By Christopher Wood and Irena Schunn – Capital News Service
Richmond is buzzing in anticipation of the gubernatorial inauguration that will take place Saturday at the Virginia Capitol.
The swearing-in of Ralph Northam as the commonwealth’s 73rd governor is a historic event with a turnout predicted in the thousands. Though tickets for special seating are no longer available, attending the inauguration is free and open to the public.
Here’s a guide to help you get in on the action or simply to better prepare for what the day might bring.
Schedule of Saturday’s events
9:30 a.m. – Gates open to the public at Capitol Square.
Noon – The inauguration ceremony begins on the South Portico of the Virginia State Capitol, as Northam takes the oath of office. Also, Justin Fairfax will be sworn in as lieutenant governor, and Mark Herring will take the oath of office for a second term as attorney general.
1 p.m. – The inaugural parade begins. The parade route will move east from Grace Street and will circumnavigate Capitol Square.
2-4 p.m. – Open House at the Executive Mansion. Pamela Northam said the first family is “looking forward to welcoming Virginians into our new home for the first time.”
8 p.m. – The inaugural ball will begin at Main Street Station (ticket required).
What to expect
About 4,000 people are expected to attend the inauguration and parade, according to the Northam Inaugural Committee. If you don’t plan on attending, stay away from the Capitol as several streets will be closed starting Friday.
For attendees, several portable toilets will be placed in various locations on the Capitol grounds.
Where to take in the action
The last chance to get tickets for the inauguration was Tuesday, but you can still get a good view of the event. Capitol Square – southeast of Ninth and Broad streets – will be open to the public. Two screens streaming the event will be set up on either side of the Capitol.
About the parade
The parade will feature organizations from across Virginia including NASA, SemperK9 Assistance Dogs, Virginia Teachers of the Year, Charlottesville Cardinals Wheelchair Basketball Team, the Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail Fiddlers and Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (where Northam, a native of the Eastern Shore, is a pediatric neurologist).
The Corps of Cadets from Virginia Military Institute, the incoming governor’s alma mater, will march in the parade as well.
There’ll even be a national and international star: Deborah Pratt, Virginia’s fastest oyster shucker who again will represent the U.S. in the International Oyster Opening Championship in Ireland.
The bad news is that it’s supposed to rain on Saturday. The good news is that the National Weather Service predicts the rain will end by 8 a.m., giving way to partly sunny skies and highs in the mid-50s.
When gearing up to go the Capitol, pack light. Security screenings will be set up at each of the two entrances to Capitol Square. Though most prohibited items come as no surprise, some banned objects, such as umbrellas or plastic bottles, are not so obvious.
Although it probably won’t rain during the event, if you want to come prepared for wet weather, opt for a raincoat – not an umbrella.
Here is a list from the inaugural committee’s website of items banned from the event: weapons of any type, hazardous materials, pepper spray or mace, umbrellas, glass or plastic bottles, coolers, laser pointers, tripods, sticks or poles, aerosol containers, air-horns, tools, scissors, needles, razor blades and fireworks.
Traffic, transportation, and parking
Parking for the inauguration will be open to the public at the parking decks at 14th and Main streets, Seventh and Franklin streets, and Seventh and Marshall streets.
A complimentary shuttle service provided by the Northam Inaugural Committee will be available for public use. The shuttle will run from the Quirk, Omni and the Jefferson hotels directly to Eight and Broad streets. The shuttle will drop off passengers every 10 minutes between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. After the parade, the shuttle will reroute, taking passengers from the drop-off point back to the hotels.
Road closures might pose a problem for motorists trying to drive through downtown. Ninth Street and Bank Street bordering the Capitol grounds will be closed from 7 p.m. Friday through 6 p.m. Saturday. West of the Capitol, about 10 blocks will be closed from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The closures include Grace and Franklin streets from Eighth Street to Adams Street.