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    Visitors flood D.C. for presidential inauguration

    President Obama and his wife, Michelle, stained a bookshelf at Burrville Elementary in Washington. To honor Martin Luther King Jr., Obama designated Saturday a national day of service.
    President Obama and his wife, Michelle, stained a bookshelf at Burrville Elementary in Washington. To honor Martin Luther King Jr., Obama designated Saturday a national day of service.

    WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of visitors streamed into the capital city this weekend as organizers prepared for an inauguration that, while not as grand as four years ago, is still cause for celebration among supporters of President Obama.

    Barbara and Loren Ing drove their minivan here from rural Ohio, lugging a trailer filled with glass centerpieces. As a volunteer for the society representing her native state, Illinois, Barbara Ing — who ordinarily works in the layaway department of her local Kmart — spent months creating the table decor for the society’s inaugural ball, one of countless unofficial parties marking Obama’s second swearing-in.

    Across town, workers spent Friday erecting lighting and stages for Obama’s two official inaugural balls. Tens of thousands of ticketholders will cram into the 2.3-million-square-foot Washington Convention Center on Monday night, where they will be entertained by the likes of Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, and the cast of TV’s ‘‘Glee’’ — all while hoping for a glimpse of Obama and his wife, Michelle, twirling around the dance floor.


    ‘‘It’s clearly not as big or as plentiful or elaborate as the last time, but in many ways for Democrats it’s even sweeter,’’ said Hilary Rosen, a prominent Obama supporter. ‘‘People are thrilled about the president; there are a record number of women in the Senate. Gay people are happy, and Latinos. You have these pillars of the election; it meant something different to everybody, but it culminated in this collectively powerful feeling.’’

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    Officials expect 600,000 to 800,000 people to turn out on the National Mall to witness Monday’s ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol — a crowd typical for most inaugurations but far short of the 1.8 million who clogged the city in 2009, creating pedestrian gridlock that kept many ticketholders from getting to their seats.

    This year, the congressional committee overseeing the Capitol ceremony arranged for extra cellphone towers to be installed on the Mall, and devised a mobile phone app with a global positioning system to help inaugural-goers navigate the city, said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, the committee chairman.

    Schumer, who as master of ceremonies will make opening remarks and introduce the participants, said the thought that ‘‘so many people who have been waiting with anticipation for months won’t be able to get their seats’’ was one of two fears that had kept him awake at night. The other is that he will miss his cue to introduce the chief justice.

    ‘‘I’m practicing my speech, but I’m less worried about that and more worried about when I’m supposed to get up and say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. John Roberts Jr., the chief justice of the Supreme Court,’ ’’ he said. ‘‘I’m worried I won’t get up in time.’’


    Obama will take his official oath of office at 11:55 a.m. Sunday in the Blue Room of the White House; the Constitution states that presidential terms expire at noon on Jan. 20. Monday’s festivities, which coincide with Martin Luther King’s Birthday, are ceremonial.

    Obama will use one of King’s Bibles, along with one that belonged to Abraham Lincoln, when he retakes the oath on Monday. The swearing-in will be followed by the president’s inaugural address, lunch with congressional leaders and other top government officials, and the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

    To honor King, Obama designated Saturday a national day of service. He and his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, spent part of Saturday afternoon helping to refurbish an elementary school in Northeast Washington, with hundreds of other volunteers organized by the City Year nonprofit group. Barack and Michelle Obama stained a bookshelf. While much of Washington is gearing up for a party, some Republicans are lying low — or getting out of town.

    ‘‘My wife had a partial knee replacement, so I am staying with her in Mississippi,’’ said Trent Lott, the former senator from that state, in an e-mail message. ‘‘Most Republicans will be otherwise busy. Some will attend events and parties, because it does only happen every four years.’’

    But Democrats are in the mood to celebrate. Emily’s List, which helps elect Democratic women who favor abortion rights, was planning a party for 1,400 to welcome female congressional newcomers, including Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.


    ‘‘We have record numbers of women in the House and in the Senate,’’ said Jen Bluestein, the group’s communications director. ‘‘We’re celebrating our shattering of glass ceilings everywhere.’’

    The Futuro Fund, which mobilized Latino voters in support of Obama, is helping to stage a three-day ‘‘Latino Inaugural,’’ including lectures and a star-studded Sunday night celebration of Hispanics’ newfound political clout. Eva Longoria, the ‘‘Desperate Housewives’’ actress and a cochairwoman of Obama’s inaugural committee, will headline the event, along with Jose Feliciano, Chita Rivera, Rita Moreno, and other Hispanic entertainers.

    Hotels said last week that rooms were booking up, in part because celebrities and their entourages were making last-minute decisions to take part.

    The schedule

    SUNDAY: President Obama will have a private swearing-in at the White House for his second term, which officially begins at noon. A private ceremony is traditional when Inauguration Day falls on a Sunday. Vice President Joe Biden will be sworn in at noon at the Naval Observatory.

    MONDAY: Obama’s ceremonial swearing-in for the public begins at noon on the West Front of the Capitol, followed by his inaugural address, lunch with congressional leadership and other top government officials, and the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

    Myrlie Evers Williams will deliver the invocation at the swearing-in. Beyoncé will sing the national anthem, Kelly Clarkson will perform ‘‘My Country ’Tis of Thee,’’ and James Taylor will sing ‘‘America the Beautiful.’’ Richard Blanco is the inaugural poet. Two official inaugural balls will be held in the evening.

    New York Times