The 56th US Presidential Inauguration will take place on Tuesday, January 20th, although the festivities begin this weekend. The traditional parade will take place Tuesday afternoon after the swearing-in ceremony. Of the many parade participants, here are just a few that deserve a closer view.
1. Azalea Trail Maids
The Azalea Trail Maids of Mobile, Alabama are a group of 50 high school senior girls who dress in pastel 19th-century hoop skirts and serve as representatives of Mobile. The Maids appeared in the 2005 Inaugural Parade and were surprised to be invited again this year. Comments made by Alabama's NAACP President Edward Vaughn produced a flurry of news stories and discussions on whether the Maids were appropriate for this inauguration. Vaughn said the dresses reminded him of slavery, and the Maids would make Alabama the laughingstock of the nation. Vaughn has since apologized for his remarks.
2. Lawn Rangers
The World Famous Lawn Rangers of Arcola, Illinois are a precision drill team of men who march with brooms and lawn mowers. They aren't at all serious about it, and they aren't all that precise. But they have attracted some high-profile members like Dave Barry, and Barack Obama even marched with them in 2003. See a video of the Lawn Rangers in action.
3. Moon Buggy
For the first time, NASA will be represented in the inaugural parade this year by a lunar vehicle. Astronaut Michael Gernhardt will drive the moon buggy prototype designed for a moon mission planned for about twelve years from now. The crew of the space shuttle Endeavor's latest mission will also march in the parade.
4. Tuskeegee Airmen
The Tuskeegee Airmen, who fought valiantly in World War II, were featured in the presidential inauguration once before, in 1949. But that was only a flyover, and they never got anywhere near the actual inauguration. This year will be different. The 250 surviving members of the all-black unit will be honored guests with seats at the swearing-in ceremony. They will ride vintage cars in the parade, and president Obama plans a special salute to the Airmen, all now in their 80s and 90s.
5. Lesbian and Gay Band Association
The Lesbian and Gay Band Association will send an all-star marching band to the inaugural parade. This will be the first year that an openly gay group has been invited to participate in the parade. The LGBA is a confederation of 34 different marching bands and orchestras around the world. The band will perform five songs, the "Washington Post March" by John Philip Sousa, "Ode to Joy," by Ludwig van Beethoven, "Hold On, I'm Comin'", popularized by Sam and Dave, "Brand New Day," from the Broadway musical The Wiz, and "Manhattan Beach" by John Philip Sousa.
6. Soapbox Derby Car
The South Cobb High School Blue Eagle marching band is one of several high school bands invited to the inaugural parade. One member of the band, 14-year-old drummer drummer Devin Robinson suffers from a neuromuscular disease and requires a vehicle in order to participate. Devan Seabaugh, the soapbox car enthusiast who brought soapbox derby racing to Marietta, came up with the solution.
Seabaugh looked on the wall of his office at Metro Atlanta Ambulance Service, where he is vice president, and studied the picture of himself in a soapbox derby car built for an adult."I said, "˜This would work.' I've got this car I built for adults to race. It's called a celebrity car for people like the mayor to race to open the soapbox derby," Seabaugh said.
Seabaugh's car will become part of history as Robinson and his drums ride in the parade. Devin's father, Gerald D. Robinson will push him in the soapbox derby car with a specially-installed handle.
Band director Zach Cogdill saw the car Tuesday night. "It's perfect," he said. "It can not be more perfect. It's exactly what I wanted. It fits in with the parade. It fits in with the nostalgia of the event."
7. Suurimmaanitchuat Dancers
The Suurimmaanitchuat Dancers of Barrow, Alaska are a 22-member troupe that has performed together for 20 years. They are the only native Alaskan group invited to the inaugural parade. They almost didn't get on the roster. Member Rex Okakok was told over and over that it was too late to apply for the parade. But his persistance paid off as the invitation finally came. The Suurimmaanitchuat Dancers perform traditional Eskimo dances plus some modern innovations, including an Elvis dance and a dance that imitates a stewardess giving pre-flight instructions.
8. 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry
The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was an unit of African-American soldiers with white officers who fought during the Civil War. The group's exploits were brought to the modern public in the 1989 movie Glory. OK, the actual infantry won't be marching in the inaugural parade, but Civil War re-enactors known as 54th's Company A will portray the unit in Tuesday's parade. The re-enactors are based in Boston and formed after seeing the movie Glory. Some of the members are descendants of the original 54th Infantry.