Frank and Elizabeth Roddy came prepared yesterday for Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon's inaugural parade.

Their layers of clothes and down parkas could withstand the coldest temperatures. Their plastic boots could protect from the heaviest of downpours. And their wooden stools could provide relief from the longest of parades.

But the one eventuality they didn't count on was that the new mayor wouldn't be in the parade or pass by where they waited near 14th and H streets NW.

"That's no fun," Frank Roddy said. "Who's going to be in the parade if it's her inaugural parade?"

Dixon decided it would have been disruptive to dash off moments after her swearing-in to join the corporate floats, marching bands and the Hispanics, Asians, senior citizens and gay people who marched down 14th Street NW from the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center to the District Building.

But many of the people in the sparse crowd that lined the 13-block parade route preferred disruption to the disappointment of not being able to catch a glimpse of the District's new chief executive.

"That is the reason I came out today: to give her my support," said Jeff Strickland, a Washington resident of two months who stood at 14th Street and Wallach Place. "I might as well go home."

Despite the disappointments, the crowd had generally high hopes for the Dixon administration.

"I think she's the best person for the job," said Jamie Quarrelles, a freelance political consultant who stood near 14th and Riggs streets. "I think she has the intelligence and the savvy to get what we need to be done, done."

William J. Baltimore, a District firefighter who stood near the District Building, said, "I think a lot of people are putting a lot of faith in her and looking for a new direction. I feel optimistic. I just hope that she doesn't get into office and forget from whence she comes."

Others saw a deeper personal significance in Dixon's inauguration.

"This is a great chance to show that ladies can be mayor too," said Markeisha Allen, 10, a student at Garrison Elementary School. Markeisha, who stood near 14th and S streets, said that she wants to grow up to be a judge and that Dixon is proving women can do anything they want.

Catching a glimpse of Dixon was foremost on the minds of the students and teachers from Garrison, who had waited more than an hour before discovering Dixon wouldn't be there.

"It's time for lunch," second-grade teacher Geraldine Drake announced at that moment, marching the children away and expressing hope that they might see the new mayor on television.

Dixon watched the parade from the front row of the reviewing stands, north of the District Building, stepping away occasionally to greet well-wishers.

The change in administration gave many people along the parade route an optimistic outlook about the District, despite the ominous problems that Dixon became responsible for the moment she took the oath of office.

Already, the public was reveling in the political game of second-guessing Dixon and what she needs to do, particularly in addressing a budget shortfall that may approach $300 million.

"Until she gets the budget squared away, there's nothing much she can do," said Robert Tuckson, a security aide at Cardozo High School, the parade's staging point. "She has to raise taxes. You don't want to, but there's no other way around it."

Others simply appreciated the change.

"I think she's going to be all right," said Walter Laneave, 78, a retired federal worker who walked along with the parade. "We need a change."

But Mili Vorni Bonilla, who works with Washington Innercity Self Help and stood in front of the Reeves Center, urged caution as well.

"We can't stand here in this parade and expect that she will perform miracles," she said. "We can't put all the hope on Ms. Dixon. It has to start with the folks in the city."

Police reported few problems with yesterday's parade, which went through a revitalized part of the District that had been devastated by rioting in 1968.

One student marching with the Eastern High Marching Band collapsed near 14th and G streets NW. She was taken to George Washington University Hospital by ambulance for observation and was expected to be released last night.

Police also reported traffic problems as drivers got caught in a massive noontime gridlock caused by the closing of 14th Street from Florida to Pennsylvania avenues NW until 4 p.m.

Staff writers Linda Wheeler, Eric Charles May, Jenice Armstrong and Thomas Bell contributed to this report.