On the day of President Obama's inauguration four years ago, retired naval officer John Erickson was awakened at 5:30 a.m. by the sound of crowds walking by his Capitol Hill townhouse. The people thronging past Erickson's windows – filling the sidewalks and spilling into the street -- were among the 1.8 million people who watched the nation's first African-American president take the oath of office, the biggest crowd in the history of the ceremony.
"New Jersey Avenue looked like a massive par
On the day of President Obama's inauguration four years ago, retired
naval officer John Erickson was awakened at 5:30 a.m. by the sound of
crowds walking by his Capitol Hill townhouse. The people thronging past
Erickson's windows - filling the sidewalks and spilling into the street
-- were among the 1.8 million people who watched the nation's first
African-American president take the oath of office, the biggest crowd in
the history of the ceremony.
"New Jersey Avenue looked like a massive parade,'' Erickson says.
For the second go-round, no one expects quite so many folks.
When Obama again takes the oath of office on Jan. 21,
tourism officials expect the crowd on the National Mall in Washington to
be closer to 800,000 than the unprecedented number from four years ago.
"All of the forecasts and the trends say it will be very typical
of a second inauguration,'' says Barry Biggar, president of Visit
Fairfax, the tourism agency for Fairfax County, Va., which lies across
the Potomac River from Washington.
It's usual for fewer spectators
to watch a second swearing-in, even if the first one doesn't benefit
from being an historic first. For President George W. Bush's first
inauguration in 2001, the Washington-area Metro subway system had nearly
602,000 riders; for his second in 2005, the number of riders fell to
just under 584,000. In 1993, there were 811,300 riders for President
Clinton's first swearing-in, but for the reprise in 1997, there were
454,900, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit
Obama's 2009 inauguration was the busiest day in the
history of the city's transit system, with 1.54 million bus and subway
"It's still going to be an incredibly festive, fun four
days. It's just not going to be this wild frenzy that it was four years
ago,'' says Colleen Evans, spokeswoman for the two Ritz-Carlton hotels
in the city.
"The first inauguration was the first
African-American president,'' says political scientist Mark Cornfield of
George Washington University. "That brought people from all over the
nation and all over the world. I can't imagine that happening again.''
fewer people likely heading to the National Mall, Erickson might get to
sleep in a little later for this inauguration. However, he's hoping not
to be home at all: He has put his house on Craigslist to rent for the
weekend, at a cost of $2,000 per night.
Washington hotels go
all-out for inaugurations: The Ritz-Carlton, for instance, offers a
$100,000 four-day package that includes behind-the-scenes tours of
Washington, a parade-viewing party and new outfits for inaugural events
from Saks Fifth Avenue. Hotel marketing executives and regional tourism
officials have been holding planning meetings since summer.
is Washington, D.C.'s Super Bowl and Oscars and Grammys all rolled into
one,'' says Mark Indre, spokesman for the J.W. Marriott hotel.
those hotels located near the Capitol and the parade route expect to
sell out - in 2009, the occupancy rate for the city's 29,000 hotel rooms
was 98% for Inauguration Day -- rooms aren't being booked as quickly
"This time at the last inauguration, we were full.
There really wasn't a room to be found anywhere in the city,'' said Adam
Knight, manager of the Fairmont Hotel near the city's Georgetown
neighborhood. "We're pacing a little slower than last time but we're
right where we thought we would be.'' The hotel - which also offers a
$100,000 inaugural package that includes two gold Rolex watches and a
dog walker for the weekend -- is currently half-booked for inauguration
weekend. Rates start at $1,000 a night and a four-night minimum stay is
The Joint Congressional Committee on
Inaugural Ceremonies, which is in charge of the swearing-in ceremony at
the Capitol, on Thursday announced the inauguration theme: "Faith in
The Presidential Inaugural Committee, which
is in charge of the official inaugural balls, the parade and everything
but the swearing-in ceremony is opening for business this week. Other
inaugural balls thrown by state societies, like the Black Tie &
Boots Ball thrown by the Texas State Society, are already selling
"We certainly had concerns about it being the
second time around,'' said Bart Hudson, president of the Florida House
Foundation, which will throw its second state ball on Jan. 19. In 2009,
the ball drew 850 people who paid as much as $500 a ticket for dinner
and dancing, and Hudson expects to sell the same number of tickets this
"The people that I've talked with that came before are
coming again,'' he says. At inaugural balls, "folks can ... put the
partisanship aside to celebrate. We'll have new members of Congress that
will be celebrating. I don't want to call it an opportunity for a good
party, but it is.''