Student volunteers weather inaugural parade

by Megan Henry
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Photo by Megan Henry 

The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps performs at the Presidential Inauguration Parade on Monday, Jan. 21, in Washington D.C.

President Obama’s second inaugural parade on Monday, Jan. 21, was marked by Washington D.C.’s notorious winter winds and freezing temperatures. Despite the blustery weather, student volunteers from around the country were stationed along the parade route by the Presidential Inaugural Committee to aid them in the flow of parade events.

On parade day, White House area volunteers were required to report for check-in at 6 a.m. and were immediately placed at Farragut Square in the 18-degree weather while they waited for their security credentials. Volunteers had received special security clearance for their roles after undergoing an application process, two Secret Service background checks and attending a mandatory training session one week earlier on Jan. 17. Walking several blocks to their stations around the White House parade route, they had little downtime before the first inaugural attendees began to arrive.

Roles ranged from general informational volunteers to specially trained ADA volunteers, but for two college-aged volunteers, AnnMarie Howard of Atlanta, Ga. and Erica Meade, a D.C. local, instructions were to remain courteous and helpful at all times. The training came into play as soon as parade-goers began to ask questions about directions, restroom locations, road closures, and the best vantage points along the parade route. 

Howard and Meade were equipped with parade maps and hand warmers to distribute among the chilly, confused masses. People with ticketed access to the bleachers along Pennsylvania Avenue were treated to comical singing contests between bleacher volunteers that lasted throughout the parade.

The historic White House Gift Shop, one of the only businesses open on the parade route, offered attendees a chance to get out of the cold and purchase commemorative warm weather gear. Additionally, food trucks served warm snacks, from cupcakes to eggrolls along the parade route. Audio coverage of the pre-parade events were broadcast through a loudspeaker system, and volunteers and attendees alike enjoyed the inaugural events preceding the parade, such as Beyonce’s appearance and her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as well as the Rev. Luis Leon’s inaugural benediction. Many parade watchers said the most gratifying event of the afternoon was President Obama’s obvious pleasure as he waved to the crowd and strolled the last two blocks of the parade. 

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