Cheering mingles with jeers at parade

Thousands turn out, despite raw weather

Presidential Inauguration

January 21, 2001|By Scott Calvert and Laura Sullivan | Scott Calvert and Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - A bone-chilling rain drenched spectators and participants at yesterday's inaugural parade, but the raw weather did little to dampen the enthusiasm of thousands who turned out to cheer or to jeer President Bush on Pennsylvania Avenue.

John Ziemann, president of Baltimore's Marching Ravens, bubbled with excitement over the band's first appearance in an inaugural parade - and with the team set to play in Super Bowl XXXV next week.

The band was invited to Richard M. Nixon's 1973 inaugural when it was the Baltimore Colts Marching Band, but team owner Robert Irsay would not pay its way, Ziemann said. This time, he explained, Ravens owner Art Modell gladly picked up the tab.

"Some of the bands are complaining that it's cold," Ziemann said moments before the 301-member band took its spot in the procession. "But this is summer to us. This is football weather. The band is pumped."

The purple-clad musicians played the patriotic standard "America" but also worked in a few renditions of the Ravens fight song during their soggy trek from the Capitol to the White House.

The main event was Bush, whose motorcade was near the front of the parade. Some who didn't have roadside seats or a clear view got creative. Viewers climbed on drinking fountains, pay phones and tree branches.

For Bush supporters like Chris Batluck, who grew up in Anne Arundel County, it was important to show support after the election. He and his girlfriend, April Nelson, wore matching cowboy hats, prompting people to ask if they were from Texas.

"It's for Dubya," Nelson said, using a Bush nickname. "I'm a diehard America fan - red, white and blue all the way through. He'll feel more at home if he sees some hats out there."

Signs of protest

Others hoped to send a different message. Signs floated above the crowd that read "The Real Dumbing-Down of Amurika," "We've Been Chad" and - perhaps most common of all - "Hail to the Thief."

Most protesters on the parade route took a mild tack. Eric Hodgson, a student at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, stood quietly holding a placard asserting that "health care is a right."

"The Republicans are so concerned about saving money and cutting taxes," he said, "but we are really irresponsible in the way we spend health care money."

At times, the bonhomie along the parade route dissolved in the drizzle. "George Bush is an illegitimate president!" one man boomed over and over, cupping his hands around his mouth to form a makeshift megaphone.

Not willing to let the chant go unanswered, a second man, wearing a cowboy hat and a Bush sticker, shouted back, "No cowboy, no peace!"

A touch of the bizarre

Other times, the pageantry mixed with the bizarre. Just ahead of the Ravens band was the Precision Lawn Chair Demonstration Team, a group of people in loud Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts, carrying lawn chairs. This was the group's second inaugural parade appearance.

More than 10,500 people participated in the parade, representing 45 states. Thirty-eight high school and college bands were on hand, as was each branch of the military.

Spectators converged on Washington from around the country, many driving for hours to witness history. "After a hard-fought win, we had to celebrate," said Valerie Fulford, a Bush backer who traveled from Cleveland with her husband and two children.

Naval Academy senior William Rimmer waited with more than 100 other midshipmen under a covered tent with high school marching bands and baton twirlers, rubbing his hands together to keep warn.

A native Texan, Rimmer had wanted to attend the academy since he saw midshipmen march in a parade when he was 7. He said he couldn't believe his fortune in being chosen to march at Bush's inauguration.

"This is far and away the most prestigious, most awesome event we have been a part of," he said. "To march for the new president right after he is sworn in, it's amazing."

Despite rumors that protesters were going to throw fruit at military academy students, the midshipmen and the cadets from the other academies passed through the parade route unscathed.

The hundred members of Wyoming's all-state marching band, covered head to toe in Pepsi insignia, didn't think they would make it to Washington. The cost was too high, until Pepsi offered to sponsor them.

They didn't mind that the only thing that would tell people they were from Wyoming was a small button on their lapels. They didn't even care that other bands with fancy outfits and expensive equipment spent the morning asking them why Pepsi had a marching band.

Turning to trivia

The parade, scheduled to start at 2 p.m., began about an hour late. To amuse restless spectators, an announcer gave an impromptu trivia quiz. Which president, he asked, was rumored to have started baseball's traditional 7th-inning stretch in 1910?

"He was known for his girth," the announcer added by way of a hint. The answer: William Howard Taft.

Just after 3 p.m., the presidential motorcade turned from Constitution Avenue onto Pennsylvania Avenue. Wild cheers drowned out a smattering of boos. The Rev. Steve Girard, pastor of St. Clement's Catholic Church in Lansdowne, pronounced himself pleased, although he admitted he couldn't tell which limousine was Bush's.

Girard might have been in the wrong place. A block from the White House, Bush and his wife, Laura, emerged from their limo and walked, holding hands and smiling. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, also walked the last part of the route.

"The sun is shining again, folks!" exclaimed Jim McConnell, a Bush supporter from Arlington, Texas, who fashioned a cloak out of a Texas flag as big as a beach towel.

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