Pomp and Pomposity

While the pageantry of Bill Ritter’s inauguration went off without a hitch yesterday, the behavior of some in the crowd was not as splendid.

A rundown of the ceremony:

A thousand or so onlookers gathered near the west steps of the Capitol building in the cold but sunny morning. VIP’s and early birds scored bleacher seats, but the rest of us common folk were left jockeying for a decent vantage point. Dirty looks flew as one person would block the view of many others, and I witnessed at least one shouting match. Things settled down for a while once the ceremony began.

  After all the local dignitaries were escorted in, Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff kicked off the inauguration with short speeches, both hailing the wonder of a peaceful change of power. The Rev. Dr. James Peters Jr. gave the Invocation, and members of the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes gave Native American blessings.

Then, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Mary Mullarkey swore in new members of the State Board of Education, CU Board of Regents, Secretary of State Mike Coffman, Treasurer Cary Kennedy and Attorney General John Suthers.

Outgoing Governor Bill Owens spoke, reflecting on democracy and his time in public office.

“I truly believe I’ve been governor of the best state in the best country in the world,” Owens said.

His wife, Frances, was presented with a bouquet of red roses, symbolizing her love for the people of Colorado or something like that.

The West High School Lariat Choir performed “America the Beautiful.”

Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien took her oath of office. She spoke briefly, thanking her family and pledging to work every day to fulfill her promise to Coloradans.

After Ritter took his oath, onlookers were treated to a rather bizarre 19-gun salute by Ft. Carson soldiers. All that was visible from the audience was a plume of smoke that wafted off the hill toward downtown. Also, it made some children cry.

It wasn’t until Ritter began his 15-minute speech that some in the crowd began behaving badly. One woman had somehow thought it appropriate to bring two small toddlers and an infant in a baby stroller. Both toddlers began wailing as Ritter delivered his address. Not a moment after they quieted down, a cell phone rang and a woman answered it. People nearby stared in disbelief as Ritter’s voice faded into the background and we all heard the woman’s conversation, which went something like this:

“Hello? Oh hi…how’ve you been?…Cool. That’s so cool.” And so on.

After Ritter’s address, the CSU Chamber Singers performed a barely audible version of “Where the Columbines Grow.”

By this point, onlookers were growing restless. But soon their whispering turned to oohs and aahs as a pair of F-16 fighter jets flew overhead.

To close the ceremony, Rabbi Steven Foster gave the Benediction and Fitz-Gerald gave some brief closing remarks.

Luckily, crowd members avoided pushing and shoving as they left the lawn. Maybe it was all the armed soldiers.

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