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Inauguration Rehearsal Stars Fake First Family
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Inauguration Rehearsal Stars Fake First Family
Inauguration Rehearsal Stars Fake First Family
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DAVID GREENE, host:

The presidential inauguration is today - well, as far as its choreographers are concerned. Thousands of band members, military personnel, even a faux first family are taking over a part of Washington, D.C., this morning for a massive practice run of the inaugural ceremonies and also the parade. NPR's Allison Keyes is on the scene. We spoke to her a bit earlier. Hi, Allison.

ALLISON KEYES: Hi. How are you?

GREENE: Very well, thanks. So tell me what you're seeing, hearing out there.

KEYES: I am seeing exactly what the president-elect will be seeing on the morning of January 20th - less about a million people, I should say. All the players are here today. The military band is here. There are people standing in for the president-elect, outgoing President George W. Bush, and living presidents such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are all here. They're wearing placards around their necks so that we'll know who is who.

GREENE: Good - that you can identify them. Well, how many people are actually out there, if not the millions that we'll see in a short while?

KEYES: There are somewhat more than 3,000 people out here today. You have the military personnel. You have the military band. And there are actually members of the general public that are standing behind the rows of chairs and porta-potties that are already set up today. It's a pretty cool thing.

GREENE: So the actual event on the 20th is going to be massive. I mean, what kind of problems are organizers hoping to address or learn about by going through this thing today?

KEYES: Well, organizers say that they do this every four years, so they're kind of used to it. But they are expecting such a large crowd this year, they want to make sure that all the moving parts are working correctly. They said there are about 240,000 people that are ticketed for this event on the south lawn of the Capitol. Normally, there are about 20,000 people on the National Mall, but this year, they're expecting there to be up to a million, so they want to just make sure that all of the working parts are in order.

They also are dealing with what happens inside the Capitol because there are people that actually have to bring out the members of the Supreme Court, the joint chiefs and the president. So they will be spending all day doing real-time run-throughs to make sure that everything is working correctly.

GREENE: Well, I've got to ask you: How did they pick people to play, you know, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and the families? I mean, did they win some kind of contest or something?

KEYES: I'm not sure that there is an actual contest. But they did choose members of the actual military. And they had to choose people that look like the president and the first lady. So for the first time this year, an African-American couple is being the president and first lady. For President-elect Barack Obama is Army Staff Sergeant Derrick Brooks, who's been in the military for seven and a half years. Standing in for Michelle Obama is Navy Yeoman First Class Leshaun McCray(ph). She says she is very excited and honored to be here, even if it's just for a drill. They even have people standing in for the Obama children: 14-year-old Dominique Celo(ph) and 10-year-old Giana Justice Samora Nixon(ph).

GREENE: And the band is practicing as well, it sounds like. I'm glad everyone has nametags just to - everyone has nametags to avoid any confusion.

KEYES: Yes.

GREENE: Allison, thank you very much.

KEYES: You're welcome.

GREENE: NPR's Allison Keyes - she's reporting for us from the dress rehearsal for the presidential inauguration here in Washington, D.C.

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