Happening only once every four years, the Inauguration Parade is the parade of all parades. Following a luncheon with Congress, the president and vice president lead the way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House in a celebrated and anticipated parade for the American public. After the grand entrance, they are joined by their spouses and special guests at the presidential viewing stand where they watch the parade as it passes by.
The Inauguration Parade has been an American tradition for over 200 years. It began when George Washington took office in New York City in 1789, as his procession from Mount Vernon to New York was joined by members of the Continental army, government officials and American citizens. The group walked Washington all the way to Federal Hall for his swearing in ceremony.
It wasn't until the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, that a parade was held in Washington, D.C. Jefferson's second inauguration in 1805 began the tradition of marching from the Capitol to the White House with a group of government officials, citizens and the Marine Corps Band, a prestigious music outfit that still performs at all presidential parades.
The parade has evolved a number of ways over the year, including the addition of floats to the fun (William Henry Harrison), the first time that African Americans marched in the parade (Abraham Lincoln), the first time women participated in the parade (Woodrow Wilson), the first televised parade (Harry Truman) and the first canceled (Ronald Reagan).
Today, the presidential parade is certainly a grander affair than it ever was before - the event is organized by the Joint Task Force Armed Forces Inaugural Committee. The parade now includes floats, marching bands, marching units and mounted units among other things.
The ceremonies now also reflect the president more than they did before. George W. Bush expressed an interest involving the armed forces more than usual, so additional members of the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force were brought in. Prayers, as well as religious music and poetry, are often incorporated into the parade. While most presidents have been sworn in on the Bible, at least one president (John Quincy Adams) has chosen to take the oath with a book of U.S. law.
The Bible can be opened to a specific verse or closed. In 2009, President Barack Obama took the oath on a closed Lincoln Bible, while his predecessor George W. Bush took both oaths on a family Bible.
As the years progress, political agendas have also become more prominent in the inaugural parade. There are often protesters lining the streets alongside supporters, expressing their dislike of the new president.