Californians flocking to Washington for inauguration

It's a festive atmosphere while traveling back East

01/19/2009 1:21 AM

01/19/2009 1:21 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The security bins, overflowed with heavy coats and high boots, were packed tight on the conveyer belt. Their rounded edges formed a dull, grey chain link at the security lines in San Francisco International Airport on Sunday morning.

Inside, 36 people huddled around the ticket booth at Gate 86, waiting to get on a flight to Chicago, connecting to Washington, D.C.

Inaugural chatter flitted through the terminal.

The Boeing 767 outside only held 244 passengers; some would not make it on.

As the day wore on, standby lists grew larger as some of the one-million-plus expected spectators filed onto D.C.-bound flights.

Young men decked out in their Sunday best, women with long designer suit bags, and people of all walks decked out in Obama paraphernalia criss-crossed the busy terminal.

Among them were Cathy and Mike Aydelott, a married couple from the Bay Area city of San Carlos. He was wearing a red, white and blue checked dress shirt, she had on a navy blue Obama T-shirt and a red hooded sweatshirt.

The couple decided they would come to an Obama inauguration a week before the Nov. 4 elections. They waited to buy the tickets until Nov. 5, when the election was signed, sealed and delivered.

"We are very excited about the new administration and we wanted to be there to witness the change," Cathy Aydelott said.

Mike Aydelott was the 2008 chairman of the Democratic party campaign in San Mateo County.

"We have a personal stake in this," Mike said. "We were so involved in the campaign, coming to inauguration seemed like the right thing to do."

The Aydelotts' travel took nearly all day; they arrived in the airport before dawn, transferred flights in Chicago, and landed in D.C. after sunset.

On the connecting flight from D.C., the Obama fanfare became profoundly more pronounced. Seventy-six standby passengers waited for a seat on the 138-passenger A320 parked at Gate B8.

An elderly woman wearing a rhinestoned Obama baseball cap maneuvered the crowded aisle.

"I wonder who you voted for," another passenger remarked.

"You going to inauguration?" she responded.

Every head nearby shook yes.

Passengers Danna Foster and June Hibino struck up a conversation near the rear of the plane, in row 20.

Foster, a Chicago business executive, had a ticket for the Illinois Inaugural Gala. Hibino, a legal assistant from Los Angeles, had a ticket for the Hawaii Society Inaugural Ball.

Both of them decided to attend inaugural events just a week ago.

"I never thought I would have seen it in my lifetime," said Hibino, who canvassed for Obama in Nevada two times before the election. "I am looking forward to just being a part of the throngs, just being a part of the excitement and energy."

Hibino will stay in D.C. until Thursday and will attend the gala ball, swearing-in ceremony and a community service event before she leaves, she said.

Foster was beside herself with excitement.

"I am overly excited," Foster, 49, said. "I am looking forward to seeing the first African-American president sworn in, something I never thought would come to pass."

She will be leaving town after the Illinois gala, before the swearing-in ceremony, so she can get back to work.

Foster plans to wake up early and watch the event on TV Tuesday morning. But that doesn't matter.

"Just to know that I had a piece of history that is the excitement," Foster said. "Whether it is a day or just a moment."

Reporter Danielle Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dgaines@mercedsun-star.com.

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