- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2008

Democracy wasn’t built in a day — and neither are inaugural podiums.

So with Inauguration Day — and its pomp and hundreds of thousands of spectators — still nearly four months away, the first plank of the inaugural platform was placed Wednesday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.

Mrs. Feinstein, chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, drove the first nail of the huge structure in a ceremony on the West Lawn of the Capitol

The 56th quadrennial inauguration — charged with even greater significance because of the potential swearing-in of America’s first black president — takes place in 117 days, on Jan. 20 at noon.

The platform will be about 10,000 square feet with a capacity of about 2,500 people, a spokesperson for the Architect of the Capitol said. More than 200,00 people are expected to attend.

Mrs. Feinstein was joined by other members of the congressional committee, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, as well as by acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers.

“The presidential inauguration is more than just a celebration of one person’s assumption of the presidency,” Mrs. Feinstein said in a news release. “It is an affirmation of our Constitution, which ensures the peaceful transition from one administration to another … I am honored to chair the effort for the 2009 inauguration.”

The congressional panel has a budget of $1.24 million for the inauguration. Other events, such as the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and the Inaugural Ball are planned by the president-elect.

Inauguration Day will begin with a procession down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol. The vice president-elect and president-elect will then be sworn in.

After his inaugural address, the newly sworn leader of the free world will attend a luncheon in Statuary Hall and then parade back down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will be given a send-off ceremony on the East Side of the Capitol.

Preparations are already being made for the influx of visitors to Washington. Sales representatives at the Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue said that the historic hotel is completely sold out on Jan. 19 and 20. The hotel also has a long waiting list for reservation openings. The Hay Adams luxury hotel still has rooms available, but only for four-night stays. The cheapest rooms begin at $800 per night.

Other preparations include the repaving of Pennsylvania Avenue to rid it of potholes.

According to the committee’s Web site, tickets for the inauguration will be disbursed in January to the various members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Those who wish to attend can contact their senator or congressman. They can also try one of the various ticket brokers in the area.

Notable inaugurations include John F. Kennedy’s, the first in which a poet, Robert Frost, participated; Calvin Coolidge’s, the first ceremony to be broadcast on radio; and James Buchanan’s, the first ceremony to be photographed.

One of the most infamous inaugurations was William Henry Harrison’s, who while delivering his address, the longest in history, caught pneumonia and died a month later.

To learn more about the inauguration, visit www.inaugural. senate.gov; to apply for a chance to participate in the parade visit www.jfhqncr.northcom.mil/afic/ index.html.

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