WASHINGTON — Four years ago, Lee Terry's office was flooded with requests for tickets to Barack Obama's inauguration.
Omaha's Republican congressman had to institute a strict limit of two tickets per request.
“It was crushing demand,” Rep. Terry said.
This time — not so much.
“If you called for 13 tickets, you got them,” Terry said of Obama's second swearing-in.
Second inaugurals always see a little less excitement, but there will still be plenty of Nebraskans and Iowans in the nation's capital to celebrate the occasion.
And the lighter turnout might actually make the experience more pleasant than last time, which, though historic, featured bitterly cold weather and a crowd of nearly 2 million. Overwhelmed security checkpoints meant many attendees never made it through, including Vince Powers, now chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party.
As Powers waited Friday to board his flight to Washington, he said he's expecting far fewer Nebraskans to make the trip, but that those who do will be excited to usher in another Obama term.
“He did so much with such opposition, and I think the next four years are going to be even better,” Powers said.
Nebraskans have a couple of events planned for those who make the trip: a brunch at the National Press Club on Sunday morning and a Sunday evening gathering at a Capitol Hill bar.
The Iowa State Society has its own bash planned for Saturday night that will feature Secretary of Agriculture (and former Iowa governor) Tom Vilsack. Effie Burt of Waterloo, Iowa, will sing the national anthem, and attendees will be able to munch on “traditional and modern takes on Iowa cuisine.”
That includes fried pork chops, corn cakes with avocado and chilled sour cream, deep-fried Twinkies and petite root beer floats with Blue Bunny ice cream. Iowa lawmakers also will host a Capitol Hill reception after the ceremony.
Look for familiar faces helping to provide security, as well. The Omaha Police Department is sending officers to help out, and the Iowa National Guard has activated more than 100 soldiers and airmen to join thousands of other Guard personnel from across the country providing security, communications and medical evacuation at Monday's big event, as well as in the days before and after.
About a dozen airmen from the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, Iowa, will provide support. Their primary role will be helping to feed the troops. They are taking their Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen with them.
Quick to set up, the kitchen typically is used to provide hot meals to soldiers deployed in far-flung, remote areas.
The Iowans took pride in the fact that their units helped provide security in 2009, and that they were asked back.
“We're just excited to be out there,” said Maj. Justin Wagner, 38, of Harlan.
Wagner said a few Nebraska Guard personnel were hopping on the plane as well, to help out.
Some congressional offices in Washington were to be open over the weekend to distribute tickets to those who made the trip.
Terry said his office actually had a handful left over that he passed along to Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, a top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“I know who to suck up to,” Terry said.
Terry said there was no way this event could match the one four years ago.
“If I attended every inauguration from here to eternity, it would never match” the one in 2009, Terry said. That “was historical, it was spectacular, it was 2 million people. It was just really a cool thing to be here.”
Still, take two should be fun.
“Inaugurations are always exciting,” Terry said. “It's a festive time.”
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1793: Short, sweet
The shortest inaugural address — just 135 words — was the one George Washington delivered to start his second term. The longest? William Henry Harrison's in 1841, which ran 8,445 words on a bitterly cold, wet inauguration day. He died one month later of pneumonia, believed to have been brought on by the long exposure to the elements.
1821: Never on Sunday
James Monroe's was the first inauguration date — March 4, 1821 — to fall on a Sunday. After consulting with Supreme Court justices, Monroe decided to defer the ceremonies till the next day, starting a tradition that has prevailed since. This year, for example, Obama is officially taking the oath today — the Constitution requires that it be done on Jan. 20 — but the ceremonial hoopla mostly takes place Monday.
1825: Long pants
John Quincy Adams was the first to be inaugurated wearing long trousers rather than knee breeches.
Martin Van Buren, inaugurated March 4, 1837, was the first president who hadn't been born a British subject.
African-Americans participated in the inaugural parade for the first time when Abraham Lincoln was sworn in for his second term (also the occasion for one of the most revered speeches, the “with malice toward none, with charity for all” inaugural address). Women didn't participate in the inaugural parade until 1917, and won the right to vote in 1920.
Warren Harding was the first president to deliver his inaugural address through loudspeakers instead of the unaided voice. He also was the first to ride to and from his inauguration in an automobile.
1937: Why January?
The first president inaugurated in January was Franklin D. Roosevelt, for his second term. Until the Constitution's 20th Amendment, presidential — and congressional — terms lasted until March 4. That allowed the newly elected more time to travel to Washington, but meant that lame ducks stayed in office longer.
The first televised inaugural ceremony was Harry S. Truman's, on Jan. 20, 1949. (It followed what's widely considered the biggest election upset, the 1948 race in which Truman was photographed gleefully holding a newspaper with the errant headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.”) Other technological firsts: The first inauguration covered by telegraph: James Polk's in 1845. First inauguration known to have been photographed: James Buchanan's in 1857. First recorded by a motion-picture camera: William McKinley's in 1897. First for which telephone lines were installed at the Capitol: Theodore Roosevelt's in 1905.
1965: Bulletproof limo
The first president to ride in a bulletproof limousine at his inauguration was Lyndon Johnson, who'd been elected just a year after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
1977: The Walk
Jimmy Carter began the tradition of presidents walking, at least part of the way, from the Capitol to the White House after the swearing-in. Carter and his family walked the whole 1½ miles. It took 40 minutes.
The most frigid inauguration day on record was Ronald Reagan's second, on Jan. 21, 1985. It was 7 degrees at noon. Oddly, Reagan also had the warmest inauguration, on Jan. 20, 1981, when it hit 55 at noon. (That also was the day Iran freed 52 American hostages as Reagan delivered his inaugural address.) As for the snowiest inauguration, that was probably March 4, 1909: William Taft's swearing-in was moved into the Senate chamber because of a blizzard that toppled trees, stalled trains and sent 6,000 workers and 500 wagons into the streets to clear snow off the parade route.
2009: Biggest crowd
The largest attendance for an inauguration — for any Washington event — was Barack Obama's Jan. 20, 2009, swearing-in. After a controversy over crowd estimates in 1996, Congress had banned the usual nose-counter, the National Park Service, from spending money on that task. But the service made a partial exception, embracing a mayoral estimate of 1.8 million people — surpassing the 1.2 million estimated at Lyndon Johnson's inauguration in 1963.
Sources: Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies; news archives