At least a thousand Vermonters and the 55-member Norwich University Regimental Band are set to represent the state today at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C.
Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernard Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch will have prime seats on the swearing-in stage alongside their wives and Gov. Peter Shumlin. Organizers also gave the Green Mountain congressional delegation about 1,000 free tickets for constituents to sit or stand on the lawn surrounding the U.S. Capitol during the 11:30 a.m. ceremony.
Four years ago, Leahy, Sanders and Welch, facing unprecedented demand from more than 4,000 locals, distributed most of their tickets through a lottery. This year, with expected attendance only about half of Obama’s record 1.8 million crowd of 2009, “we were able to honor all Vermonters’ requests,” Leahy spokesman David Carle says.
That wasn’t the case with applicants to the inaugural parade, scheduled to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House at 2:30 p.m. A record 2,800 groups applied for entrance in this year’s event, which will feature one unit from each of the 50 states.
The Vermont band boarded two buses at its Northfield campus Saturday before dawn, traveled all day and arrived at the nation’s capital well after dusk.
“Everything is going well,” the band’s director, Lt. Col. Todd Edwards said by phone Sunday. “We’re getting all of our final paperwork in order, and students are having fun looking at the sights.”
The oldest collegiate band in the country, the Regimental Band — founded in 1823 — has traveled to the swearing-ins of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Even so, neither Edwards nor any of its current musicians has played at an inauguration. Perhaps that’s why they chose a good night’s sleep over crashing the Vermont State Society inaugural reception that drew several hundred people Sunday night to a Constitution Avenue venue overlooking the swearing-in stage.
The Norwich band is set to wake early this morning for security screening at the Pentagon before lining up near the Capitol. Students, slotted in the fourth of five divisions, will march the 1.6-mile route before reaching the president’s reviewing stand at the White House, where they’ll play the “National Emblem March,” composed a century ago by Vermonter E.E. Bagley.
C-SPAN is promising live commercial-free coverage on television and its website, www.c-span.org. Vermont viewers should look for the Air Force Band leading the fourth division, then wait through the next 10 units while watching for the Tuskegee Airmen float that will precede the Norwich band.
“The cadets are honored and happy,” Edwards said Sunday.
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