D.C. readies as millions head to city
Obama’s inaugural events are expected to draw unprecedented crowds.
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Inauguration-goers will face layers of security as they get closer to the Mall. Those who make it to the Mall, but are not among the 240,000 people with tickets to the swearing in, will be able to watch the festivities on JumboTrons. Those with tickets to the inaugural parade face a list of banned items, including: strollers, umbrellas, coolers, duffel bags, backpacks, and signs. People tempted to bring small children and babies might think twice.Skip to next paragraph
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Companies are marketing Inauguration Survival Kits, but it’s not hard to figure out what to wear and bring. Sensible shoes and layers of warm clothes top the list (all events are outdoors). Tissues, lip balm, hand sanitizer, and heat packs also make sense.
Cellular gridlock could also be an issue, leading to calling and texting delays. Wireless providers have spent several months temporarily expanding capacity, but if everyone decides to send a video of Obama saying “so help me God” to their aunt in Florida at the same time, nothing will go through. First responders will have a special code for their communications devices that will allow them to jump to the front of the line, if necessary.
The housing question has spawned stories about area residents renting out their homes to out-of-town visitors for five-figure sums, but the reality is more down to earth. At this point, a few hundred dollars a night can still get you a condo in Dupont Circle, within walking distance of all events. Some hotels still report vacancies. Many visitors are staying with friends and family. Some who live farther out in the suburbs are staying with friends who live closer in. Then there are the people (i.e., Republicans) fleeing town for the long weekend.
But when all is said and done about logistics, Washingtonians and their visitors are excited about the coming extravaganza.
“It will be joyous, and not official Washington,” says Mark Plotkin, who comments on all things D.C. for WTOP-FM radio. “There will be a sense of exuberance and euphoria, and also a diversion from all the bad stuff.”
Janet Ryder, an AFL-CIO employee from Philadelphia and Obama delegate at the Democratic convention, applied to be in the parade with the labor float, and was accepted. Now, she wouldn’t miss coming to D.C. for anything. She got a room at the Washington Hilton through connections, and she’s bringing her walking shoes – “plain, black, flat ugly shoes that feel good” – and long underwear.
“As I go around and talk to different community groups and organizations that I deal with in my job, people are into this inauguration like I’ve never, ever seen in my lifetime,” Ms. Ryder says. “And I’m 57 years old.”