WASHINGTON – Swaddled in commemorative gear, a tall woman from California sifts through hundreds of political buttons arranged neatly on a table inside the Presidential Inaugural Committee store in downtown D.C.
Bleary-eyed from a cross-country red-eye flight, Tamela Cash-Curry and her two friends furiously fish for the perfect accessory: An “I love Bo” button.
“I have a dog at home and I love him, so I love Bo!” Cash-Curry squeals as she rummages through her presidential swag. “He’s precious.”
Cash-Curry is not new to inauguration fever. She flew out from Southern California four years ago to attend President Barack Obama’s first swearing-in. But even though she’s already experienced the excitement, she expects this weekend to be just as memorable.
“The thing that is going to make this really, really special is that the swearing-in is actually on Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday,” she says. “That, to me, is what made me decide I have to be here. It’s historic.”
D.C. resident Silvia Keys sees this weekend as an affirmation of the country’s support for the president.
“I think it’s going to be different [than it was in 2009], but it’s still going to be wonderful,” she says. “It will be like closure – not just a one-shot deal.”
Throughout the store, shoppers from all over the world gather to claim their inauguration swag. Official wine glasses, T-shirts, posters, blankets, bags and even golf accessories litter the interior like an Obama-themed holiday party.
One customer even braved a 20-plus hour flight from Syndey, Australia to catch the festivities.
“Some of the glasses look nice,” Andrew Jackson says as he peruses the tumblers and mugs.
“Obama is such a good orator, this is bound to be a good speech,” he says of Monday’s ceremony. “It’s something really special to be able to say you were there for.”
Across the store, Nathan Johnston from St. Louis takes inventory of his new purchases: A teddy bear for his daughter, a T-shirt for his son and pint glasses for himself and his wife.
A high school teacher, Johnston is chaperoning a group of juniors to their first inauguration.
“They’re getting close to being able to make these type of decisions for themselves,” he says. “You can definitely see that some of them are engaged in the process and getting even more engaged.”
For some, inauguration weekend is about more than just celebrating the next president.
In between sightseeing and memorabilia shopping, Alice Katocs of Sarasota, Fla., plans to catch up with her former college roommate and visit her grandfather, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was a World War II Marine and Purple Heart recipient, she says.
This is Katocs’ second inauguration — she and her husband went to President Bill Clinton’s second swearing-in and saw him play the saxophone on stage — and they plan to do things a little differently this time around. No galas and no late nights, she says.
On the big day, she and her husband will wake up at sunrise and make the trek to the National Mall to catch sight of the president and first lady.
And when the crowds disperse and the after-parties begin?
“We’re going home and thawing out,” she says.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee store is located at 1155 F St. NW between 11th and F streets in downtown D.C. You can also buy official memorabilia online here.