10 Surprising Inauguration Facts

The 57th Presidential Inauguration is expected to bring 600,000–800,000 people to Washington, D.C., on January 21 to watch President Obama be sworn in for his second term.

Since George Washington took the first oath of office on April 30, 1789, in New York City, the presidential inauguration has undergone many changes, including a change in date to January 20 due to the Twentieth Amendment. The event has grown into a huge affair requiring immense resources and extensive preparation. For those with an interest in public service and local government management, here are 10 facts detailing what it takes to put on the presidential inauguration:

1 During the presidential inauguration, vendors from all over the U.S. travel to the nation’s capital to sell their goods. Interested vendors must apply for a special inauguration permit through the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. This year, more than 100 food-truck vendors alone submitted applications for permits.

2 The D.C. Council grants permission for local businesses to extend their hours of operations from January 14–21. Visitors to D.C. for the inauguration can stop in any of the 154 bars and restaurants that were given permission to stay open for 24 hours and serve alcohol until 4 a.m.

3 Cellular phone companies have set up cellular towers throughout the National Mall and enhanced their networks’ capacities to minimize congestion on wireless networks during the inauguration. AT&T will have nine towers down the length of the Mall in addition to towers placed along the parade route. Sprint has set up three temporary towers around the Mall, and Verizon and T-Mobile have also undertaken efforts to increase capacity in the area.

4 The Architect of the Capitol—the federal agency responsible for the development, maintenance, operation, and preservation of the Capitol Complex—has a $4.2 million budget for constructing the inaugural platform, setting up barricades and bleachers, and fixing the Capitol grounds in preparation for the swearing-in ceremony.

5 The recently restored grass of the National Mall will be covered with plastic flooring to prevent inauguration attendees from destroying the new turf. The grass, the result of 15 months of work and $16 million in funding, is under the control of both a congressional committee and a presidential committee, but because of a bureaucratic mix-up, only the presidential committee has enough money to protect its section of the grass during the inauguration.

6 On January 13, government employees and members of the military participated in a dress rehearsal inauguration. The United States Army Band, the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and honor guard members from each military branch walked in a mock presidential escort while rehearsal attendees were assigned roles to play, including President Obama, Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, and Jill Biden. According to The Hill, Air Force Staff Sgt. Serpico Elliott played Obama.

7 The Presidential Inauguration Committee works to ensure the event is privately funded, which is the same way many civic events in the U.S. are funded. In order to meet its $50 million fundraising goal for the inauguration, the Presidential Inauguration Committee is accepting unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. In 2009, the Presidential Inauguration Committee placed a $50,000 limit on donations and raised $53 million solely from individuals.

8 While only 38 military groups will march in the Inaugural Parade, more than 2,800 groups from all branches of the military applied for the honor. The finalists were chosen by the Presidential Inauguration Committee and the Joint Task Force–National Capital Region.

9 As part of the three-day festivities, the Presidential Inauguration Committee is expanding its National Day of Service (scheduled for January 19), and approximately 550 people across the country have agreed to organize and lead nationwide volunteer events so that people can serve their communities.

10 The individual taxpayer burden for the inauguration—taxpayers pay for security, the swearing-in ceremony, and luncheon—is expected to be $3,000 less than it was in 2009.