Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why All The Empty Seats At The Parade?

After seeing the enormous crowd on the Capitol Mall this morning for Obama's swearing-in ceremony, I was struck by all of the empty seats in the bleachers along the parade route. Politico's Ben Smith offered this explanation:

A few readers noticed, and wondered about, the empty spaces and seats along the parade route, a contrast to the massive crowd on the Mall. "

A great day - but also a cold, crowded one. Some folks left early," explains Inaugural Committee spokesman Josh Earnest.

I attended Reagan's first inauguration in 1981 with my parents. We purchased tickets to all of the events, but the big gala hosted by Johnny Carson at the Kennedy Center was over-sold and we were left out of that event. The Reagan Inauguration Committee, however, made up our loss by giving us great seats next to the President's reviewing stand and near the entrance to the north side of the White House. I know those tickets sold for about $200 a piece back then. I'm wondering if a lot of the attendees simply didn't purchase the pricey tickets to have a seat along the parade route. It seemed odd that there were so many empty seats with the supposed record crowds in attendance.

After the parade, we attended the ball at the National Museum of American History. The Tommy Dorcey Band performed and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. served as emcee. It was the only ball at which the President and Mrs. Reagan danced. The crowd was overwhelming, making it difficult to enjoy. You were packed into the ball like sardines. I remember the escalator feeding you up to the second floor with no room to go when you got to the top. Women's long gowns were getting stepped on and torn. There were celebrities all around if you could make them out. We were complaining to a young guy standing next to me about how everyone was pushing too hard to get closer to the stage. He nodded his head in agreement and then joined his father, Vice President George H.W. Bush, on the stage with the rest of the Bush family. I had no idea who Jeb Bush was until his father introduced him.

UPDATE: The Washington Post is reporting that thousands of ticket holders got shut out of the inaugural ceremony because the large crowd had overwhelmed security, forcing the closure of gates before all ticket holders could be admitted.


TMG said...

Okay but you didn't answer the important question.

"Why was the President's reviewing stand empty?"

A lot of ignorant, self-important democrats whose names were clearly visible on their empty seats didn't show up. Sort of reminds me of Congress now that I think about it.
Not only was it disrespectful to the President, it was disrespectful to every citizen of the United States.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Good point, TMG. The reviewing stand was rather sparse. I don't know if that was intentional or people were no-shows. It's possible that people had trouble getting to their destinations because of the crowds. That was clearly the case at the swearing-in ceremony.

Michael Kobrowski said...

Interesting also how those crowd estimates from the commercial satellite photo point to way lower numbers than expected.

Only 800,000 maybe?

They planned ahead for larger crowds obviously with all the jumbotrons(isn't there a more modern name for that?), but they couldn't have better public transportation??? Odd

Downtown Indy said...

The reports yesterday were that the secret service was going to allow no more than 650k people into the mall then they'd shut the gates.

Unknown said...

There were empty seats because people who purchased parade tickets, after standing in long security lines, were not allowed to sit it them. More disappointment after spending hours in the Purple Tunnel of Doom and missing the Inauguration!

Gary R. Welsh said...

That is very disappointing, Marsha. When I was out there for Reagan's funeral and there were such enormous crowds, I was very impressed with how the police and the Capitol employees managed things.