The Big Day on the National Mall has come and gone, thankfully without major incidents. The National Park Service has compiled a few behind-the-scenes facts and figures, but contrary to published reports, there won't be an official estimate of the crowd from that agency.
Guest Services, Inc., the NPS’ concessioner and partner for food sales on the National Mall, sold the following items between Sunday, January 18th, and Tuesday, January 20th: 140,000 kosher hotdogs; 15,000 sandwiches; 100,000 bottles/cans of soda and water; 130,000 cups of hot chocolate; and 50,000 Italian sausages.
There was no mention of whether Tums were also available, but in view of the above menu, if they weren't, someone missed an opportunity.
While the above sales may amount to a mini-economic stimulus package, the big crowd left more than a few literal packages behind.
The National Park Service with the cooperation of the Presidential Inaugural Committee and volunteers cleared the National Mall of 95 to 100 tons of debris starting at 8 p.m. the night of the 20th, leaving the Mall clean by morning. Blankets, sleeping bags, folding lawn chairs and coolers had been left on the National Mall.
There were reportedly few significant medical issues, but event organizers were well-prepared. Through a five-part partnership among the National Park Service, the D.C. Department of Health, the American Red Cross, the Department of Health and Human Services and D.C. Fire Department, 16 First Aid tents were staffed on the National Mall. Altogether, they assisted 3,240 patients. There were no details available concerning any possible correlation between those patients and the consumption of sausages or hotdogs.
Opportunities for visitor education and interpretation at the event weren't lost.
Park rangers presented over 250 interpretive talks from January 16th through January 20th to over 8,500 visitors at parks throughout the region. Talks were specially designed to connect visitors to presidential history. Park staffs contacted over 363,000 visitors throughout the region (not just the National Mall) on January 20th alone.
Public and media interest in the size of the crowd was high, and there were published reports in a number of major outlets claiming that the NPS was going to reverse a policy that prohibits "official" crowd estimates by the agency. The NPS put those rumors to rest with the following tactfully-worded statement:
Today’s Washington Post analysis of the inauguration of President Barack Obama contains an estimate of the crowd on the National Mall – 1.8 million
It was an incredible day for the nation, including the men and women of the National Park Service who supported inaugural activities.
The National Park Service does not contest the crowd estimate and will use the figure of 1.8 million attendees when we refer to the inaugural in the
Since 1997 the National Park Service and the U.S. Park Police have operated under Congressional restrictions related to crowd counting in Washington,
DC since 1997. The House of Representatives Report 104-625 – Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 1997, contained the
“The Committee has provided no funding for crowd counting activities associated with gatherings held on federal property in Washington, D.C. If event organizers wish to have an estimate on the number of people participating in their event, then those organizers should hire a private sector firm to conduct the count.”
In case you missed the background on this issue, the question of NPS crowd estimates for events in Washington, D.C. dates back to the October 1995 "Million Man March." Using long-established procedures, the agency pegged attendance at that event at 400,000—a figure guaranteed to raise the ire of organizers.
The political fall-out from that affair led to the 1997 congressional restrictions on NPS crowd estimates that still stands today.
Trivia fans can take heart, however—it's apparently still politically correct to report on the number of hot dogs and polish sausages sold on NPS property.