The Presidential Inauguration Parade

Mike Lawson • Archives • January 19, 2009

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The Presidential Inauguration Parade in the United States has a long and storied history that can actually be dated back to 1789, according to the US Senate inaugural Web site. The first parade actually took place in Federal Hall in New York City, where George Washington took the first oath of office. It wasn’t until 1801 and the inauguration for Thomas Jefferson that the parade was held in the new Capital of the U.S., Washington D.C. For Jefferson’s second Presidential inauguration, in 1805, the United States Marine Corps Band accompanied the procession and it has been involved in every inauguration since that time. In 1865, during Abraham Lincoln’s second election, African Americans participated in the parade for the first time, including four companies of troops, as well as an African American Mason and Odd Fellows lodge. Astonishingly, women weren’t involved in the parade until 1917!

This year’s 56th inaugural event is a watershed year as a record 1,382 bands applied for the presidential inaugural parade, showing a significant increase from the 340 bands that applied to be in the 2005 parade. The bands chosen for 2009 represent a wide diversity of groups and cut across a varied swath of demographic backgrounds to include such notable and historic ensembles as Howard University Marching Band, Punahou School Marching Band (Obama’s Alma Mater in Hawaii), University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hen Marching Band, Grambling State University Marching Band, 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment Company A Band, and the Espanola Valley High School Mariachi Band from New Mexico, among dozens of others. The site quotes Howard University Showtime Marching Band director John Newson as saying “This is exciting for us at Howard University. We are truly honored to participate in this historic inauguration.”

This event will provide thousands of young musicians with a truly memorable life-experience, as well as a reminder of the significant benefits of being involved in music. The University of Delaware’s director, Heidi Sarver, said it best to her students in an interview on the school’s Web site, “You are part of history today, part of the American way of life. Savor every moment of it because you may never have such a magnificent opportunity ever again.”

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