- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2001

Thousands of revelers braved the chill and the damp yesterday at the Lincoln Memorial to celebrate President-elect George W. Bush's upcoming inauguration during an outdoor gala that kicked off a weekend of balls and receptions.
A host of entertainers from the high-kicking Radio City Rockettes to wunderkind soprano Charlotte Church to pop heartthrob Ricky Martin performed on the memorial steps before an appreciative crowd of onlookers.
Noticeably absent from the festivities were anti-Bush protesters who have threatened to disrupt inaugural activities. However, the demonstrators were not completely silent.
Three Greenpeace protesters were arrested yesterday after scaling the Department of Interior building and unfurling a banner criticizing Mr. Bush's nominee to head the agency.
And this morning a federal judge will decide on a protester lawsuit that could alter security plans by forcing police to disassemble 10 security checkpoints for the public viewing area for tomorrow's inauguration.
The more than 200,000 people expected to attend yesterday's gala at the Lincoln Memorial and cause huge traffic delays as they left during the evening rush hour did not show up, probably because of the cold, rainy weather.
Traffic flowed fairly smoothly, despite the closing of the Memorial Bridge and several streets around the memorial site.
The gala immediately addressed the divide stirred up by the elongated presidential election in the first words of its invocation.
Next, a video snapshot of Mr. Bush rolled out, with the first images of the next president eliciting a warm, extended cheer. Home movies of the Bush family, featuring clips of twin daughters Jenna and Barbara and remembrances of the courtship of Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, followed.
Another video presentation featured Laura Bush hunkering down in various classroom settings, foreshadowing her role as a firm voice for education issues.
Mr. Bush looked calm and comfortable as he descended the memorial's stairs to greet the throng of well-wishers early in the show.
Side by side with his wife, Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney and Lynne V. Cheney, Mr. Bush saluted the crowd and blew it a kiss before settling into his seat.
The unabashedly patriotic show, produced by veteran television director George Schlatter ("Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In"), began in fits and starts. Once the parade of entertainers began, though, its momentum quickened and never let up.
A steady drizzle greeted the audience as it settled in for the gala. But once the production started, the only objects falling from above were the Army Golden Knights Parachuters, part of the extended military showcase.
Talk-show veteran Larry King was the master of ceremonies, letting his New York accent purposely slip while introducing the Rockettes.
The talent included Jessica Simpson, Brooks & Dunn and Jon Secada, who crooned a heartfelt "America the Beautiful," mixing Spanish and English lyrics.
Old favorites such as Marilyn McCoo gave way to the 14-year-old Miss Church, who sang with the poise of a Broadway veteran.
Las Vegas regular Wayne Newton belted out a medley of American-themed songs, his teeth as glittery white as his tuxedo shirt.
Throughout the performances, Mr. Bush appeared both awed to be granted such a generous reception and at ease in his new role. He grinned with respect when he shared a few private words with boxing great Muhammad Ali, who threw a few jabs for the crowd's approval before chatting up Mr. Bush.
For all the talk of impending protests, hardly a note of disapproval could be heard. One guard mentioned she hadn't seen any instances of protest since she arrived at the scene earlier in the day.
The celebration couldn't erase the potential for unrest, though. Revelers had to funnel through metal detectors and submit to baggage searches. And everywhere one looked, security officials paced the walkways to ensure the peace. Mounted police officers stood at the ready in case a disturbance broke out. The only explosions came courtesy of the Grucci fireworks at show's end.
The crowd crossed generational lines, though it was hardly as diverse as the talent pool assembled another reminder of the work Mr. Bush has before him.
Before the show began, a few audience members shared why they braved the chill and a potential traffic nightmare to support the incoming administration.
Ronalee Linsenmann, 47, of Nampa, Idaho, said she didn't care what the forecast had in store.
"I'm hoping we brought some integrity and honesty back to the White House," Mrs. Linsenmann said.
And she scoffed at those who kvetched about dangling, pregnant and every other kind of chad, the scourge of the election debate that rubbed so many Americans the wrong way.
"We had no problem punching our chads," she said of her fellow Idaho residents.
Barbara Takla came from London to soak in the festivities. Her interest was piqued by watching the election imbroglio from afar.
"I had the time of my life watching it," she said.
Tausha Jessen, 30, of Pentagon City hoped the four-day inaugural events would convince even simmering Democrats that the time for retribution was over.
"I think it'll help bring people together. We need to get on with it," Miss Jessen said.

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