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Excitement grows for inaugural event

Farmington Councilman Dennis Smith, a Democrat, and his wife, Pattie, will listen from the outskirts.

Jo Ann Emerson, a Republican U.S. Representative, has reserved seats on the lawn near the podium.

Despite their differences in party and location, Smith and Emerson are both excited to be part of Tuesday’s historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th president. They and their families will be among an estimated 3 million people in Washington D.C. to be part of Tuesday’s celebration. Cost of the inauguration, which is paid by Obama’s inauguration committee, is estimated at more than $150 million.

Inauguration events already are under way, and people have been pouring into the nation’s capital for several days.

“There are so many people here!” Emerson said Friday in a phone call from Washington D.C. “It’s incredible!”

The city already is closed to traffic in some areas. Emerson and other legislators must take circuitous routes to get to work. On Thursday, she and her husband, Ron, headed to a favorite restaurant to celebrate their ninth anniversary. Obama was nearby and streets were closed, so the couple had to walk some distance to the restaurant.

Most people take the temporary inconveniences in stride. The upcoming ceremonies are far more important.

“Everybody’s all kinds of excited,” Emerson said. “The mood is good with everyone right now. This ceased to be a political event — it is a national event.”

As a Congresswoman, Emerson received 198 tickets to hand out to the event. Nearly 600 people asked for tickets. After determining who just wanted a ticket as a souvenir and who really planned to attend, her staff pulled names from a hat for the available tickets.

All major television networks plan to cover the inauguration for those who cannot attend it in person. The event also will be available online at for those who install Microsoft’s Silverlight (free at

Ticket holders will be able to view the inauguration from the standing areas on the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. They will have a long wait, as admission to those areas begins at 8 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time). Emerson and other legislators will be seated about 10 a.m. 

Former presidents will be introduced and seated beginning at 11 a.m., followed by the Biden and Obama families; George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their spouses; Obama, Joe Biden and their spouses.

Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens will swear-in Biden as vice president at 11:46 a.m. and at noon Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will swear-in Obama as president.

A long list of banned items includes umbrellas (even if it rains), thermoses, coolers and signs. Cameras are allowed; camera bags are not.

While Emerson and her family are assured of seeing the inauguration, the Smiths will take their chances at finding somewhere close to listen to Obama’s inauguration and speech.

“We don’t have tickets, so I don’t know how close we can get,” Dennis Smith said. “We are going to the parade and other events and we are going to try and watch or listen to the swearing in.”

 The inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House will be held in the afternoon. Emerson said only the first 380,000 people to arrive at the parade route will be allowed in.

Tuesday evening, the city turns out in evening gowns and tuxedos for 10 official and several unofficial inaugural balls. Emerson and her family plan to attend the Midwest Ball and she and Ron will head briefly to the agriculture ball.

Tickets to the balls range in price.

“Tickets for the Midwest Ball are $150 each and the Ag Ball tickets are $750,” Emerson said. “The ball to go to is the Creative Coalition Ball, where all the celebrities will be. But tickets are $10,000 each.”

According to the inauguration committee’s Web site,, the country’s first inauguration took place April 30, 1789, when George Washington became the country’s first president. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be sworn-in in Washington D.C. and James Monroe was the first to be inaugurated outdoors. Andrew Jackson was the first to take the oath of office at the U.S. Capitol.

In March of 1881, James Garfield was the first President to review the Inaugural Parade from a stand built in front of the White House.

Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at


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