A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Prepping for the Presidential Inauguration

By Beth Kormanik January 17, 2013, 6:35 PM EST

Hargrove produces hundreds of presidential and inauguration seals using a variety of materials. Some of the pieces bearing the coat of arms will become a three-dimensional seal used in the staging decor.

Photo: Courtesy of Hargrove/Foto Briceno

It's no surprise preparing Washington for President Obama's official inauguration events scheduled for Monday takes more than planning. Pulling it off takes extra staff, long hours, and specialized equipment—all on a tight turnaround schedule that officially begins election night.

It's easier, of course, if one has experience working the once-every-four-years event, as Hargrove does. The company's history with presidential inaugurations stretches back to President Harry Truman's second inauguration in 1949. For Obama's second inauguration this weekend, the trade show, exhibit, and event production company is working on the two official balls from the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the committee's candlelight dinner at the National Building Museum, the Kids Inaugural, the official parade floats, and nine unofficial events.

All told, it takes more than 60,000 feet of lumber, 300 gallons of paint, and 70,000 square feet of graphics. All 250 full-time employees get involved in the project, along with 70 temporary workers hired specifically to work on the inauguration. While some pieces never change—the presidential seal, for instance—Hargrove does add its own design touches. In 2009, a petal motif surrounded the seal, and this year the company will reveal something new.

“We start thinking and planning for the inauguration well before the election,” said Hargrove's Lana Ostrander. “We begin to think through the design process, and we do that for both candidates, so when the candidate is elected we're able to move into gear rather quickly.”

Another company returning for this year's inauguration is GoVision, which is providing the LED screens that will flank the stage at the U.S. Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony and set up around the National Mall. The Dallas-area company also will provide signal distribution to all of the screens. It will be the company's third inauguration.

“In the live show world, there is not a lot of room for error,” said GoVision president Chris Curtis. “It's not like you get a second chance. The pressure is on, especially with an inauguration and the whole world watching.”

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