As many as 800,000 people are expected to flock to National Mall Monday to see President Barack Obama publicly being sworn into office for the second and last time.
Among them are some Treasure Coast residents willing to brave the large crowd and low temperatures in Washington, D.C., for an opportunity to be part of history.
Some will go as families, others with their high school friends. A Gifford Middle School student will attend the inauguration as his 13th birthday gift.
This will be the first presidential inauguration for most of them. For those who were at Obama's swearing-in events in 2009, this could be the sequel to what they described as a day to celebrate the country's diversity.
Birthday with the president
Although he lives in a largely Republican county, Elliot Thomas still wore his "Vote for Obama" T-shirt to Gifford Middle School and glued a sticker about Barack Obama's support for gay rights on his school binder.
"I'm a strong supporter of gay rights and that got a few laughs," the Vero Beach resident said. "No one was mean, but people definitely didn't agree with where I was coming from."
Elliot is too young to vote. So he decided to support the president by volunteering in his campaign, going door-to-door, making phone calls and holding up signs on election day. The day Obama was declared the winner, he cut out the front page of the Press Journal and glued it on the back side of his binder.
When his mother, Joy Heath, found out Elliot's 13th birthday coincides with Obama's inauguration day, she decided his gift would be a four-day trip to Washington to watch the president's inauguration.
Elliot said he learned the difference between Democrats and Republicans after his father, Nick Thomas, unsuccessfully ran for county commission.
During the presidential election, Elliot started reading about the positions of Obama and Romney and decided he was more aligned with the president.
"I think being (at the inauguration) with all supporters gathering to support the big win is a good way to finish off a long campaign," he said.
Fort Pierce friends going together
Harriet Jenkins of Fort Pierce attended Barack Obama's first inauguration parade in 2009. After the event, she remembers standing at a tri-rail station shoulder to shoulder with people of different ethnicities.
"Everybody was just talking to each other," she said. "It was just amazing the diversity of the crowd that was there."
Jenkins, 52, is going back to Washington this year with seven longtime friends who couldn't go to the first inauguration. Some are flying while others are going on a charter bus.
She said the 2008 election was the first one she has ever followed so closely, watching all debates and taking notes. She did that again last year and voted for Obama.
"Because of the historicalness of the election, that's why I followed it as close as I did," said Jenkins, a behavior technician with the St. Lucie County School District.
Bernice Hasan grew up with Jenkins and couldn't attend the 2009 ceremony because she had to work. She hurt her back two months ago and had to stop working as a hospital business office manager. She had surgery two weeks ago and cannot walk or stand for a long period of time. But that did not stop her from booking her trip to the inauguration.
"Washington, D.C. is a place I always wanted to see because of the history," Hasan said. "I want to see Abraham Lincoln and now they have the Martin Luther King Jr. statue there. I'm excited more about that than anything."
Closest to the president
Of all Treasure Coast residents going to the inauguration, South Fork High School junior Blake Hicks might be the one sitting the closest to President Barack Obama.
Last year, the 16-year-old was nominated by his veterinary teacher to the National Society of High School Scholars, an international organization that highlights the accomplishments of high school students. His mother, Dawn, thought that just meant easier access to college scholarships — until he was invited to attend the inauguration.
Hicks lives in Hobe Sound and will be among about 200 students from all over the world — from countries like South Africa and Japan — who will go on the trip to Washington. He said they got seats close to front row.
Their schedule also includes a speech by Condoleezza Rice, a black-tie gala event and a tour of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
Hicks was nominated to the Society of High School Scholars because of his community involvement, he said. He is vice president of South Fork's Future Farmers of America chapter and is an honors student. He volunteers every Saturday at the Treasure Coast Humane Society and at the Wildlife Center on Sundays.
Hicks' mother set up a bank account to raise $3,500 for the inauguration trip. Donations came from friends, family and strangers who watched a segment about him on a local television channel recently.