The blistering cold couldn’t deter the hundreds of thousands of citizens who flooded the 2013 Presidential Inauguration, that took place in the nation’s capitol.
Black and gold was in full affect Monday evening fighting the 30 and below temperatures as Grambling State University was well represented with a plethora of students and the World Famed Tiger Marching Band shaking up Pennsylvania Avenue leaving spectators musically deaf.
Slated as the only historically black college to perform at the Inauguration Parade, and one of only two schools to return from President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, the band left some captivated with a lasting impression on the state of Louisiana.
“There was a lot of diversity, which I like. The people in the parade were at top notch,” said Beth Sadowski, an Ohio native. “I especially love Louisiana. That was my favorite band.”
Starting from the steps of the United States Capitol Building and ending at the White House, the one and a half mile parade lasted nearly three hours. USA Today reported that over 88,000 people participated in the parade, including 58 bands and groups. The United States Capitol Police estimated that over 600,000 people attended the inauguration.
World Famed was a part of Division Four and one of the last bands to execute their musical talents, Sadowski said it seemed like a chain reaction once the band approached 12th and Pennsylvania.
“I started dancing, and then everybody else started dancing,” said Sadowski. “They brought everybody together. It was dark, it was late and the band just brought so much energy.”
Some musical selections included traditional marches with “Them Basses” and “Our Director’s March,” while funk classics “Early In The Morning” by The Gap Band and “Dance With Somebody” in a tribute to Whitney Houston.
The 200 member band left Saturday, Jan. 19 at 9 a.m. loading four 55-passenger buses, preparing for the 20 plus drive to Williamsburg, VA, where they stayed because band officials couldn’t find closer accommodations after receiving the good news in late December.
Even with honor of playing for the president comes at a cost. Trips like this one with the band are not paid with state funds and cost a minimum of $125,000. President Frank G. Pogue established a specific band travel fund for alumni, friends and others where they could donate whatever they could to help the band make history.
“It was amazing and a blessing being able to perform again for the Presidential Inauguration,” said Justin White, a drum major who performed in 2009 during President Obama’s first swearing in. White added that the major difference form 2009 and now is the weather, he said this time around it was bearable.
“The overall experience of being a part of the inauguration for a black president was great and I wouldn’t change this experience for nothing,” said White.
In efforts to prepare for this historic event, the band began practicing at the apex of the semester with classes at the university starting after the holiday and winter break on January 7. There wasn’t much time to get ready, but for the past two weeks they practiced in harsh weather conditions, including a couple of cold, wintry days with freezing drizzle and rain.
In addition to the Inauguration Parade, members of the band were featured on CNN Sunday night, Jan. 20, a part of the networks inauguration coverage in the Mall. The cable attention sparked fan appreciation and university networks on all social networks. With the hashtag #worldfamed GSU student Quantreus Hayes, also known as @IAmGramblingMan on Twitter, tweeted, “When the president and CNN needs a band who do they call? The #WorldFamed Tiger Marching Band of Grambling State University.”
However, the band were not the only representatives of GSU, as the Favrot Student Union Board packed two spectator buses that offered over 100 students a chance of lifetime to attend the inauguration for $150, which included transportation and a two-night hotel stay at the Embassy Suites in Williamsburg, VA. Students took the long journey in style, riding in executive coaches, which offered students the opportunity have access to wifi, cable television and electric plug-ins. Buses were paid for through student activity funds from FSUB and cost $12,000 a piece.
But, style and luxury is on the back burner to the core purpose of this trip. “We recognize, being at an HBCU that this is a once and a lifetime, one and done chance for students to see an African-American in office,” said Rusty Ponton, dean of student activities. “From a historical standpoint, you want to say that Grambling State University was represented at the inauguration.”
Students concurred with Ponton’s. “The Presidential Inauguration was one of the best experiences in my life, I wouldn’t have changed anything about it,” said Shakila Miller, a GSU senior criminal justice and paralegal studies major. Miller admitted that she hesitated about the trip, but the Richmond, VA native said the ceremony was a once in a lifetime exposure. “It made me feel like a proud American because I voted. I had a voice and it was heard,” said Miller.
Both the band and student spectator bus returned to the university Wednesday, Jan. 23 at noon.