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 Fergus Falls, Minn., High School Marching Band

The Fergus Falls, Minn., High School Marching Band performs during the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade on Pennsylvania Avenue, Monday.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

Minnesotans: 'Better than the first time around'

  • Article by: COREY MITCHELL, JIM SPENCER and KEVIN DIAZ
  • Star Tribune
  • January 22, 2013 - 6:10 AM

WASHINGTON

From the clarinet player in the U.S. Marine Band to a western Minnesota high school marching band, Minnesotans helped provide the emotional soundtrack for President Obama's second inauguration.

Among them was Master Sgt. Deborah Hanson-Gerber, a Golden Valley native, whose Marine band accompanied superstar Beyoncé on the national anthem and pop singer Kelly Clarkson on "My County 'Tis of Thee."

"Honoring the president is always a wonderful experience," said Hanson-Gerber, who has been part of every inauguration since 1993.

There were also Minneapolis police, Hennepin County sheriff's deputies, and the 125-member Fergus Falls High School marching band that left Minnesota on Thursday for a 22-hour bus trip to D.C. The band performed "Yankee Doodle Dandy," as it did for Obama's first inauguration in 2009.

'It's a big deal'

Director Scott Kummrow returned, but with a new band of students amped to play before tens of thousands of onlookers. "It's their first time," Kummrow said. "And for me, there are still new experiences here."

Four years ago, Spanish immersion teacher Patrick Brown of Minneapolis came to see the nation's first biracial president, be part of the grail of history, and experience a sensation that could be felt only once.

On Monday, people asked, was it the same? "It doesn't really matter, Brown said. "The first time there's a lot of glamour and excitement. But it's still the president of the United States. It's a big deal."

One big difference is that this time Brown was not logistically prepared. He came without a ticket, leaving him at the mercy of long security lines for ticketless spectators who moved at the crawling pace of the presidential limousine.

For countless other Minnesotans who couldn't get tickets from their congressional members, getting near the parades or speeches meant long walks through a carnival atmosphere of musicians, street hawkers peddling Obama T-shirts, and even the occasional panhandler.

First-timers from Minnesota said they felt that presidential magic, leavened by four years of hard experience. "I'm hopeful," said Jason Willett, celebrating his first Obama inauguration in a Capitol Hill reception hosted by the Minnesota State Society, an organization of Minnesota ex-pats in Washington. "Optimistic is a little tough, with the political situation. But I'm hopeful."

The 2012 presidential election became a crucible to many of the Minnesotans who traveled to Washington to celebrate Obama's second term. When she turned 62 three weeks after the election, Dr. Marilyn Morton of Rochester asked her husband for a unique birthday gift. Morton, a Mayo Clinic physician, wanted to fly to the nation's capital for Obama's second inauguration.

"It's hard for us to express our feelings at home," she said Sunday as she waited for the symbolic swearing-in. "In our professional environment, politics is off the table."

'A great opportunity'

Julaine Deshayes, a graphic designer from St. Paul, said the inauguration was particularly sweet because it was the second. For many Minnesota Democrats who came to join the celebration, there was a sense of relief the second time around.

"It's better than the first time around," she said. "I was more worried this time. The odds were so much against him because of the economy. Last fall, I didn't think he stood a chance."

Tim Melby, a manager at Superior Light and Power, traveled from Cloquet with his wife and two children. They saw Obama's first inaugural and decided to make a return trip. "This was a great opportunity for my kids," he said.

After the inaugural, a dozen Minnesotans packed the office of Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minneapolis to chat with the former civil rights lawyer. The group was as diverse as the coalition that Obama cobbled together in his campaign: male, female, young, old, black, white and brown. "The most impressive thing about Obama is that he brings all kinds of people together," said Andie Whitaker, 22, of Minneapolis. 

Seated nearby, Cassandra Ward Brown of Minneapolis wished for more of the same. "I hope there will be more presidents of color and women presidents," she said.

Ellison smiled and offered a little political prognostication. "I think you're going to see a woman president in four years," he said.

He never mentioned any names.

Corey Mitchell, Jim Spencer and Kevin Diaz are correspondents in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau.

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