Obama's 2nd inauguration to be smaller, festive

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's second inauguration is shaping up as a high-energy celebration smaller than his first milestone swearing-in, yet with plenty of eye-catching glamour.

A long list of celebrity performers will give the rite of democratic passage the air of a star-studded concert.

The festive air starts with the bunting-draped west front of the Capitol, where Obama takes the oath Jan. 21, to the Washington Convention Center, which is expected to be packed with 40,000 ball-goers that evening.

The first family will lead a parade of clanging bands, elaborate floats and marchers, including costumed dancers, prancing horses and military units, down Pennsylvania Avenue.

The president will dance with the first lady, whose gown seems destined to be the most-anticipated fashion statement of the Obama administration's second term.

Estimates of turnout are 600,000 to 800,000, compared with the 1.8 million in the record crowd on the National Mall four years ago to see the swearing-in of the nation's first black president.

This 57th inauguration comes against the backdrop of a still-weak economy, high unemployment, the aftermath of the Connecticut elementary school shootings and the long war in Afghanistan.

Yet recent developments have shown that inaugural enthusiasm is high.

A limited offering of $60 inaugural ball tickets for the public sold out quickly, and planners have tried to crack down on the scalping business that's sprung up online.

The impressive list of celebrities who have signed on to perform includes Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Usher.

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While organizers said Obama was cutting back the number of balls from 10 last time to just two this year, The Associated Press has learned that they are expecting more than 35,000 to attend the larger of the two and 4,000 at a ball to honor U.S. troops -- double the size of 2009's.

Another factor that could increase turnout is the unseasonably warm weather in Washington. Early forecasts indicate that Obama will be taking the oath of office while the temperature is in the 40s, with little chance of precipitation.

Steve Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said that just because the festivities will be smaller doesn't mean they will be any less significant.

"What we've been seeing from the very beginning is a passion and energy for this inaugural because people want to be a part of history," Kerrigan said. "This is a moment that's only happened 56 other times."

Obama's speech gives him a moment to command the world's attention on a level that's rare even for a president.

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If history is any guide, Obama will try to put the divisive election behind the nation. He has the State of the Union three weeks later to make his points on taxes, guns, immigration and other issues.

It's a good bet this day will be a patriotic love letter to America.

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