For the first time since the inauguration of President Truman and for only the second time in the school's history,GWU students are constructing a float for Tuesday's parade.
From April to August,GWU students investigated the history of the parade and their university's involvement,said Vishal Aswani,22,student body president and systems engineering and physics senior.
Students “submitted ideas,themes,mantras,you name it,” Aswani said.
Their excited reaction came in December,when the Presidential Inaugural Committee called with the good news,he said.
The parade will begin at the Capitol,travel along Pennsylvania Avenue NW and end at the White House. It usually begins at about 2:30 p.m. and lasts between two and three hours.
More than 90 groups and 13,000 participants will march in the parade. The groups were selected from 1,382 applications.
The GWU float,which will be finished by the end of the weekend and revealed Monday evening at a pep rally,consists of two trailers to be pulled by a trolley. The trailers are divided into sections,each one designed to represent a different college within the university.
Aswani said about 50 students have been working around their class schedules to complete the float,which is being constructed under a large tent.
Forty-three bands from the military,colleges and high schools provide the parade's musical beat.
“Oh my gosh,we are so excited,it's going to take us two years just to calm back down,” said Ray Francis,the band's director. “Everybody is going crazy,including me. Honest to God,I can't go to sleep at night.”
Francis,the assistant band director and 29 parent chaperones will accompany the 85 middle- and high-school band members.
The band will stay at a hotel in Richmond,Va.,about two hours south of Washington. It has permits that will allow its two charter buses to cross the Potomac River bridges,which will be closed to most vehicles.
“As soon as we got the nod,we started calling hotels and we couldn't get anything closer than Richmond,” he said.
The band will have to wake up at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday and leave the hotel by 4 a.m.
The band has prepared three songs: “Carolina In The Morning,” “The Final Countdown” and “Stand By Me.”
“Since we found out we'd be playing for President Obama,we've been practicing every Monday,Tuesday,Thursday and Friday from 3:30 to 5:30,” said Shontell Mitchell,a 16-year-old junior who plays clarinet and is the daughter of the band booster president.
Though band members may be excited,”they have performed for President-elect Obama a couple of times when he was in South Carolina,” said Daun Davis,Manning city clerk.
Rose Marie Cousar,55,president of the Manning High School band booster and Shontell's mother,said,”All the parents wanted to go – that was kind of difficult – but I think everyone just kind of worked with it and everyone understood.”
The band boosters organized dinners,bake sales and poinsettia sales to raise money,Cousar said.
“We'll be out there Sunday morning,sending them off. They have a breakfast planned,” said Manning Mayor Kevin Johnson. “It's 11 o'clock Sunday,which is church hour,so I don't know how many to expect.”
Another Washington group chosen for the parade is dedicated to preserving and practicing the ancient art of Kung-Fu.
The Wong People Kung-Fu Association in D.C. practiced its parade performance Thursday at the Chinatown Community Culture Center. About 25 students will perform the Chinese lion,which is one level of Kung-Fu training,said Raymond Wong,52,director of the association.
The group will use flags and three large Chinese lions made of red,yellow and black fabric,under which six people will move to the beat of a percussion band.
“The core members of the group will be participating. We do events all the time,” said Charles Meadows,40,who has been practicing with the group for about six years.