INAUGURAL PREP
Ron Edmonds  /  AP
Construction crews worked Dec. 10 on the viewing stand for President Bush's inauguration.
By Senior Producer
msnbc.com
updated 12/15/2004 4:14:13 PM ET 2004-12-15T21:14:13

The war on terror will take center stage at next month’s second inauguration for President Bush in Washington, D.C.

“This year’s theme will be “Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service,” said Jeanne Phillips chairwoman 55th presidential committee speaking to the media for the first time on Wednesday about the theme and schedule for this year’s festivities.

“It will be an important display of gratitude to members of the armed services. Each activity reflects our theme. We recognize this time that we are a nation at war.” 

Festivities planned
There will be a total of nine inaugural balls this year, a youth concert, a parade, a fireworks display and, the official swearing in ceremony at noon on Jan. 20.

The committee promised a full schedule of events later this week, but did release some brief highlights.

  • On Jan. 18, there will be a Military Gala, which is a special tribute to troops abroad with a youth concert in the evening featuring musical acts, video clips and guest speakers.
  • On Jan. 19, there will be a variety of musical acts, entertainment and a fireworks display.
  • On Jan. 20, the committee said they are working hard to have each state represented at the noontime parade which Jenkins said has generated enormous interest. The balls will take place that evening.

This year’s event will also have one brand new addition, the Commander-in-Chief Ball. This event will be free of charge to 2,000 members of the armed services and their families, featuring those who have recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, or those who will be deployed there soon. 

Greg Jenkins, the Inaugural Committee Executive Director, explained during a conference call that the committee was working with the Defense Department to make sure tickets are accurately distributed. 

When pressed about politicizing the events for members of the military, Jenkins insisted, “No inaugural events are political events; this is a bi-partisan celebration.”

Unprecedented security 
Security will be unprecedented because it is the first inauguration to take place since the Sept. 11th attacks.

Jenkins and Phillips refused to answer any security-related questions, deferring those questions to the Secret Service. 

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The estimated budget for the event is $30-40 million, but that will not cover security costs. 

The Department of Homeland Security has designated the inauguration as a National Special Security Event, which makes the high-profile gatherings eligible for federal money and heightened security overseen by the Secret Service.

Experienced planner
Jeanne Phillips, a veteran Texas GOP fundraiser, said she has worked with the Bush family on three previous inaugurations. She served as Executive Director of the 2001 committee for George W. Bush and in 1989 for his father’s inauguration.

Phillips explained that the Bushes are always personally involved in the planning process.

“The President and Mrs. Bush are always involved in inaugural ceremonies, they know what is happening at every level. We constantly keep them up to date."    

The committee employs between 400 and 500 staffers in offices in downtown Washington.  

“There are literally thousands of volunteers who will be assisting in all of the events," added Jenkins.

The one unpredictable — the weather
One thing that the inauguration can never plan for though is the unpredictable weather in the mid-Atlantic city in the middle of January.

But, from tragedy to comedy, the weather has played a starring role throughout history for Presidential Inaugurations says MSNBC meteorologist Sean McLaughlin.

"President Harrison died from pneumonia one month after taking the oath of office in 1841 because he refused to wear a coat," said McLaughlin. "And for his second Inauguration, FDR rode in an open, water-slogged car in 1937 as almost 2 inches of freezing rain pounded the Capitol City."

In '61, thousand of people abandoned their cars in the streets as 8 inches of snow nearly shut down President Kennedy's ceremony. And it was sunny and 55 degrees in 1981 for Ronald Reagan. Four years later, it dropped to 7 degrees giving Reagan the warmest and coldest January inaugurations in history," said McLaughlin.

Were the founding fathers betting men for scheduling the ceremony in January? Let's look at the odds:

There's a one in six chance for precipitation and a one in 20 chance for snow on the day of the swearing in. And there is a three out of 10 chance that snow will already be on the ground from a previous snowstorm.

The average high for Jan. 20 is 42 degrees Fahrenheit, with a normal low of 26 degrees and a record high of 70 degrees in 1951. The record low was minus-2 degrees in 1985.

Despite the unpredictability of the weather, Jenkins is hopes the 2005 inauguration “will reflect the historic time we live in.”

Nina Bradley is a Senior Producer for MSNBC. MSNBC's meteorologist Sean McLaughlin also contributed to this story. For more information from the inauguration committee, log on to www.inaugural05.com

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