Saturday, 25 May 2024

Witnessing history: County residents travel to Obama inauguration

LAKE COUNTY – Several Lake County residents will attend the inauguration ceremonies for President-elect Barack Obama.


County Supervisors Denise Rushing and Anthony Farrington; Farrington's planning commissioner, Cliff Swetnam; local Democratic Party leader Wanda Harris; and Lucerne resident Megan Morgan are among those locals who will converge on Washington for the 44th president's swearing in and the accompanying celebration.


Millions of people are expected to converge on the nation's capitol for the historic ceremony. Attendance estimates range between one and four million visitors to the city of 600,000.


The Reuters news agency reported that officials are expecting that the attendance for Obama's ceremony will far surpass the record of 1.2 million people for Lyndon Johnson's 1965 inauguration.


The entire two-mile length of the National Mall – the area that stretches from the US Capitol to the Potomac River – is being opened in order to accommodate all of those who will witness the swearing in on the Capitol Building's West Portico. In past years most spectators have been confined to the Capitol Building grounds.


The demand for tickets the inauguration ceremonies has been high.


Congressman Mike Thompson's office reported that each member of Congress received 198 tickets – including those for the representative or senator's own use.


Thompson's tickets were quickly allocated, with 1,500 requests – far outstripping the number of tickets available.


Visitors to Washington also will be taking part in the many inaugural balls, 106 in all, according to a compilation provided by the Washington Post. However, there are only a small number of “official” balls, at which either the president or vice president are slated to make appearances.


A chance to see history firsthand


From experienced travelers to first-time Washington visitors, local residents attending the events were unanimous in their desire to take part in a history-making event.


Megan Morgan, 16, flew to Washington, DC on Friday morning. She spoke to Lake County News Friday evening, after having arrived flown into Dulles Airport and arrived at her hotel in Virginia.


The Upper Lake High School junior is traveling with the People to People Student Ambassador Program, a group which invites young people to take part in trips based on citizenship and school test scores.


She's been on previous trips with the group, but this is her first journey to Washington, DC, where she'll spend five days with the 40-member student delegation and another two days sightseeing before returning home Jan. 23.


It promises to be an engaging experience for the young woman, who is interested in the Air Force and foreign relations.


Among the activities that Morgan will take part in this week will include an inaugural ball and attending a special performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.


She noted Friday that so far in her trip she had encountered a lot of large crowds in the airports and around the Washington area.


Morgan said she is really excited about the historic week ahead and “being able to witness a part of history firsthand.”


The youngest of four children – she has three older brothers – Morgan said her family is “proud – really proud” that she's making the trip.


For Wanda Harris of Hidden Valley Lake, a leader in Lake County's Democratic Party, this won't be either her first trip to Washington, DC or her first inauguration.


Harris, whose brother was president of a steelworkers organization, attended both inaugurations for President Bill Clinton.


In September, well before the election, Harris and some friends began planning their trip, which allowed them to get plane fare under $300 per person. They also found a condominium near the Pentagon which they rented from a couple, both retired colonels, for a reasonable price. Harris and three friends from Contra Costa County will be joined by in staying at the condo by Supervisor Denise Rushing and her partner.


Thompson's office provided them tickets to the inauguration ceremony, which will gain them entry to the US Capitol grounds and one of the standing areas.


“There's no one who hates crows more than me, but I would not miss this for anything,” Harris said. “I'm so excited.”


Harris said she's preparing for Washington's frigid January temperatures with lots of clothing layers and feet and hand warmers.


Harris leaves Saturday morning for Washington, and will stay until Jan. 24. The itinerary includes the California Ball on Sunday night, where the president-elect is expected to appear. Harris is determined to get a dance with him, and says to watch for a cobalt blue dress, which is what she'll be wearing at the event.


On inauguration day, Harris plans to have a “Lake County loves President Obama” poster in view of a television camera along the parade route.


Staying a full week will allow Harris and her friends some time to take in the sights.


“I'm going to do everything there is to do in Washington,” she said. Although she's been there before, there are some places that she wants to take a little extra time to explore, like the vast holdings of the Smithsonian Museum.


During the week she also plans to meet up with Farrington, as well as Martha McClure and Kendall Smith, supervisors for Del Norte and Mendocino counties, respectively.


Supervisors look forward to once-in-a-lifetime trip


Rushing leaves San Francisco on Saturday morning.


“I've not been to an inauguration before,” said the first-term supervisor from Upper Lake. “This is an historic event.”


She said she began rooting for Obama in the primaries, and is very excited that he was elected.


“I just felt I need to be there,” she said. “It just seems that important.”


Rushing said she believes the inauguration will be a once-in-a-lifetime event that will be very energizing experience for the nation, which she says will be important because in order to accomplish change, everyone will have to work together.


Although not planning to attend an inaugural ball, Rushing said she will take part in a Monday evening event held by Congressman Mike Thompson. Later in the week, she also wants to get in some sightseeing, including visiting the new Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian, before returning home Jan. 23.


On Sunday, Farrington and Swetnam leave San Francisco for Washington.


“I've been to Washington many times but this is my first inauguration,” Farrington said.


He was involved in the movement to recruit Obama to run for president and also helped campaign for Obama in Nevada. Farrington said he wanted to be part of the process for someone he believed in, and is eager to be part of the historic moment of Obama's swearing in.


Once Obama won the election, Obama spoke to friends, and Swetnam indicated his eagerness to go. Then it was a matter of getting tickets from Thompson's office and finding a place to stay. They've found accommodations in Gaithersburg, Maryland, about a half-hour drive from the capitol.


“I really don't know what to expect,” he said.


Like Rushing, they'll attend Thompson's Monday event, and Farrington also will take part in the Draft Obama inaugural event. But they don't plan any sightseeing and will return home on Wednesday. Farrington said he had too many obligations to stay longer.


“It's going to be pretty intense,” he said.


Celebrating the inauguration in Lake County


Here in Lake County, local inaugural celebrations are planned.


The Lake County Democratic Central Committee is holding a celebration at 6 p.m. Jan. 20 at the SawShop Gallery Bistro, 3825 Main St. in Kelseyville. However the event – which will feature live and recorded big screen TV broadcasts of the days events – has sold out.


However, there is still time to reserve a space at an informal gathering scheduled for the morning of Jan. 20 at the Konocti Vista Resort conference center on Mission Rancheria Road outside of Lakeport.


There is no cover charge for the event, where attendees will watch the inauguration ceremony on a big-screen television. Those who want to attend are urged to arrive by 8 a.m. at the latest to buy breakfast and be seated. RSVP to Deb Baumann, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 275-9234 no later than Monday.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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