It was a day for speeches, parades, dancing and high-fiving.
Last week's gubernatorial inauguration also brought lots of hugs and kisses, and even tears, as men, women and children shivered in the biting cold to witness Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. be sworn in as the first Republican governor of Maryland in nearly four decades, and Michael S. Steele (R) take the oath as the state's first black lieutenant governor.
The mood was festive, almost regal, as lawmakers and top officials from Maryland and the region crowded into historic downtown Annapolis.
And, of course, there were the media.
Not wanting to miss any of the historic moments, TV camera crews and still photographers set their lenses on whatever luminaries they could snag. With Republicans filling the State House, however, the pickings were slim.
Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens attended, as did Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, who was pragmatic about the election that kicked their party, the Democrats, out of the governor's mansion and ushered the Republicans in.
"Well, county executives are always left out in the cold," chuckled Duncan, wearing gray flannel slacks, a subdued blue tie and obligatory navy-blue sport coat. "But one thing I can say is, looking out over the crowd here today, it looks a lot different than it did when Kathleen [Kennedy Townsend] stood on these steps and announced she was running for governor. It's a lot less diverse here today."
Former governor Parris N. Glendening went to the official swearing-in, which took place indoors, but he declined an invitation to the outdoor ceremony, saying the spotlight ought to be on Ehrlich.
Instead, Glendening went home to unpack the fourth floor of his new Annapolis townhouse and played coy with reporters about his job plans, saying only that he had two contracts finalized to work in the environmental field and planned to operate out of the District and Annapolis.
Former lieutenant governor Townsend, Ehrlich's Democratic opponent, did attend the outdoor ceremonies, where she was introduced by the master of ceremonies as the person "who represents the integrity of the last eight years." The state's mostly Democratic congressional delegation also attended, as is traditional.
They were joined by a bunch of Ehrlich's Republican pals from the two terms he spent in Congress. Ken Mehlman, White House political director, brought greetings from President Bush. A number of House members flew in for the ceremonies, including old buddies Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who recently phoned Ehrlich from the House cloakroom just for old times' sake, and former congressman Rick Lazio of New York.
Inauguration day ended with a gala ball in Baltimore, where Ehrlich and his wife, Kendel, shared a dance and a collective sigh of relief -- the kind that a person gets when he can finally look back and say, "I did it!"