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America's Favorite Parade

Inaugural Parade

The Secret Service keeps close watch over George W. Bush's second Inaugural parade. The Secret Service keeps close watch over George W. Bush's second Inaugural parade.

by Patrick Tolbert

It's called one of America's favorite parades and it only happens every four years. Televised around the world, the Inaugural parade is seen by millions of people. This year's parade, 15,000 participants strong is said to be one of the biggest parades ever.

The very first Inaugural parade took place on April 30, 1789 when George Washington took the oath of office in New York City. During the long trek from Mount Vernon to the city, local militias joined his procession as it passed through towns along the way. Upon his arrival in NYC,  members of the Continental Army, government officials, members of Congress, and prominent citizens escorted Washington to Federal Hall for his swearing-in.

The first organized parade came in 1809 when James Madison was escorted by a regiment of military men from Georgetown to the Capitol. After taking the Oath of Office, Madison sat for the review of nine militia companies.

In 1841, William Henry Harrison's  Inaugural parade expanded to military groups from outside of the Washington DC area for the first time. Military bands and student groups also joined the festivities, setting future precedents.

In 1865, Abraham Lincoln's second Inauguration, African Americans marched in the parade for the first time. Four companies of African American troops and community groups joined the procession to the Capitol, and then back to the White House after the Inaugural.

President Grant in 1873 started the tradition of reviewing the parade at the White House after the Inaugural ceremony, shifting the focus to the post-Inaugural procession, rather than the escort to the Capitol.

A raging blizzard forced the Inaugural committee to move the ceremony indoors in 1909, William Howard Taft's parade went on as planned. This occasion also marked the first time that  the First Lady accompanied her husband as they led they parade from the Capitol to the White House.

Ronald Regan's second parade in 1985 was the only parade documented to have been canceled due to poor conditions outside.

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