- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Despite a snub by Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, the other three members of Maine’s congressional delegation, Republican Gov. Paul LePage and key GOP officials will witness Donald Trump take the oath of office and join in the inaugural festivities.

But no one is more excited than 29 students from northern Maine will help kick off inaugural events Thursday evening in Washington, D.C.

Ben Meiklejohn, conductor of the “Pride of Madawaska,” said his middle and high school musicians are ready to represent Maine - and small-town America. The event at the Lincoln Memorial will feature Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down and more than 100,000 spectators.

Freshman trumpet player Shane Osgood said it’s going to be “intimidating” but also “amazing” to perform for such a large crowd in the nation’s capital.

“It’s just breathtaking to know that our band of about 30 people is able to come down to D.C. and perform for hundreds of thousands of people,” he said while taking a break from touring the sights with the rest of the band on Wednesday.

Trump, the Republican president-elect, will make an appearance at the Lincoln Memorial event. Then he’ll take the oath of office Friday outside the Capitol.

Alex Willette, a Republican national committeeman, has a ticket to one of the hottest event in town - one of Trump’s inaugural balls. But there will be other activities, as well.

Maine’s congressional delegation and LePage, along with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, are on the guest list for a New England event hosted by the New Zealand Embassy on Thursday, before the inauguration.

LePage, who appeared with Trump at several campaign stops in Maine, plans to attend the inauguration but it was unclear what else he had in mind. He told WGAN-AM he’s “not big on bowties,” suggesting he might skip the party scene.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King and Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin all plan to attend the inauguration.

But Pingree decided to join a Democratic boycott because Trump’s actions “go beyond any kind of reasonable debate - they threaten the constitutional values our country is based on,” she said.

Meiklejohn, who as a student marched in an inaugural parade for President George H.W. Bush with the Kennebunk High School band, said the “Pride of Madawaska” views the performance as participating in history and an opportunity to play music - not as a political statement.

There are larger bands from bigger cities, he said, but he added, pound for pound his small band plays with heart and a big sound.

“We represent small town America,” Meiklejohn said of Madawaska, population 4,000. “It’s a small town, a small school, a small state, a small band. That’s kind of what they’re taking pride in - they represent the same small-town America that exists everywhere.”


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