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Minnesota State University Moorhead students, from left, Allen Kempf, Dara Smith, Allan Branstiter and Sarah Crawford pile into a van before departing Friday morning for the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. (David Samson/The Forum)

Area residents flocking to see president-elect Obama's inauguration

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Area residents flocking to see president-elect Obama's inauguration
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

MOORHEAD - Sarah Crawford's 3,000-mile van ride to Washington began with bake sales and a burger cookout - fundraisers so she and 17 fellow students at Minnesota State University Moorhead can be witnesses to history.

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Crawford and the others will be among the more than 1 million spectators expected Tuesday for President-elect Barack Obama's presidential inauguration in Washington.

The group from MSUM are among hundreds of people from the area who will witness the swearing-in of the first African-American president in the nation's history.

"We are going mainly because we just wanted to be part of history, just wanted to be at the heart of it," said Crawford, a senior from Sisseton, S.D., majoring in psychology.

The chance to be present to watch history unfold also motivates Jamie and Catie Garvey of Fargo to make the civic pilgrimage.

"I want to be able to say I was there in 50 years," said Jamie Garvey, a 30-year-old Fargo firefighter and newcomer to political involvement in last year's election.

"It was just an exciting election season, it really was," he said. "I am very impressed. I was very surprised that we elected a black man, that our nation was ready for that. That's very exciting for me."

The Garveys will be staying with friends, and his sister bought them a gift certificate at a Lebanese restaurant to help defray the cost of the trip.

"I'm doing it absolutely on the cheap," Jamie Garvey said.

So are Crawford and the others from MSUM, who have made arrangements to stay at a Presbyterian Church near Capitol Hill, just four blocks from the inauguration site at the Capitol. Thanks to donations and fundraising sales, their cost per person will be about $250.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, a self-described history buff, will be another face in the crowd at the inauguration. He's one of about 500 North Dakota residents who obtained tickets from the congressional delegation to watch the 44th president take the oath of office.

Walaker will be attending a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting this weekend, and elected to extend his stay to witness the inauguration, located several blocks from his hotel.

"I've always been a student of history," said the mayor, who caught one of President George W. Bush's State of the Union speeches several years ago but will be seeing his first inauguration.

"I don't know how I'm going to deal with the 1½ to 2 million people," he added. "It should be interesting."

Dan Hannaher of Fargo, who served as North Dakota chairman of Obama's presidential campaign, will be attending his third inauguration. He watched both of President Bill Clinton's swearing-in ceremonies, each attended by an estimated 300,000 spectators.

"The size of the crowds is pretty imposing," Hannaher said. Still, he decided he couldn't stay away.

"Barack Obama is the most remarkable public figure of my lifetime," he said. "I just think he's the right man for our times. I feel a personal pride as well."

Libby Schneider, a Fargo native who just moved to Washington, has tickets to both the inauguration and the Obama Youth Ball, which will be broadcast by MTV.

"That'll be pretty neat," said Schneider, who hopes the newly inaugurated president will make a stop at the ball, since young voters supported him in large numbers.

"This is kind of his base," Schneider said. "These are the people who helped get him elected."

Diane Rustad of Moorhead was one of the winners of a lottery drawing by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to allow Minnesotans to get tickets for the inauguration.

Klobuchar, Minnesota's lone U.S. senator until the recount between Al Franken and Norm Coleman is resolved, will be hosting an open house Monday at her office, featuring foods from Minnesota, including Potica from the Iron Range and Spam Puffs from Austin.

The North Dakota congressional delegation - Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan as well as Rep. Earl Pomeroy - will host a reception for North Dakota inauguration guests.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., distributed 197 tickets to constituents in the 7th District.

Peterson's chief of staff, Mark Brownell, who oversaw distribution of the tickets, plans to be working in his office during the inauguration.

"I'll be watching it on TV, just like most of America," he said.

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