down the middle of Penn Ave. I didn't think anyone would take a wrong turn off the parade route but instead thought it was a centering marker.

Isn't there a line for floats in parades like the Rose Parade where drivers can't really see all that much in front of them?

Marvin Bond: Typically you handle that in actuality with guides, people who walk along side the floats and drivers, with their limited vision, focus on them.

With some parades the center line is important, but it's less important for the floats than for other units -- marching units, equestrian units, whatever.

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Washington, D.C.: Are you looking for volunteers for any of the events? I am familiar with the city (been in the area for nearly 10 years now), have event planning experience, and of course am willing to work for free!

Marvin Bond: I suspect there are people still looking for volunteers -- we aren't, most of our labor is required to be union labor. I'm sure there are people doing parties, outdoor events, and perhaps even the PIC is still looking for volunteers.

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Midtown, DC: Please! Can you help me settle an argument?

I was lucky to get guaranteed bleacher seats for the parade. The people I am going with say that we still need to arrive early (like 9) to be sure we get in. Does that make sense? I say we have tickets, so they have to let us into the secure area as long as we are there before noon or so.

Please tell me we don't have to spend even more time waiting around...

Thanks.

Marvin Bond: I would suspect the earlier you get there, the safer you are. Our drivers, who are driving the floats, have to be in place at 3 a.m., that's 11 hours before the parade!

Marvin Bond: Once you get inside that security bubble, you can't get out. We've changed how were getting the floats down this year, and they've agreed to some of the things we want to do, but that was one condition, that everyone has to be on site at 3 a.m.

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Washington, DC: Hello, one logistical question I cannot seem to find an answer to is if you will have to pass through security to sit in the general public areas of the mall and watch the jumbotrons? And will there be the same limitations as along the parade route as to what you can bring?

Marvin Bond: My suspicion is yes, I think virtually everyone is going to have to go through something.

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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.


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