Springfield Joural Register

January 21, 2005

Illinois band gets a look at history and more


WASHINGTON - Springfield resident Charles Stoneking knew he was in for an extraordinary experience when his band was chosen to help entertain the crowds waiting Thursday for the inaugural parade to start.

He and his fellow musicians were thrilled when they saw the presidential limousine roll by. They think Laura Bush waved at them.

But the biggest surprise was the two nearly naked women who jumped into the parade path.

Clad only in red, white and blue underwear, the women were quickly hauled away by six police officers, he said.

“They were beautiful young girls,” noted Stoneking, 59.

He wasn’t sure what, if anything, they were protesting.

But it will make a good story when he gets back home.

As President Bush was sworn in outside the U.S. Capitol, Stoneking and other central Illinois musicians were about 11 blocks away, playing Civil War-era music for the thousands of people who arrived early to get through the intense security screening and claim a good spot along the parade route.

The musicians re-create the 33rd Illinois Volunteer Regiment Band, a Civil War-era band, complete with period instruments and music and Union Army uniforms.

“It was a unique experience. It was fun,” Stoneking said in a telephone interview afterward. “When we first started playing, it was cold. But after awhile, it was OK.”

Despite temperatures in the low 30s, the valves on his tuba didn’t freeze as he feared they would.

When they finished playing, their stage was removed and they had front-row seats for the parade.

“Laura Bush waved at us,” he said. “But she was waving at everybody.”

The musicians rode by bus all day Wednesday to get to the nation’s capital. They had to arrive at the Pentagon at 6 a.m. Thursday for a security check of the bus.

Once at their assigned spot on the parade route, they weren’t permitted to leave the secured area. Concrete jersey barriers and metal fences cordoned off the spectator areas along the streets. Lines of parade-goers waiting to get through metal detectors in some places lasted two hours and stretched for two blocks.

Members of Congress were cold, too, in their seats on the inaugural platform. But it was far better than the freezing rain they had sat through four years ago. And they had a close-up view that impressed even the most seasoned veterans of such events.

“For me, it is exhilarating to experience,” said Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria. “I know it sounds corny, but I truly love President Bush. I really do. He’s an extraordinary man. I like his values. I like his family.”

It was LaHood’s fifth inauguration. It was the first for freshman Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

“I really believe that today is the sort of day we celebrate as Americans,” Obama said. “I think that’s true whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat. Obviously, next week when we start talking about the president’s proposals, I think that you’re going to see people concerned about some of the issues that have been raised by this administration. But I think on a day like today, all of us just want to celebrate democracy.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., agreed that partisan differences were laid aside for the day.

The atmosphere on the platform “was extremely cordial and festive even among the different political parties, as it should be,” he said.

But Durbin, who is Senate minority whip, said that when Bush spoke of the country’s domestic needs, he kept thinking, “Wait until your budget shows up, because I’m afraid he’s going be cutting lot of programs that people in need count on. We’re also concerned about whether his privatization of Social Security will cut benefits. And if it does, that’s going to cause hardship for seniors.”

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, who represents part of Springfield, said he found the ceremonial trumpets particularly moving.

“I thought how blessed we are as a country to live in a way that we can peacefully transition power,” Shimkus said.