January 20, 2009

The Inaugural Parade Day

While Punahou students proceeded through the security screening process, from "dirty" to "clean", they were under the control of the military, with only the band directors, ROTC colonel and Dean Fletcher. That story will have to be uncovered later!

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The world was witness to the rest of the festivities and events that installed and celebrated the new president. From the crowds witnessing the swearing-in ceremony to the packed fields of the mall to those lining the parade routes, the day was uplifting and hopeful. Celebrating with strangers who were neighborly, generous and fun added to the experience.

For parts of the parade course, administering the oath of office and President Obama's speech were made available and punctuated by cheers and clapping.

The students were prepared and in place for a 3:00 p.m. start, set out in the detailed time schedule. Unfortunately, the delays to the Obamas parade also adjusted the entire parade, and the Punahou students, in their location of honor, were held in formation in the biting cold.

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The Inaugural Parade is actually two parades: the first featured the new president and vice-president, while the second included 15,000 participants, 2,000 of which were military. Among the military units, floats and horse units, there were only 46 marching bands, chosen from the 1,000+ who applied.

The first parade arrrived late, with the military details escorting the president and vice-president. One unit inclulded in the escort was the Fife and Drums unit who visited Punahou several years ago.

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After the president and vice-president took their seats in the reviewing stand, the second parade began. Punahou's position as the first civilian participants placed them after the seven various army units. Punahou was easy to spot with their colorful placards, banner and primarily white uniforms.

As they passed the reviewing stand, President Obama and his family flashed the shaka sign, which was picked up by media cameras. The students completed their 1.6 mile parade after a very full, long and cold day! After the dispersal point, they headed to their buses and to the band's hotel.

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Students did a quick change and headed out again, on foot, to ESPNZone for dinner. It was a special treat and well enjoyed despite the tiredness. In fact, many who were dragging upon their return from the parade, responded to the food, camaraderie and fun at ESPNZone. The elation of the important day buoyed their spirits.

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After a quick walk back to the hotel, the band transitioned to departure-mode. A quick meeting celebrated the day and laid out the plans. Packing boxes were out again, hat boxes were filled, uniforms hung and instruments packed. By 10:30 or 11, students were turning off lights, thinking about the early wake-up call that would come before dawn.

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The cadets and cheerleaders used the Metro to reach their hotel and settled in for a more leisurely departure schedule.

It was an amazing day, filled with pride in Punahou and its students, honor to represent Punahou and Hawai'i in a highly visible and pivotal event and hope for the new administration.

Inauguration Day Has Arrived

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At 4:15 a.m. the wake-up calls echoed through the student rooms and chaperones began checking that everyone was up. In a flurry of uniforms, equipment, hand warmers and long johns, the action was underway. The cadets and cheerleaders arrived to join the band and leave a change of clothes for the afternoon.

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Forty-five minutes later, four buses were loaded with excited, though still somewhat sleepy students. They were sporting security IDs and looked smart in their various uniforms. Chaperones and Seawind tour staff waved them off as they headed to the Secret Service security screening at the Pentagon.

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The day is underway!

January 19, 2009

The Final Practice

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Monday morning begain with a convoy of the four buses heading out of the city (safe from the mounting traffic and confusion of road closures in D.C.) Yorktown High School had generously provided use of their athletic field and track for a marching practice. In a light flurry of snow, the students gathered instruments, banners, flags and cards and spread out around the field for section practices.

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As the warm-ups began, neighbors drifted into the stands to see what was going on. A dedicated jogger continued his laps around the cadets practicing their card flips! Even a Punahou alumnus, Class of 1958, who lives five blocks from the school showed up, pleased to see Punahou in his neighborhood after his visit to Punahou last June for his 50th reunion.

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Eventually, the sections gathered together in parade formation and marched, first counterclockwise, then clockwise around the track, perfecting their "wheel" turns, their music and drum cadence, the waves and cheers and the cadet card turns.

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The chance to practice the day before "showtime" was confidence-building and exhilarating. After gathering for a group shot in the stands, students re-loaded the buses and headed back to the city for an afternoon on the mall.

