Mary Bardone felt right at home as she and her husband Bill Platte sat less than 300 feet from the podium where George W. Bush was sworn in as president of the United States.
"It was typical Juneau weather - a little gray, a little windy, a little drizzly," said Bardone, 58, a Juneau psychotherapist.
Bardone has a 40-year acquaintance with Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, dating back to when the two women attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colo., during the early 1960s. That connection led to Bardone and her husband Bill Platte being among the scores of Alaska residents attending inauguration activities.
Four-time Iditarod winner Susan Butcher was there, marching in the parade with one of her sled dog teams. Randy Ruedrich, state Republican Party chairman, was there with his wife Gloria.
"It was a very impressive inaugural ceremony today," Ruedrich, an Anchorage resident, said from his hotel room early Saturday evening.
"Hundreds of thousands of people were out in light rain. Everybody appeared to be intent on the ceremony, and I saw many people as they were leaving deeply moved - very pleased to have participated and almost having forgotten about the weather."
Bardone said she was surrounded by notables - apprently CEOs - and could see Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles among the congressional members, governors and judiciary officials seated on the platform behind Bush.
"When the Supreme Court came in everybody clapped very loudly, which I thought was interesting," she said. A 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court's justices effectively awarded Bush the election by preventing a recount of critical votes in Florida.
Bardone said she could see Bush easily without binoculars as he delivered his inaugural speech. That was followed by a picnic and the inaugural parade. Bardone said she saw a number of protesters, but they appeared to be mostly respectful - and she was glad of their presence.
"It was such a contested election I think it's important someone was there remarking on what a contested election it was," she said.
That doesn't mean Bush supporters want to take anything away from his victory.
"The press is continuing to talk about a 'lack of mandate,'" Ruedrich said. "When you consider that (candidate Bush) received almost 49 percent of the vote as opposed to Mr. Clinton's mandate in the low 40s in 1992, I don't understand why they are saying this presidency isn't going to work. I expect (the Republicans) to accomplish many things in the first two years, just as Clinton did," he added. "I expect a lot of legislation will be signed and will deal with real issues."
As he spoke, Ruedrich was preparing to head for one of Washington's eight inaugural balls, the one hosting seven states, including Alaska and Alabama. All the balls were expected to have what he called a "homogeneous content."
Ruedrich said he glimpsed or chatted with many other Alaskans during the day's festivities, including George Ahmoak of the North Slope Borough; Art Hackey, Bush's campaign chair from Anchorage; Bill J. Allen, CEO of VECO, who cast one of Alaska's three electoral college votes for Bush; Bill Sharrow of Sen. Ted Stevens' Anchorage office; Edith Holmes of Fairbanks; John and Victoria Hill of Fairbanks; Anchorage Mayor George Wuerch and his wife Brenda; Alaska State Senate President Rick Halford; and Bob Penney of Anchorage.
"I think it's a wonderful event and I look forward to the next four years of a government that we in Alaska should be able to work with and benefit from policies that will allow Alaska to prosper," Ruedrich said.
Bardone and her husband arrived Thursday in Washington, D.C., as part of the 450-member group Cheney Friends and Family. They attended several events, traveling on police-escorted buses, where the security-imposed routine had a predictable sameness.
"You have to get to these things two hours ahead of time, then you wait for two hours," she said.
Among the events Bardone attended were first lady Laura Bush's salute to American authors on Friday and Dick Cheney's salute to veterans later that day. They also attended the Wyoming Society Ball on Friday night and were planning to be among up to 12,000 people attending the Wyoming-Texas ball Saturday night.
"They've been feeding us three meals a day. We haven't had to pay for anything since we've been here," she added, noting inauguration festivities are costing an estimated $35 million.
Bardone and her husband are going to a farewell reception at the vice president's home today, where she hopes to exchange her first words with her old college friend Lynne Cheney and the new vice president.
"We've seen then at many venues, but haven't been able to shake hands with anybody," Bardone said.
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