WASHINGTON—Oscar Moreno doesn’t want to miss this presidential inauguration, even if it won’t be the history-making event that drew 1.8 million people in 2009.
After Election Day, the 23-year-old, Los Angeles-based artist began an online campaign on Kickstarter to raise $1,100 for his travel expenses. He wants to join a group of 1,000 artists traveling to Washington from various cities to make public art on the National Mall on Jan. 21 in a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people.
For the Nov. 6 election, Moreno spent time designing and making patch prints showing a combined image of an elephant and a donkey with the message, “Whatever You Are, We’re in This Together.” He plans to make more of them in Washington to hand out in the crowd.
“I tried to add to the rhetoric of unity,” he said. “Elephant or donkey, we’re in this together.”
While Washington probably won’t see the record turnout from 2009, officials are planning for a bigger-than-average crowd for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. The crowd may again include many young people such as Moreno.
District of Columbia officials have pieced together early data projecting 600,000 to 800,000 people will crowd onto the National Mall on Jan. 21. That projection is based on past attendance and data such as current hotel and restaurant reservations and chartered bus permits. The National Park Service is making plans for crowds to spread across about 12 blocks of the National Mall, from the Capitol to 12th Street.
The Metro transit system is making plans for a similar-size crowd, based on its past ridership. Transit officials say they will run the system at maximum capacity with peak rush-hour service for 17 hours on Inauguration Day, from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The inauguration is the biggest event every four years in the capital, followed by the annual July Fourth celebrations. The 2009 inauguration broke records when 1.8 million packed in shoulder-to-shoulder to see the first black president take the oath of office.
The city’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency chief, Chris Geldart, co-chairman of the district’s presidential inaugural committee, said he is hearing that some people who were overwhelmed by the 2009 crowd projections and stayed away now see 2013 as a second chance to witness history. Officials are expecting more people who live within driving distance in Maryland and Virginia to attend.
The city began planning in July to prepare everything from security plans to vending permits.
“There’s no perfect way to say how many people are going to show up,” Geldart said. “I wanted to get as early of a picture as we can and then constantly update on the number of attendees we’ll be looking at because that drives a lot of our planning.”
The latest figures project a far lower attendance than in 2009, but more than President George W. Bush’s second inauguration in 2005, when there were 300,000 to 400,000 people on the Mall, Geldart said.
Metro figures show about 584,000 subway trips on Inauguration Day in 2005. That outpaced President Bill Clinton’s second inauguration in 1997, which had 455,000 rail trips.
“We are planning for whatever comes our way,” said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. “We do believe it will be a higher ridership than a normal second inauguration.”
Several who plan to make their first trip to an inauguration said they aren’t fazed by big crowds or how close they can get to the stage.
Susie Bright, 54, a writer and artist from Santa Cruz, Calif., plans to join the group of 1,000 people making art on the National Mall. She doesn’t care what her vantage point will be; she just wants to see the people who come together.
“In the past, inaugurations always seemed so stuffy and kind of boring. It struck me as something your parents drag you to and you have to be quiet,” Bright said. “That changed. Now, it’s like this is an expression of the people.”
Some of the artists planning to attend were inspired by the images they saw from the last inauguration and wanted to be part of it.
The group formed online and has grown. Some plan to take a train from California together, joined by others along the way. Organizers committed to attend and make public art regardless of who won the election—not as a protest or a celebration but to promote creative expression in a democracy. They plan to wear white jumpsuits and hats to stand out in the crowd and to encourage other attendees to join in.
Claire Donnolly, 27, an art therapist from Medford, Mass., plans to bring her drawing pencils and pens to try to capture the moment, though she’s not sure what she will draw.
“I’m not going to lie, I am pretty pumped that Obama won,” Donnolly said. “That’s just like a bonus. I really like everything he stands for.”