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First stop was the Air and Space Museum where students got their instructions for the afternoon and made plans to enjoy the museums and the excitement on the mall. With vendors, media and crowds of people, the energy was upbeat and friendly. Some groups ended up around the MSNBC broadcast booth, jumping and laughing with total strangers as the camera panned the crowd.

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After re-grouping and boarding the buses, however, the shift to Inauguration Day security began to barricade many of the roads around the mall. The plans to go to Georgetown for dinner quickly shifted, but after two hours on the buses (at least they were warm!), the entire group disembarked and walked back to the hotels, stopping with chaperones to eat along the way. The buses had only moved 5 blocks!

A quick meeting in the hotel briefed the students on the Secret Service meeting with the band directors. Procedures, rules and the full military management were laid out. The students will be in good hands. With a list of morning requirements, the students headed to bed, mindful of the 4:15 a.m. wake-up call!

January 18, 2009

A Day to Tour

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Sunday morning began with a major organization of boxes, distribution tables and a well-managed process of ensuring that the band members will look their best on Tuesday. The large hanger boxes with carefully packed uniforms, hat boxes and a wide assortment of accessories were lined up through the hallways of the hotel. Hand warmers, gloves and plumes were checked off for each of the students.

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In short order, the work was finished and the bus of cadets and cheerleaders arrived to join the band buses for a planned city tour. It turned out to be a day of "re-planning"! On the way to the first stop, the FDR Memorial, the reality of ongoing road closures and diversions gave a hint of coming attractions. With quick decision making and some great driving, the city tour diverted along Embassy Row and Georgetown before heading out of D.C.

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The rest of the day was spent across the bridge in Virginia! First stop was the Iwo Jima Memorial and the tour guides first pointed out the changing angle of the flag as the buses circles the monument.

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Second stop was at the Air Force Memorial with its stunning three arcs depicting the maneuver often seen in air shows. The students tried hard to get pictures with the memorial in the background by lying and pointing their cameras up at their friends.

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Others decided to pose with the statues in front of the plaques to "Integrity, Service and Excellence."

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Lunch was at a large mall with a variety of food choices and lots of shopping opportunities. The latter part of the afternoon was spent at Arlington where the group had a special opportunity. The father of one of band member was once a soldier who guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Since the tradition of guarding the tomb began, fewer than 600 individuals have qualified for this rigorous duty. An arrangement was made for the Punahou contingent to receive a special briefing on the history and the traditions of the Tomb from a current guardian. That was followed by the changing of the guard ceremony, and some of the students were permitted the honor of laying a wreath at the Tomb.

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It was an emotional experience to end the day.

With a goal of a quiet evening, the entire group stopped at a Whole Foods Market in Arlington to select dinner and returned to D.C. to eat in the hotels. The day wasn't what was planned but offered another view of the Capitol area that was varied and interesting!

January 17, 2009

Music Practice

Day 2 Video

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The band began their first full day in D.C. with a music practice in a neighboring park. Bundling up in layers, with instruments in hand, the sidewalk from the hotel was a string of clarinets and saxophones to tubas and percussion.
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With frigid temperatures, the students lined up in the sunny sections of the park and worked through the paces of a practice. Most important were understanding the finer points of playing in the cold: how to prevent frozen valves and slides, the importance of keeping warm air moving through the instruments and the importance of gloves, hats and good socks!
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As the students practiced, they attracted attention. First, a planned visit from Mahealani Richardson of KITV who brought along a thermometer which reached 20 degrees when she held it in the sun! (See their story.)
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The Punahou banner was unfurled for the first time in D.C. and successfully prepared for the trip down Pennsylvania Avenue. Passers-by recognized the Hawai'i connection and stopped to offer encouragement.
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Passing media also stopped by with cameras - an interesting perspective on the massive media coverage of the inaugural events. In addition to filming by a D.C. TV station, the practice was photographed for the Sacramento Bee and for a Jamaican family documentation, and filmed for Al Jazeera International.
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Cleaning instruments was another learning experience!
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By the end of practice, every extra scarf, glove, headband or earmuff that was available had been put to good use and the students headed back to the hotel realizing the importance of adjusting to the conditions before Tuesday's parade.

