WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden won’t get a traditional inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue after he takes the oath of office, but he will get a presidential escort to the White House.
Biden and incoming first lady Jill Biden will forgo the traditional inaugural parade on Jan. 20, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Sunday.
Instead, the Bidens will receive a presidential escort from 15th Street to the White House after his swearing-in on the West Front of the Capitol. The escort will include representatives of every branch of the military, including the U.S. Army Band, a Joint Service Honor Guard, and the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard and Fife and Drum Corps from the 3rd U.S. Infantry “The Old Guard.”
Planners have been looking for ways to continue many inaugural traditions while protecting the health and safety of Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Replacing the traditional inaugural parade with a presidential escort will allow Americans and the world to see the new first family arriving at the White House without attracting the large crowds that usually gather along Pennsylvania Avenue for the inaugural parade, the committee said.
“This is an exciting opportunity to work with Americans across the country to showcase President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect (Kamala) Harris’ steadfast commitment to a diverse, inclusive and unified nation,” said Tony Allen, the inaugural committee’s chief executive officer. “There are many grand traditions to the inaugural, and we plan to honor them by highlighting more of our nation’s people than ever before while keeping everyone safe.”
The inaugural parade isn’t going away completely.
A “virtual parade” will be televised and will feature performances in communities across the country. The parade will celebrate America’s heroes, highlight Americans from all walks of life in different states and regions, and reflect the country’s diversity, heritage and resilience, inaugural planners said.
Participants for the virtual parade will be announced in the coming weeks, but the inaugural committee said the programming will include musical acts, local bands, poets, dance troupes and others paying homage to America’s heroes on the front lines of the pandemic.
“This innovative programming will keep people safe and use new ways to bring in Americans across the country – from rural towns and urban cities to younger and older Americans to everybody and everywhere in between,” said Maju Varghese, the committee’s executive director.
Participants will practice social distancing, and vigorous health and safety protocols will be in place, the inaugural committee said.
The 59th Inaugural Ceremonies will be smaller than in previous years because of the health risks posed by COVID-19. Biden and Harris will still take the oath of office on the Capitol’s West Front, and Biden will deliver an inaugural address that lays out his vision for beating the virus, rebuilding and bringing the country together.
Inaugural planners are urging Americans not to travel to Washington for the festivities but to participate in the celebration virtually.
Tickets for the ceremony will be limited. In the past, members of Congress have received about 200,000 tickets to distribute to their constituents. This year, they will be limited to tickets for themselves and one guest.
Rep. James Clyburn, co-chair of the Biden inaugural committee, said he expects a couple of thousand people to attend. The platform for the swearing-in ceremony is already set up.
“We’re going to make sure that people participate in a way that will make them a part of the event, but keep them safe and healthy and comfortable,’’ he said, noting the usually “icy cold’’ weather.
“We’re going to do it in such a way that you will be a part of it, but you can stay warm at home in your pajamas and enjoy it,” he said.
After the swearing-in, Biden, Harris and their spouses will participate in a Pass in Review ceremony on the Capitol’s East Front with members of the military.
Pass in Reviews are a long-standing military tradition that reflects the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander-in-chief. The new president, hosted by the commander of Joint Task Force-National Capital Region, will review the readiness of military troops.
Clyburn, who was the guest Sunday at Richard Prince’s Journal-isms Roundtable, said he doesn’t expect President Donald Trump to show up at the inauguration.
“That would come as a surprise to me if he were to attend,’’ he said. “It would be a pleasant surprise – if he didn’t.’’
Michael Collins covers the White House. Reach him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.
Contributing: Deborah Berry