The embodiment of democracy, in all its spectacle and pageantry, was on full display last Monday for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Hundreds of thousands of citizens, including several from Orange County, flooded the National Mall to witness the second swearing in ceremony of the 44th President. From the halls of the Cannon Building on Capitol Hill, to the parade corridor en route to the White House, the county was well-represented in the country's celebration of selecting its commander in chief and chief executive.
Gordonsville resident David Lamb, owner of Oakland Heights Farm off of Route 15, has been to the inauguration of the last five presidents. Historically, Lamb's horses have been his ticket to Washington, as the Montana delegation routinely turns to his quarter horses as their transportation through the inauguration parade. This year, though, Lamb was invited to ride along with the delegation in the parade's route along Pennsylvania Avenue from the capitol building to the White House.
"Last year I was talking to the Montana group… and they said, 'Next year you ride with us,'" said Lamb. "It's a two and a half-mile parade, so it's a long walk. It's basically a trail ride through the city."
Lamb is renowned for his annual legislative trail ride in the county, but he said his road to this year's parade began 10 years ago with legislative rides in parks outside of Washington, such as Great Falls and Bull Run. Lamb said his association to the group of Montana lawmakers came through his involvement with the American Quarter Horse Association, through which he connected with Montana Senator Max Baucus. Baucus is joined on the delegation by Senator Jon Tester and Congressman Steve Daines.
Despite the cold weather and a two-hour delay in the start of the parade, Lamb said the ride through the streets of Washington was a fun experience.
"One thing I enjoy about it is it gives me the opportunity to visit with [the lawmakers]," said Lamb. "They're sort of a captive audience when they're on a horse. We can talk about coal mining, gun control, agriculture, things that are pertinent to our way of life."
Lamb said the urban setting makes the horses a tad more anxious than the dusty paths of Orange County. It didn't help that an exuberant group of dancers preceded Lamb and the Montana delegation in the parade.
"[The dancers] made the horses a little leery," said Lamb. "It's a lot of responsibility taking horses and putting governors and senators on them. It's not a good advertisement should something go wrong."
This May Lamb continues the 30 year tradition of the legislative trail ride.
Hannah Mawyer, a senior at Orange County High School joined a group of three other senior girls in experiencing their first inauguration. Virginia District 7 Congressman Eric Cantor allots four inauguration tickets per school district in his constituency and Mawyer said OCHS principal Doug Duncan tapped her and Nqobile Mthethwa, Sarah Allman, and Rebecca Eichmann for the trip to Washington, citing their political involvement. The four girls had breakfast in the Cannon House Office Building and met with Cantor and his staff.
"First we had breakfast of coffee and doughnuts, which was probably the best part [of the day]," said Mawyer. "We went pretty early to meet [Cantor] and chat with his staff. It was a lot of fun and very informative."
Mawyer described herself as "not a crowd person" and said that the hundreds of thousands of spectators on the mall made the experience memorable, if not entirely enjoyable. Because of the seating arrangement, Mawyer lamented her view of Obama's swearing-in ceremony was obstructed by a tree.
Perhaps the most memorable part of the day came early in the morning when, after meeting with Cantor, the four girls went off through the Cannon Building in search of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Instead they ran into musical artist John Legend and his fiancée.
Mawyer's trip to Washington didn't inspire a future in national politics, she said, but instead reinforced a vision for local politics. Part of the reason for Mawyer's invitation to the inauguration comes from her governor's school project of attempting to bring single-stream recycling to Gordonsville. This is the type of politics Mawyer said she hopes to pursue in her life.
"I'd definitely like to get into local politics," she said. "Mayor [Bob] Coiner has made several trips to Washington on behalf of Gordonsville and that's something I'd rather do-visit with a purpose."