(NECN: Jack Thurston, Northfield, Vt.) - On the snowy campus of Norwich University in Northfield, Vt. the school's regimental band has been rehearsing for one of its biggest performances ever.
"It's not something you get to do every day," beamed senior mechanical engineering major Kurt Franke.
The 55-person group heads to Washington, D.C. Saturday to represent the nation's oldest private military school in Monday's inaugural parade. The event celebrates the start of President Barack Obama's second term. The United States Constitution dictates that the president be sworn into office on January 20. According to the website of the Presidential Inaugural Conference, because the date falls on a Sunday this year, the public ceremony will take place Monday, complete with parade. As many as 800,000 people are expected to crowd the National Mall to watch the events.
Franke told New England Cable News he will give the band cues with his gleaming drum major's mace.
"Because they're playing, the band can't actually hear me," Franke explained. "Everything has to be done with this [mace]."
Franke noted that a member of his family has played in every inaugural parade since Dwight Eisenhower's in 1957. His father and grandfather were members of the "President's Own" United States Marine Band, Franke said. "Now I'm here, carrying it on," he added, smiling.
Aside from the Norwich contingent, NECN has heard of several other Vermonters making the big trip to the nation's capital. Perhaps that should come as no surprise because the reliably “blue” state went strongly for President Obama on election night, and was first to be counted in his win column.
St. Michael's College media studies professor Traci Griffith plans to be on the National Mall with her 6-year-old son, Jaden. She said she plans to tell him how history-making it is to have a two-term African American president. She said she also hopes to express to Jaden how Mr. Obama can serve as a role model to African American families like theirs.
"It is going to be very exciting," Griffith said. "And the fact his inauguration is actually happening on Martin Luther King Day this year, it's huge!"
Daria Bishop of Williston, Vt. is making the trip, too. The photographer told NECN she needed to go shopping first, at the Ecco boutique on the popular Church Street Marketplace.
"I'm a stranger to dresses, really," she chuckled. "I wear a lot of jeans!"
Bishop was looking for a ball gown because she said a friend who works for the Obama administration scored her a ticket to the official inaugural ball. She said she was hoping to catch a glimpse of President Obama dancing with First Lady Michelle Obama.
"In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be going to the inaugural ball, so I'm really really excited to see what it's all about," Bishop gushed.
Bishop and the others who'll travel from Vermont to witness history all said they expect to bring back some very special memories. "It truly is an honor," Kurt Franke said.
The Norwich University Regimental Band performed in inaugural parades for John F. Kennedy in 1961, Richard Nixon in 1969, Jimmy Carter in 1977, George H.W. Bush in 1989, and George W. Bush in 2005, a Norwich spokeswoman said. She added that the group was prepared to march in 1985, too, but the celebration of the start of Ronald Reagan's second term was canceled due to extreme cold weather.