Myrtle Beach area residents head to DC in smaller numbers for Obama’s inauguration

mprabhu@thesunnews.comJanuary 19, 2013 

  • Live from Washington Interact with The Sun News Reporter Maya T. Prabhu on Twitter (@TSN_MPrabhu) as she tweets live from Washington during the inauguration. Also visit MyrtleBeachOnline.com for live posts from McClatchy and Associated Press from around the city during the event.

— While a number of residents from the Grand Strand said they intend to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama for his second term in Washington, D.C., on Monday, the numbers are no where near what they were four years ago.

In Horry County, a couple of bus trips – one that would have included an overnight stay and one that would go and return the same day – were canceled for various reasons.

Cedric Spain, executive committeeman with the Horry County Democratic Party, said he initially planned to organize an overnight trip to D.C., but many of the people he spoke with said they would prefer to take a day trip.

“With the economy still the way it is … a lot of people wanted to go up and come back the same day,” he said.

Spain said he decided to let another group organize a one-day trip to view the swearing-in ceremony, but that group also canceled its trip.

In 2009, an estimated 1.8 million people attended Obama’s history-making inauguration when he became the first black president sworn into office. This year, D.C. officials estimate between 600,000 and 800,000 people will attend the second swearing-in. That number is a steep decline, but still above average for a second-term inauguration. George W. Bush’s second inauguration attracted between 300,000 and 400,00 people. Bill Clinton’s likely drew around 450,000.

Spain, who said he still is attending the inauguration on his own Monday, said he’s excited to make the trip. He attended the inauguration in 2009 as well.

“It’s an experience of a lifetime,” he said of attending a presidential inauguration. “I want to go and show my support. … He’s still the first black president in our time. It’s still historical.”

Horry County Democratic Party Chairwoman Doris Potter Hickman said she thinks many people may have decided not to attend this year’s scaled back inauguration festivities because there weren’t as many tickets available to participate in the planned events. Hickman said she attended the inauguration in 2009 as well.

“I wanted to be there to witness this historical event,” she said. “This time I want to go to show my support for the president. He has an uphill battle with some of the policies he wants [to address this term].”

Spain said many people he knows opted to drive themselves up to the inauguration instead of participating in a bus trip because it fell on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

“A lot of people wanted to make it a family thing because of the King holiday,” he said. “They wanted to take their children to see the monument.”

Spain said he could name a number of reasons why the turnout is expected to be lower this year, but it was the fact that there would be fewer people attending this time around that made Sally P. Howard decide to attend.

“I did not attend Obama’s first inauguration,” Howard said. “Four years ago there were extreme crowds. A lot of people had difficulty getting to where they wanted to go.”

She said when she heard news earlier this week that anticipated attendance – and hotel prices – had gone down, she and a friend, Lori Church, decided to make the trip. She said she attended both of former President Clinton’s inauguration ceremonies as well as former President Jimmy Carter.

“It was really cold,” she said, which she is bracing herself for again on Monday. “I’m just pulling out all of my warm clothes. Monday isn’t going to be a fashion day.”

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.

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