Snow, Wind Hamper Concert on Ellipse; but Not 'Too Cold to Celebrate'

Article excerpt

Byline: Jon Ward, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Thousands of people braved what one reveler called "painfully cold" temperatures and snowy, gridlocked streets yesterday to celebrate President Bush's re-election at a concert on the Ellipse amid tight security.

"No night is too cold to celebrate freedom," said President Bush, who spoke briefly before a fireworks display, and foreshadowed the theme of his inaugural address.

"We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom, and America will always be faithful to that cause," the president said.

For many, however, the 14-degree wind chill on the eve of the president's inauguration was hard to bear.

"It is just too cold for my niece," said Novella Cope, of Sacramento, Calif., who took the 10-year-old girl back out through Secret Service checkpoints to their hotel before the two-hour "Celebration of Freedom" had begun.

"We were excited to be here, but she's just miserable," Mrs. Cope said.

Security procedures also inconvenienced many.

Secret Service uniformed officers threatened to arrest a 16-year-old student for trying to bring a backpack into the event, even though a ban on large bags was enforced inconsistently, said Weston Clark, of Salt Lake City, an adult chaperone with the student's group.

The student was forced by officers to throw away his backpack and carry his belongings into the event in his arms.

The Secret Service listed large bags or backpacks as prohibited items on its Web site, but tickets distributed to the event said only that bags were subject to being searched.

"This has really been nothing but a joke since we got here," Mr. Clark said. "We try our best to bring students to the nation's capital and show them what an open city is like, and they're threatening our students with arrest."

The event was hosted by Ryan Seacrest, host of the popular TV show "American Idol," and featured a lineup of entertainers and public persons most familiar to country music and NASCAR fans.

Singers included country artist Kenny Chesney, opera tenor Andrea Bocelli and gospel performer Yolanda Adams, accompanied by the Eastern High School Choir of the District. The ceremony highlighted the country's space program and the service of the U. …