Inaugural Parade Includes Military Units, Lots Of Marching Bands

Almost 9,000 people marched in Monday's inaugural parade in Washington, D.C. They represented a country's worth of military units, cultural groups and marching bands.

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Almost 9,000 people marched in today's inaugural parade: military units, cultural groups, marching bands, more marching bands. NPR's Neda Ulaby got up early to visit the parade staging area, and she has this report.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: The Palm Springs High School marching band from California strutted around in their flashy red capes, warming up in the vast Pentagon parking lot. It's hard to overstate what a big deal this is to drum major, 17-year-old Robbie Towner.

ROBBIE TOWNER: I'm so excited to be here. It's an honor.

ULABY: Do you have like anxiety dreams about dropping your baton?

TOWNER: Yes I do. I do, but I know it won't happen if I stay confident and know what I'm here for and do my job right.

ULABY: Spoken like a pro. Even the old-timers were all revved up. Sergeant First Class Brian Sacawa plays saxophone with the U.S. Army Field Band. He marched in the parade for the last inauguration. The weather then was so horribly cold, he could barely move his hands by the end.

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS BRIAN SACAWA: Some of the brass players, if it gets too cold their instruments will freeze. Their valves won't be able to move, and the trombones won't be able to move their slides. And we do actually have a march that we play in those situations. It's called the freeze march.

ULABY: Sacawa was kind enough to sing it.

(LAUGHTER)

SACAWA: (Singing) Dum, pam, pam, param, pam, pam, pampam, param(ph).

ULABY: No freeze march was needed today. But even the relatively balmy 34 degrees shocked 18-year-old Hawaiian, Christopher Mooney. He feels a connection to President Obama as a member of the Punahou High School marching band from Honolulu.

CHRISTOPHER MOONEY: Oh, he went to our high school. There's no way to describe the sense of pride that you get knowing that the president comes from your school and your state, especially when you're state is so small and kind of out of the national limelight a lot of the time.

ULABY: Mooney is a drum major, so he'll be in the limelight. His job, he said, is to march at the front, give commands and keep morale high, another connection Mooney shares with the 44th president of the United States. Neda Ulaby, NPR News, Washington.

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