By Sonya Vartabedian
---- — BYFIELD — They may not have made it to Washington, D.C. But a group of local Democrats was intent on not missing out on the pomp and circumstance surrounding Inauguration Day yesterday.
So at 11 a.m., about 20 or so people began filing into Bill and Gillian and Danner’s Byfield barn for the couple’s first Inauguration Watch Party.
The crowd, ranging in age from a couple 9-year-olds and a few teenagers well into adulthood, took their seats in the 50-foot-long barn and directed their attention to the 10-by-20-foot, theater-style projection screen with surround sound at one end.
Together, they cheered the first family’s arrival, bowed their heads during the invocation and listened intently as the president set the tenor for his second term in office.
The viewing was a follow-up to one the Danners held last year for the Democratic National Convention after seeing the idea online. That first one drew about 30 to 35 people.
“We were so fascinated in the enjoyment people took in one another’s company,” Gillian Danner said. “People were so enthusiastic, so pleased to be watching this together. They were applauding and cheering at lines in the speech. We thought, `This is New England. New Englanders don’t do this.’”
A self-described staunch Democrat, Gillian Danner was born in Canada and she and her husband lived in California for many years before coming to the East Coast.
Invitations for yesterday’s viewing party went out to members of area Democratic Town Committees. Attendees were given name tags and enjoyed a pot luck lunch of lasagna, salad and other dishes following the swearing-in ceremony. Many spent the afternoon, staying on to watch the president and vice president and their families in the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Nancy Weinberg, chairwoman of the Newbury Democratic Town Committee, was among those in attendance. She traveled to Washington, D.C., for Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. This time around, she chose to stay home, and was grateful to be able to watch the ceremony with friends.
Not one who tends to get emotional, Gillian Danner said Obama’s speech choked her up a couple times. She was also quite taken with the poem delivered by Richard Blanco, the first Latino and openly gay poet to recite original verse at the inauguration of a president.
“As someone pointed out, there’s a clear sense of both pageantry and custom with the inauguration,” Danner said. “For a relatively young nation, it shows that the pageantry matters and continues to matter and it gives the world more of a sense of who we are.”