Awash in limousines, mink and champagne, the nation's capital launches a four-day extravaganza today to celebrate the second inauguration of President Ronald Wilson Reagan--the 50th presidential inauguration since George Washington took the oath of office in 1789.
Official inaugural planners, hoping to hold costs to about two-thirds of the $15.5 million spent on Reagan's first inauguration in 1981, had called for a celebration that would be "subdued by some standards of the past." But, in keeping with official Washington's love for pageantry, this year's festivities will lack none of the splendor and gaiety traditionally associated with presidential inaugurations.
"What you've got here is a celebration of the successes of the past four years, the success of the reelection effort and the successes we expect the Administration to have over the next four years," said Tucker Eskew, a spokesman for the Committee for the 50th American Presidential Inaugural.
The official program includes eight black-tie balls plus a special youth ball, two galas featuring such big-name entertainers as Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys, two fireworks displays and, of course, the traditional Inauguration Day parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Two Ceremonies In addition, there is a staggering array of official and unofficial art exhibits, concerts, pageants, cocktail parties, receptions and dinners. One of the most glittering affairs will be the Conservative Alliance's "Salute to President Reagan" on Sunday, with entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. as host. Guests will enter the dining room amid a display of laser lights and video-screen effects and will feast on caviar, salmon and saddle of lamb with sauce Pascal.
This year's inauguration features two swearing-in ceremonies. Because Jan. 20, the constitutionally mandated date for the inauguration, falls on a Sunday--and a Super Bowl Sunday at that--the President will be sworn in at a quiet White House ceremony on that day. On Monday, he will repeat the oath of office, this time at the Capitol before 140,000 guests.
Both ceremonies will be televised, but guests at the official ceremony Sunday will be restricted to immediate members of the families of Reagan and Vice President George Bush and members of the Cabinet, congressional leaders and top White House aides.
The theme of this year's inaugural festivities is "We the People"--and the people have descended on Washington by the tens of thousands to whoop it up, straining to capacity the city's hotels, party places, taxi and limousine services, hairdressers and caterers.
One catering service, for example, estimates that it will be supplying food and drink--including 1,250 pounds of lobster and 3,372 gallons of wine, champagne and liquor--for an average of 15,000 persons at 75 functions each day of the inaugural frenzy.
Protesters at Parade But not everyone feels the spirit of unity. Up to 5,000 anti-Reagan protesters are planning to line the parade route Monday, and members of Jesse Jackson's "rainbow coalition" will march past the White House on Saturday.
A four-inch snowfall that blanketed Washington on Thursday did not daunt the zeal of inaugural planners and party-goers. "The inaugural will go on whether it rains, snows or a tornado comes through on Monday," John Buckley, an inaugural committee spokesman, said. "If there is a real blizzard, we'll just work harder."
The U.S. Constitution requires only that, before entering or re-entering office, the President take a simple oath to execute his duties faithfully and to defend the Constitution. All other activities associated with U.S. inaugurations have evolved through custom and tradition.
But, from the earliest days of the republic, Americans have not been content with letting the occasion go by without a gala celebration.
Pageant on Ellipse The 50th presidential inauguration officially opens at 3 p.m. PST cqtoday with a "Prelude Pageant" on the Ellipse to be attended by Reagan and Bush and their wives. Later, 12,000 Republican VIPs and Reagan loyalists will attend a "Salute to the Vice President" gala.
Saturday's events include a leadership forum for young Republicans, a young people's concert and the Presidential Gala, a black-tie affair for 12,000 guests.
Sunday will start off with a prayer service at the National Cathedral, followed by the swearing-in ceremony at the White House, with Chief Justice Warren E. Burger administering the oath of office.
On Monday, Reagan will attend church services before leaving for the public swearing-in at the West Front of the Capitol. The President is scheduled to deliver his inaugural address at 9 a.m. PST.
In a departure from previous inaugurations, everyone attending the Capitol ceremony will be required to pass through metal detectors--part of an elaborate network of security precautions being taken in the face of increased worldwide terrorism.
After the swearing-in, Reagan will preside over the traditional inaugural parade, which features bands, marching units, floats and equestrian teams from all 50 states. Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, will ride in California's car as Gov. George Deukmejian's official representative.
On Monday evening, nine official balls will bring the inaugural celebrations to a close. The President and First Lady Nancy Reagan are scheduled to make brief appearances at every dance.
One place the Reagans are not likely to set foot is an event called "The Other Inaugural," sponsored by the Americans for Democratic Action. "This event will give those of us not going to the other inaugural a place to go," said Ann Lewis, national director of the liberal Democratic organization.