A group of Idaho firefighters gathered under the early morning sun in the parking lot of a Marriott hotel in Maryland Sunday. But they weren't practicing firefighting; they were marching.
In their final rehearsal before Monday's inaugural parade celebrating the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, the members of the Professional Firefighters of Idaho's pipes and drums corps—which includes bagpipers, drummers and the honor guard—lined up and marched up and down the aisles of the hotel's lot as hotel guests and neighbors looked on.
After undergoing background checks, a total of 27 Idaho firefighters from all over Idaho traveled to the Washington, D.C., area to represent Idaho in Monday's festivities.
"It hit me when were were in front of the White House yesterday looking at the blue line for us to follow," said 35-year-old Eagle firefighter Rob Shoplock. It wasn't until that moment that Shoplock realized the magnitude of the event and the size of the audience they'd be planning for.
Shoplock, who is also the executive vice president of the Professional Firefighters of Idaho and lobbies on its behalf, was approached by Idaho Democratic Party head Sally Boynton Brown to march in a parade.
"I agreed thinking it was Capital Boulevard in Boise," joked Shoplock. The next day, he said, he opened his email inbox to find correspondence from the Secret Service. Shoplock then called Mike Menlove, who went to work putting together the band from all over the state.
For some members of the group, this trip is the first time they've been to D.C. Ucon firefighter Mark Henderson, who is a member of the honor guard, is visiting for the first time and said it was humbling to walk down the street where the band will play.
Others in the group are used to playing for thousands. Marcus Rainey, a 12-year veteran the Boise Fire Department and bass player in the corps, travels to Savannah, Ga., every year to play for as many as 10,000 people for St. Patrick's Day. Rainey, who voted for Obama, said he hopes that in his next term the president will refrain from putting gun control in Congressional hands and will continue to support union rights and labor.
"We're all good union men here, and we support him," said Rainey.
When Boise Weekly first interviewed the firefighters about their inaugural performance, however, Menlove noted that it's not about politics.
"This parade isn't about Republican, Democrat, Independents or Tea Parties. It's about America and our country and our patriotism," he said.