A Visit to the Capitol

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After a lunch in the hotel - and a chance to warm up - the band members and chaperones boarded buses and headed to tour the Capitol building. The increasing numbers of people in the area surrounding the mall and the extensive preparations for the swearing-in ceremony were evident. Due to changes in road access, the students had a good walk up to the building and an opportunity to take some pictures.

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The JROTC cadets and cheerleaders met up with the group after entering the new Visitor's Center and all the students were surprised to see a statue of King Kamehameha welcoming them into the "holding area" for the Capitol tours.

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The tour began with a short video offering an overview of the history of the D.C. area in general and the Capitol specifically. From there, groups headed out in a well-orchestrated flow using headphones to hear the commentary of their guide. From the magnificence of the building and its art work to the anecdotes of daily life in the Capitol, the tour was well enjoyed. One group was introduced to a guide from Hawaii who turned out to be the grandson of Mrs. Lohmeier(retired 2nd grade teacher).

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One favorite part was the crypt, the area from which President-elect Obama will head out to the stage to take the oath of office. Cameras were wired throughout the room and corridors, ready to capture every angle of the event. The students' tours were some of the last opportunities to enter the Capitol grounds before they are closed for the inauguration - the timing was great!

Everyone had a chance to visit the gift shops after the tour and gathered again at the foot of the King Kamehameha statue, preparing to return to the buses. To their surprise, KHON was there to greet them! After a few interviews and group shots, the students rallied with a spirited shaka.

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Heading back to the buses offered another chance for photos in front of the decorated, wired and secured platform where the swearing-in ceremony will take place. A group similarly lined up for photos were elated to find the Punahou group - from Hawaii! - next to them.

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The next stop was a visit to a small mall in the Old Post Office. It took awhile to run a group of 157+ students and chaperones through the one security scanning post, but the food court and shops were a fun end to the day. One particular area drew the most interest - a shop with Obama memorabilia where prices could be bargained. The buyers from Hawaii became "favorite customers" and students found the value of buying in bulk, bringing in friends to help drive down the prices. It was a fun dinner break!

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Before returning to the hotels, the buses headed for the monuments along the National Mall, giving the students a chance to view the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial and the World War II Memorial under night lighting. The Lincoln Memorial had been closed off in preparation for the large inauguration kick-off concert to be held Sunday afternoon. However, those who disembarked the buses to explore the World War II Memorial were treated to the sound check at the Lincoln Memorial by James Taylor!

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Everyone was ready for bed at the end of a full and varied day!


January 16, 2009

Arrival!!

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Two student groups met up in Chicago (where there was 9 inches of snow and it was -12 degrees!) on a layover and happily arrived in Baltimore at noon on Friday.

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The JROTC and cheerleaders group was already in D.C. checking out the museums so the new arrivals bundled up and headed out from the hotel for the walk to the Smithsonian's American History Museum. The first venture outside in 12 degree weather (reported from 8 - 15 degrees!) was a jolting impression of D.C. weather. Happily, it was much warmer inside the museum.

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Even the chaperones enjoyed the exhibits in the museum.
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The last group arrived at the hotel at about 6:45 p.m. just in time for a group dinner and an early lights out!

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Heading to D.C.

Day 1 Video

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At 7 a.m. Thursday morning, the first of the four groups of students loaded their suitcases into a truck at Punahou before taking their last exam. And the trek of the students via San Francisco, Chicago, Denver and Baltimore was underway.
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Many thanks to Punahou staff, chaperones and deans plus some parents who helped tag and load the first group's luggage. After their exam, the students gathered before boarding buses to the airport and compared warm accessories - thinking of the chill ahead.
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The scene at the airport was repeated four times during the day as the later groups met with their chaperones and proceeded on their journeys.airport1w.jpg

In layovers, students found many ways to pass the time!
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January 15, 2009

Preparation for Departure

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Punahou's trip to the Presidential Inauguration began with practices on the field and on the ice. Music, marching and acclimatization are the focus. As departure day arrived, the forecast for Washington D.C. was a high of 18 degrees!

Above Col. Takao preps the JROTC cadets at the Ice Palace. Below the band shows their parade posture at the last field practice.
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