- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2009

Charlie Brotman, as they say in the Obama-nation, is “fired up and ready to go” as he prepares this afternoon to serve as announcer for the inaugural parade for the 14th consecutive time.

As one of six official parade emcees, Mr. Brotman, an 81-year-old former sports broadcaster whose dulcet tones graced the classic baseball film “Damn Yankees,” benefits from proximity. He is to be the closest parade announcer to the new president, so his talking points directly hit the ears of the first family.

With unprecedented interest - “this is taking on gargantuan importance” - he’s not taking his duties lightly.

“My adrenaline is over my eyebrows right now,” he joked Monday afternoon as he finished his homework to announce a megaparade that will feature more than 13,000 participants - and an estimated quarter-million spectators - all packed along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route from the U.S. Capitol to the White House.

It is a historic parade route, and Mr. Brotman is keen on honoring the tradition, but more so this year as the world’s attention focuses on the new administration amid a renewed sense of hope for America. While the world will be watching, it will be his voice many are hearing, and he studies up to offer details and descriptions on the fanfare, including vamping with details when there is a lull in the action.

“Nothing like this has ever taken place in this city before,” Mr. Brotman said of the growing excitement. “I’m sort of like an athlete looking forward to a Super Bowl. But this parade, what’s happening in Washington, is the Superduper Bowl.”

The parade began in 1809 with the inauguration of James Madison. It has grown over the years and is steeped in tradition and Americana, with military units in full regalia parading before the new commander in chief, high school bands and elaborate floats representing the states. But for comic relief on a day filled with serious pomp and circumstance, there’s the World Famous Lawn Rangers, a precision lawn-mower drill team.

The parade begins about 2:30 p.m., but the lining up and security clearance is set for 7 a.m. at more than a dozen entry points near the parade route.

For spectators, it’s a lot of hurry up, get settled and wait in the predicted 30-degree temperature. For many of the Obama faithful who can’t get tickets, the parade is their way to gather and participate in the inaugural spectacle.

Parade organizers say the entry points will remain open until the route can’t accommodate any more people. Countless Washingtonians will gather in office windows as they strain for a glimpse of strutting baton twirlers, precision drill teams and sparkling brass music bouncing off the cavernous buildings along the way.

Cable and network TV will record the entire lineup, representing the fundraising efforts of communities, schools and organizations who have held bake sales and counted pennies and nickels to make their way to perform for Mr. Obama on Tuesday.

The parade units honor the nation’s regional variations with an Eskimo group, the Suurimmaanitchuat dancers from Alaska, performing along with an appearance by the hoop-skirted Azalea Trail Maids, who represent the city of Mobile, Ala., and its pastel-hued azalea blossoms. A Junior ROTC cadet group from first lady Michelle Obama’s alma mater, Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, will honor her hometown.

Twice, the parade has been stymied by the weather. John F. Kennedy’s parade waited while cleaning crews cleared the snowfall. Ronald Reagan’s inaugural parade for his second term was canceled because of the cold.

Mr. Brotman, a former announcer for the Washington Senators who runs a public relations firm, said likely nothing will get in the way of this year’s festivities, which he calls the highlight of his career. The celebratory momentum this year is palpable.

“This is all because of our new leader, President Obama, who is inspiring,” he says of the hoopla. “He is an incredible leader and times have been tough for America and in many cases, Americans. President Obama appears to be opening the world to us and what we are all hoping for is positive change. That’s why so much of the world will be watching this. It’s awe-inspiring.”


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