In a normal year, a presidential inauguration is a massive event that takes over pretty much all of Washington, D.C., flooding the streets with supporters (and, often, some protestors) and serving as an exhilarating celebration of either the arrival of a new administration or the continuation of an incumbent one. 2021, of course, is not a normal year. With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have instituted a series of strict safety protocols to protect potential attendees at their January 20 ceremony, which is themed "Our Determined Democracy: Forging a More Perfect Union."
As a result, the event will look completely different from past years', with most of it conducted virtually and attendance severely limited for all in-person portions of the day, with the Presidential Inaugural Committee taking cues from the mostly virtual Democratic National Convention last summer. Any drawbacks will, of course, be heavily outweighed by the benefits: namely, the health and safety of the country, as well as the lack of new material for a certain someone to use to (falsely) boast about the (small) crowd size at his own (sparsely attended) inauguration. The day's events will conclude with a virtual inauguration parade that will highlight Americans across the country—here's everything you need to know about the virtual celebration.
Details have yet to be finalized, but the virtual parade will likely kick off sometime in the early afternoon on January 20, around 2 or 3 p.m. ET, then continue for at least a few hours. The official swearing-in ceremony for both the incoming president and vice president typically begins around 11 a.m., followed by the new POTUS' inaugural address. The new leaders then perform a ceremonial inspection of the military, before being formally escorted from the Capitol to the White House, at which point the inaugural parade begins.
In contrast to inviting huge crowds to line Pennsylvania Avenue to take in the parade, the virtual event will "showcase President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris' steadfast commitment to a diverse, inclusive, and unified nation," while also "highlighting more of our nation's people than ever before," Tony Allen, CEO of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said in a Jan. 5 statement.
Though specific performers have yet to be announced, inaugural parades regularly include thousands of participants representing marching bands, dance troupes, military groups, and other organizations from across the U.S. The Biden-Harris PIC has confirmed that this tradition will continue, with musical acts, poets, dancers, and more performing virtually at the parade. And though celebrities usually pop up either to sing the National Anthem at the swearing-in or to serenade the First and Second Families at the dozens of inaugural balls across D.C., with those events either canceled or severely slimmed-down this year, its likely that we might see some of Biden and Harris' famous supporters Zoom into the parade to speak or perform instead.
Overall, according to the committee, "The parade will celebrate America's heroes, highlight Americans from all walks of life in different states and regions, and reflect on the diversity, heritage, and resilience of the country as we begin a new American era."
First and foremost, you'll be able to watch all of the events of the Biden-Harris inauguration live on every news channel (and plenty of non-news channels) all day on Jan. 20, and the inaugural committee will also be livestreaming the event online. If you want to get even more involved, the committee has released a collection of inauguration-themed social media graphics and Zoom backgrounds for all of your virtual inauguration party needs.
Additionally, the committee has issued a call for Americans to submit videos in which they discuss either the importance of community service or their visions for America. These videos will be posted on the committee's site and, presumably, may also be played throughout the virtual parade proceedings.
Keep an eye on this page in the final days leading up to Biden and Harris' inauguration—we'll be updating it with any further details about the events.
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Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.
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