By Elizabeth A. Weiss and Kevin W. Mccullough
WASHINGTON – Melissa Newberry came to the Celebration of Freedom on the Ellipse on Wednesday evening with cheers for President Bush, a photograph of her nephew in uniform pinned to her coat — and heating pads for her shoes.
Despite a fresh layer of snow on the seats and dropping temperatures, Newberry joined thousands of other spectators who turned out for the salute to the U.S. Armed Forces, just one of the official events leading up to Inauguration Day.
“No night is too cold to celebrate freedom,” Bush told the crowd shortly after the sun went down and temperatures fell to the 20s, with a wind-chill factor in the mid-teens.
Newberry agreed, calling the inauguration a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The Faulkner resident, who works as assistant manager of Capital Clubhouse, a sports complex with an ice rink in Waldorf, said she was “very excited” to be at the Wednesday event. It featured fireworks, musical guests Rubben Studdard and Andrea Bocelli, actor Gary Sinise, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the Radio City Rockettes.
Newberry said she believed she and her husband were able to obtain tickets to inaugural events thanks to her nephew, Adam Flowers, who is serving on the USS Anzio. On her application for tickets, she mentioned her nephew as a sailor and got a call about tickets shortly there after. Newberry has tickets to Thursday’s swearing-in as well.
At Wednesday’s concert, the seating section was slick with crushed snow atop a layer of plastic flooring. Empty seats were obvious — the snow had yet to be wiped off. Hatless heads were the minority, and spare gloves circulated through the media tent for reporters silly enough to show up in nylons and pointy shoes.
Kathryn Brigham, of California, Md., also refused to let Wednesday’s cold and snow on the ground deter her from taking part in the festivities.
Brigham brought her three children, Zachary, Matthew and Caroline, to the inaugural festivities to “expose the kids to the inauguration,” taking them out of school for a half-day so they could see more of the celebration. She said it is important to share with them the values of freedom of speech and to watch the inauguration of a president their family had supported.
Heidi Stone of Prince Frederick, who came to the concert with Brigham, brought her daughter Rachael with her.
“If they could vote, they would vote for President Bush,” Stone said of her and Brigham’s children, who ranged in age from 8 to 11.
Stone bubbled with excitement as she waited for the Celebration of Freedom to begin, and explained why she thought it was especially important to bring the children to the inauguration.
Gesturing to the kids, she smiled and said, “Someday one of them is going to be our leader.”
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