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Inauguration Preparations in Full Swing

Barrington M. Salmon | 1/16/2013, 10:46 a.m.

Tens of thousands of people are hard at work in the District putting the finishing touches on events and related activities marking President Barack Obama's second inauguration.

Obama will be sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Monday, Jan. 21. Later, the first family will lead a parade of floats, military units, marching bands, dancers and others along Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest.

Ann Walters, a Jamaican native who has lived in the District of Columbia for more than 20 years, counted among the throng of people who converged on the National Mall in January 2009 and who witnessed Obama's swearing-in as America's first African-American president.

"I went with friends who wanted to witness this important event," said Walters, a local businesswoman. "They were gung-ho, were in town and wanted to go. It was so cold, we couldn't get close to anything and transportation was messed up but it was good to be there."

Walters said in Jamaica it is commonplace to see black leaders running the country.

"It's less significant than it might have been because of where I come from. We're used to having leaders who look like us," she said. "But I understand the context of where blacks in this country are coming from with slavery, oppression, racism and the blatant disrespect they face. It was interesting to see in this the fulfillment of people like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X who carved it out. You can see what they sacrificed for."

Walters said she doesn't plan to be on the National Mall this year and will likely watch it on TV. She also said she plans to get involved in a service project in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose national holiday falls on the same day.

Unlike 2009, the crowds are expected to number somewhere between 600,000 and 800,000 - a far cry from the almost two million people who braved subzero temperatures to witness the installation of the nation's first black president. While the novelty and pride of having the first black president has dimmed, enthusiasm for Obama's second term is still said to be high.

A distinguished list of celebrities have signed on to help usher in the second term musically. Beyonce is slated to sing the national anthem. James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson will also perform at the West front of the Capitol. Meanwhile, Usher, Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, John Legend and the cast of Glee will perform at other inaugural events.

Perry, Usher, Keys and Brad Paisley are scheduled to sing at two inaugural balls on Inauguration Day and at a children's concert two days earlier. The balls will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington, and scores of other related events will dot the Washington metropolitan area.

More than 40,000 people are expected to go to both balls, with well over 30,000 elegantly dressed partygoers attending the Presidential Inaugural Ball. A much smaller crowd of about 4,000 will gather and dance the night away at a gala to honor American service men and women. This affair, the "Commander in Chief's Ball", was established by President George W. Bush to honor the military. Tickets are free for those in the military, including active-duty service personnel, those in the reserves, those wounded in battle and Medal of Honor winners.