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West Virginians attending inaugural festivities

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - More than a few residents of the 35th state will be in attendance today as Barack Obama publicly takes his oath to remain the 44th president of the United States.

Sissonville High School art teacher Harold Edwards, 59, of Charleston, departed for Washington as soon as school ended on Friday.

Today also is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so school is canceled.

"I'm a history fan and I go to D.C. probably once a month now, I like President Obama and it's kind of historic," he said.

Edwards planned to meet up with a friend, a Washington-based food writer, to attend a party in Arlington, Va. on Saturday night. Dubbed "Obamarama," the event features dancing and rockabilly music. Edwards said he was going to wear a tuxedo jacket, red-white-and-blue sequined bowtie, black jeans and cowboy boots.

Today, he will trade his cowboy boots for running shoes.

"I've been reading online, the city's going to basically be closed down, you need to expect to walk 2 or 3 miles," he said.

The swearing-in ceremony will begin at 11:30 a.m. today, featuring music by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce.

The traditional inaugural parade begins shortly after 2:30 p.m.

(Martin Luther King Day and inaugural observations in West Virginia.)

Laiken Sheppard, 18, of Milton, and 45 other Marshall University students also will see history in action.

The university's campus activity board organized a bus trip for students, offering them a two-day trip, including transportation and lodging for only $50.

"It was a pretty cool opportunity, I thought," Sheppard said. "It's something I couldn't pass up."

Students left Huntington on Sunday morning for Fredricksburg, Va., where they did some shopping at a local mall and stayed in a hotel. Students boarded buses at 4 a.m. this morning and were taken to a Metro station, where they caught the train into Washington.

Christina Caul-Jackson, Marshall's coordinator for student involvement, said she received a dozen tickets to the inauguration from Rep. Nick Rahall and Sen. Jay Rockefeller's offices. She planned to raffle off those tickets, which give attendees access to a special seating area closer to the events.

The rest of the students still will be able to watch the ceremony, however, thanks to big screens erected on the National Mall.

"You're' still going to be able to be there and feel the excitement," Caul-Jackson said. said.

Sheppard, who is studying criminal justice, said she saw Obama speak in Ohio four days before the Nov. 6 election. She said she's not a politics junkie, but enjoyed hearing the president speak and wanted to attend his second inauguration.

"Either way, whether you're for or against him, I think it's cool to see," she said. "I thought it would be something memorable that not a lot of people can do."

Following today's ceremony, Caul-Jackson said students would have a few hours to explore Washington before getting back on the bus for West Virginia.

She said it was important for the university to sponsor the trip because some students, and especially those who come from other countries, might not have another opportunity to visit Washington or attend an inauguration.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. They may or may not be able to do this again," she said. "It's an overall cultural, educational experience."

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or Follow him at


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