This post was written by reporters Dani Grace and Callie Schiffman.
People from across the country lined up for the Welcome Celebration for President-elect Donald Trump at the Lincoln Memorial down to the Washington Monument Thursday night.
Students, musicians and veterans alike gathered to watch performances from Sam Moore, Lee Greenwood and 3 Doors Down. Toby Keith closed the showcase and was followed by brief remarks from the president-elect himself.
“To the forgotten man and the forgotten woman, you are not forgotten anymore,” Trump said to a enthusiastic sea of red hats and American flags.
Chants of “USA” and “Trump” rang through the National Mall as the event came to a close with a display of red, white and blue fireworks.
While the crowd sang along to performances like Lee Greenwood’s rendition of “Proud to be an American,” those there mainly came to catch a glimpse of Trump himself.
Elisa Haley and her 13-year-old daughter came from Alabama to be a part of the event.
“We are part of America and we feel that this is a huge event in history, regardless of how you feel about it,” Haley said. “Everyone made this decision and everyone participates. The concert is just for fun.”
Andrea Rice, who drove to D.C. from Georgia, said while Trump wasn’t her first choice, she and others are excited and cautiously optimistic about the possibility for real change.
“It has been a long eight years for folks who are conservative,” Rice said. “It doesn’t seem like the kind of folks who are crazy fringe voters that everybody is being painted as. It seems that it is people who feel underrepresented or feel forgotten by the politicians of the past.”
Rice added that she felt it would have been odd to have celebrity performances instead of the smaller, less well known acts who were now getting a chance to showcase their talents.
“I love that fact that we’ve had a bunch of folks from the armed forces playing,” Rice said.
John Bradford, a Republican state representative for North Carolina, said he was excited to have his kids on the mall to see the first event of inauguration.
“This is obviously on the bucket list for many people, including me,” Bradford said. “I’m a patriot. I love the patriotic piece. Lee Greenwood is what does it for me. I love Three Doors Down and country music stars, but Lee Greenwood is sort of Americana.”
Emma Ekman and Ashley Belvis, two Republicans from West Potomac High School in Alexandria, said they were surprised at the lack of visible protest presence in the sea of red hats, but were most excited to see Keith’s performance.
Drew Miller, a student at the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University, said he journeyed to D.C. both for the historical experience and to show his support of Trump.
“This is a once in a lifetime event,” Miller said. “I’m hopeful that he will be a good president.”