John McCaslin

Time it took President Bush once his motorcade arrived back to the White House at 8:29 a.m. Sunday morning to change out of his church clothes and into his biking gear, then depart again by motorcade at 8:36 a.m. for a bicycle outing: 7 minutes.


The letter from Peter Gage, director of President-elect Barack Obama's inaugural parade, arrived several weeks ago in Wasilla, Alaska, hometown of Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee.

It was addressed to the Colony High School Knights Marching Band, Alaska's only high school marching band (it's too cold to blow into musical instruments during the autumn football season), directed by Jamin Burton.

"Congratulations! We're pleased to inform you that your organization has been chosen to perform in the 56th Presidential Inaugural Parade," the letter stated. "We had a record number of applicants, so your selection ... will help make this Inauguration truly historic."

Yet, shortly after the congratulatory letter arrived in Wasilla, the Mat-Su Borough School Board voted against granting the 46-member band a $15,000 bailout to cover its shortfall for the trip to Washington.

So Mr. Burton, who had booked the band to fly more cheaply into Newark, N.J., and then be bused to the nation's capital, started several fundraisers. Soon, a Lutheran church in Fairfax agreed to host the band overnight, Alaska Airlines offered to waive some additional baggage fees, and BP Oil provided a $5,000 donation.

Even LaDonna Hale Curzon, executive producer and co-host of the Sarah Palin radio show, is getting support for the band, lining up interviews with Mr. Burton while inviting band members to perform in Old Town Alexandria on inaugural night.

Although it still has several thousand dollars left to raise, the band is practicing in earnest for Mr. Obama's inaugural, even if many of their parents did not support the Democratic candidate. One band booster urged, "Put politics aside and let our kids march with pride. They've earned it."

"One mother called me today from Wasilla," says Mrs. Curzon. "She told me that it was 29 degrees below zero and the kids lips were freezing onto their instruments while they tried to practice. She said that they rented a bus to take them to Anchorage where they could practice indoors at a sports dome facility."


Two weeks until Inauguration Day, and meteorologists should soon have a general idea of the weather pattern for the outdoor festivities.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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