Locals take bus to D.C. for Inauguration Day

Having never visited Washington, D.C., Baton Rouge resident Madeline Barton remembered a flier from 2008 that advertised a bus trip for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

“I did not want to miss it a second time,” Barton said.

So, Barton called J.P. Dunbar, who organized the 2009 Inauguration Day bus trip from Baton Rouge and asked her about putting together another trek to Washington to see Obama sworn in for the second time.

Dunbar, however, had no intention of doing another bus trip. Barton “begged her to reconsider.” Dunbar said she then received more calls after Barton’s initial inquiry.

“I started getting numerous messages,” Dunbar said. “And there it was. The trip was on.”

Dunbar’s 50-person bus, which left Baton Rouge on Saturday morning, included people from Baton Rouge, Lafayette and as far away as Monroe. Dunbar said the bus four years ago was a more diverse mix of white, black, old and young, but this year’s crew skews a bit older with more African Americans.

“I’m looking forward to this group because they seem even more excited this time around,” Dunbar said. “It’s even more amazing an African American was elected a second time with all the things he was facing with the economy and the politics.”

But there’s a younger group traveling from Baton Rouge, too. Arlene Mossey, a teacher at Martin Luther King Junior Christian Academy in Baton Rouge, is heading a group trip of nearly 30 students and parents for Inauguration Day.

Monday will represent only the second time Inauguration Day has coincided with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Obama plans to be sworn in with a Bible owned by King.

Six of the eight members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation are planning to attend the inauguration. U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is planning to watch from his Metairie home before flying up for Senate votes on Tuesday and U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, is expected to watch it from his Washington home.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Inauguration Day is a big deal for anyone who can participate.

“Regardless of whom you voted for in the election, Inauguration Day is a time to be so proud that power continues or transfers peacefully in our country,” Landrieu said in an email response. “The day is a great testament that our democracy works more than 200 years later. Standing on the Capitol steps and overlooking the National Mall always inspires me to continue the work we must accomplish for Louisiana and the country.”

Even if Washington is not quite as crowded as four years ago, inauguration ticket requests from Louisiana residents quickly exceeded the supply allotted to the state’s congressional delegation.

When asked about the ticket demand, Monique Waters, the communications director for U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, replied, “You have no idea.” Landrieu’s office and others also had to inform plenty of people there were not enough tickets to go around.

Judith Fontenot, of Baker, is returning to Washington for her second Inauguration Day after taking her sons four years ago. This time, she is taking a sister and a cousin.

“This is a lifetime dream,” Fontenot said. “I just decided I wanted to do it again.

“The excitement is still the same as it was then (in 2009).”