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Correction to This Article
A Nov. 14 Metro article gave an incorrect title for Navy Cmdr. Craig Kujawa. He heads the parade division of the ceremonies directorate at the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee.

Obama Parade Hopefuls Had Better Step Lively

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Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 14, 2008; Page B01

First of all, your group's routine can't involve explosives or pyrotechnics, for the obvious security reasons.

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If you're a band, you shouldn't play "The Star-Spangled Banner" or "Hail to the Chief." Those tunes are taken.

And you are not permitted to stop at the presidential reviewing stand in front of the White House: This isn't a talent show, bub, and you'd better keep it moving.

Also, if you want to march or perform in the Jan. 20 inauguration parade, you had better hurry. The application deadline has been extended to 5 p.m. Tuesday, in part because of the flood of interest from groups wanting to join the celebration honoring President-elect Barack Obama.

The Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, the organization in charge of collecting applications, said yesterday that it was receiving 10 applications an hour and had more than 400 so far.

"We can't hazard an estimate on how many we'll have by [the] deadline," Navy Lt. Mike Billips, a committee spokesman, said in an e-mail. For the last inauguration, 47 civilian marching bands were selected from 343 applicants.

Selection for the inaugural parade is an honor, organizers and past participants say, and will be especially so this time, with the installation of the nation's first African American president.

"It would mean the world to us," said Darrell Watson, director of the 90-member Marching Knights of the District's Ballou High School, which applied this week.

"I voted for the first time this year, and I would get to do more than just vote," said Janell Heggins, 19, a member of Howard University's 140-member Showtime Marching Band, which has also applied. "I would get to be a part of history."

John Newson, director of Howard's band, said he applied because of the strong feelings many of the band members have for the president-elect. "Obama's election was the key," he said. "The students are really excited about him. The whole university is excited about the first African American president."

The Oxon Hill High School Marching Band, which performed in six pre-Olympic events in China during the summer, also is in the mix, as are many other groups that have done big public events.

"People were calling from the community saying that we were good enough to represent the country in China, so we're good enough to represent the country in the inaugural parade," said Walter Harley, the Oxon Hill group's director.

Navy Cmdr. Craig Kujawa, head of the military committee's ceremonies division, said the application deadline, which originally was today, was extended in part because of "the volume of applications that have been coming in since the election."

Applications, which can be filed online or by mail, will be evaluated by a team of professional military musicians and performers, according to the application rules and instructions. The applications can include DVDs, CDs and photographs.

"There are some musicians from some of the premier service bands here from the national capital region on the [committee] staff," Kujawa said. "They just evaluate the quality and the level of play and performance for the different musical marching bands."

"That's not to say it's only the best performers that get chosen," he said.

The 2005 parade included military, college and high school marching bands, an equestrian drill team, military honor guards, a juggler, a jump rope team, cadets from Virginia Military Institute and an all-star pompon team, among others.

The committee has detailed application instructions available at its Web site, http://afic.northcom.mil. Applicants must specify whether they have a marching band, a "silent" marching unit or a horse or vehicle unit, among other things. Uniforms must be described, too.

A ban on "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Hail to the Chief" and the military anthems of the various services stems from the likelihood that such songs will be played by military bands in other parts of the ceremonies, Billips said.

And no lingering is allowed at the White House reviewing stand. "It's not the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," Kujawa said. "It is a formal review of troops and other elements, and there is expressly no stopping."

Kujawa said his committee sorts through the applications for later evaluation by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is to be established soon by the president-elect.

"We don't rank them," Kujawa said. "We'll categorize the groups, as to whether they're at level A, level B, level C, and so forth." The presidential committee makes the final selections.

"It's somewhat of an iterative process," he said. "They could come back with all the groups that they want, and then when we crunch the numbers and tell them that that equates to a 4 1/2-hour parade, then they have to rethink it. . . . There's a little bit of an art to it."


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