WASHINGTON -- Lauchlin Kelly's mission was accomplished the moment Bill and Hillary Clinton strolled into view on 15th Street yesterday at the head of the 52nd inaugural parade and hung a left onto Pennsylvania Avenue.
Mr. Kelly had come to Washington from St. Mary's County with his daughters Heather, 14, Bridget, 12, and Kaitlin, 7, in tow "because I saw [Lyndon B.] Johnson's inauguration in 1964 and I wanted them to have the same experience."
President Clinton's gray hair glinted in the late-afternoon sun as he abandoned his limousine and leisurely walked the last three blocks to the White House, mostly hand in hand with his wife, past the Kelly family and the rest of a cheering, flag-waving crowd.
Thus the patriotic torch was passed to the next generation, from George Bush to Mr. Clinton, and from Lauchlin Kelly to his children (who declared the experience "neat").
Along the 1 1/2 -mile inaugural parade route, it was a day for U.S. traditions petty and profound -- snapping up political buttons and T-shirts, learning how to say "President Clinton" (without the "elect"), waiting hours in the chill for a glimpse of the man that many hope would change the United States.
Tim Bentley, an Atlanta insurance salesman and self-styled "yellow-dog Democrat," attended the last inauguration of a Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, in 1977, and he didn't want to miss this one.
"Believe it or not, this may sound a little silly, but I just came up to be a patriotic American," Mr. Bentley said. "This is very emotional for me. The word 'hope' sums it up."
In a gesture of political civility, Mr. Bentley bought a counter-Clinton button for his die-hard Republican boss in Atlanta. It was a picture of the White House with the slogan: "There goes the neighborhood."
Button-sellers Mary Jo Wilson and Karen Hollingshead, Republican schoolteachers from Columbus, Ohio, who set up shop on a downtown sidewalk, said most of their sales were to "Democrats buying for Republican friends back home."
Even the protests along the parade route were quite friendly.
"We're inhaling to the chief at noon tomorrow," said Caroljo Papac, a Californian advocate of legalized marijuana, at the edge of Lafayette Park. The park across from the White House was closed to its usual complement of anti-nuclear protesters and homeless people.
Another man carried a sign that read: "Prez Clinton -- Have a Big Mac -- Stop Bombing Iraq."
By noon, when Mr. Clinton took the oath of office, people stood half a dozen deep along the parade route from the Capitol to the White House.
The crowds hushed as huge speakers on Pennsylvania Avenue broadcast Mr. Clinton repeating, "I, William Jefferson Clinton, do solemnly swear . . . " Then they broke into cheers.
"I'm just overwhelmed, at a loss for words," said Gladys Walker, 55, a foster mother from Rockville. "I think he's going to do great things for the country."
Vincent Hammond, a 25-year-old in a Malcolm X hat, blew his saxophone -- the foremost Clinton symbol so far -- near the parade route. A U.S. flag stuck out of his sax case, which was open for donations.
"I made $500 yesterday and I'm planning on making $1,000 today," he said.
The parade itself started late and it was nearly 6 p.m. before Mr. Clinton left the reviewing stand to enter the White House for the first time as a resident. The crowd thinned out somewhat as soon as the parade-goers got their glimpse of the new president.
The inaugural parade included lesbians and Latinos, Navajo World War II code talkers and Samoan marchers, an Alaskan sled dog race champion and Elvis impersonators, an Indianapolis police motorcycle drill team and Texan trick riders on horseback.
But for all the generational change afoot in Washington and the baby boomers' desire to be different, the theme music was more Sousa than Motown.
More than two dozen high school and college bands -- led by the Hope (Ark.) High School Band from Mr. Clinton's birthplace and the Homestead (Fla.) Senior High School Band from the hurricane-ravaged town south of Miami -- as well as military bands of all descriptions played vintage parade music.
Just who should be invited to march in the parade was hotly debated. Some veteran marchers, such as the all-male cadets of the Virginia Military Institute and the 80-stallion equestrian team of Indiana's Culver Military Academy, were bumped, replaced by off-beat participants such as chain saw jugglers and the Precision Lawn Chair Demonstration Team.
Calling beer "the drug of choice for young Americans," the Center for Science in the Public Interest protested that the Budweiser Clydesdales would send a damaging message. But the inaugural committee deemed the one-ton white horses "a part of Americana," and there they were yesterday, pulling a beer wagon with the Budweiser logo.
Maryland marchers included the Montford Point Marine Association, of Baltimore; the Original 27 Flags, a marching unit of Dewey Loman Post 109 of the American Legion in Arbutus; eight members of the Maryland Special Olympics, and a black and white "donkey for change" from Potomac named Chester. As always, U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen from Annapolis also marched.
But the only marcher that mattered for many was Mr. Clinton. For every limo that rode down Pennsylvania Avenue with a police escort -- and there were many -- there was a child to ask: "Is Bill Clinton in there?"
Desiree Sherwood, 22, a college student from suburban Philadelphia, said it was worth waiting nearly six hours in the cold at curbside to see the man the T-shirts trumpeted (or saxophoned?) as "the cure for America's blues":
"Just Bill Clinton. I'm in love with him. I think he's handsome and wonderful."