Inaugural dress rehearsal for history

11:46, 12 January 2009
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Organizers picked...

Officials staged a large-scale rehearsal of the upcoming presidential inauguration and parade Sunday morning — and even practiced the swearing-in at the Capitol with a stand-in for Barack Obama, according to Seattle Times.

The stand-in, Army Staff Sgt. Derrick Brooks, delivered a six-word inaugural address that nonetheless drew a cheer: "My fellow Americans, God bless America!"

"It felt great to be famous for one day," Brooks said after spending hours standing in for Obama during Sunday`s dress rehearsal for the presidential inaugural Jan. 20.

Organizers picked the 26-year-old Army staff sergeant from Fayetteville, N.C., because he resembles Obama in height, weight and skin color. But he`s not an exact match. When Brooks met Obama last Thursday, "he said my ears weren`t as big as his."

The activities began before dawn, with thousands of people deployed later in the morning at the Capitol and along the parade route. It was cold and damp when the rehearsal began, lit by a full moon. The drill ended about 11:30 a.m.

"It`s an opportunity to make sure all the systems prepared for the parade are functioning," said Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

The practice ceremony at the Capitol got under way just before 8 a.m., with about 200 people gathered as the "44th president" of the United States — for today, Brooks — was introduced.

Numerous people stood in for other officials and dignitaries who will be in place Jan. 20, including proxies for Michelle Obama and the couple`s two daughters, Malia and Sasha. Children even played the stand-ins for the girls.

The elite U.S. Marine Band was on hand and played the swearing-in ceremonial music, including "Hail to the Chief." After the practice swearing-in, officials moved onto the departure ceremony that will take place the afternoon of Jan. 20 for outgoing President Bush, including the takeoff of a military helicopter from the Capitol grounds.

More than 3,000 people, mostly military personnel, joined the practice parade, about 10,000 short of the actual number of participants scheduled for inauguration day. Nonmilitary parade participants included bands from Howard University, T.C. Williams High School, Dubar High School and the Virginia Military Institute.

For some members of the public, the trial run was a chance to get a glimpse at history in the making.

Roxanne Ikner, 37, brought her three children to watch the rehearsal of the swearing-in, and after a pit stop at a McDonald`s, the group landed at Freedom Plaza to await the fake parade.

"This is the closest we`re actually going to get," Ikner said. "Even if we can`t be part of the real thing, we can be part of the rehearsal."

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