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Austin, Priceville groups to be in Riley parade

By M.J. Ellington (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Two area high school bands, a junior ROTC unit and a local country music group will be a part of the festivities for Gov. Bob Riley's second inauguration.

Jeff Whitlow and the Old Barn Band will play Jan. 12 at the private Boots and Bar-B-Que Inaugural Kick-Off party at the governor's mansion. Whitlow and his band performed at a local fundraiser during Riley's campaign and wrote a song, "Headin' to Montgomery Again," about the campaign.

On inauguration day, Jan. 15, the Austin High and Priceville High bands will join 42 other state high school and college bands to perform in the inauguration parade.

Austin High's 130-member junior ROTC unit also will march in the parade.

Riley's inaugural committee chairman, Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said Wednesday that the governor's second inauguration will be "scaled back considerably from the first" at the governor's request. "But it is historic and will be a quality event," he said.

"The inauguration theme of 'Believe in Alabama,' recognizes Gov. Riley's trademark optimism and the great strides our state has made in so many areas in four short years," Hubbard said.

While this year's celebration will have fewer events, Hubbard said the parade will be bigger, with 96 bands, floats and vehicles, compared to 74 in the 2003 parade.

Riley and other constitutional officers, including Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., will be sworn into office in a ceremony at noon Jan. 15 on the Capitol steps. The parade follows at 1:30 p.m. As of Wednesday, Hubbard said he did not know who would swear the governor into office.

If Riley follows precedent, he will be sworn in using the same Bible that Jefferson Davis used when he became president of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery in 1861. Every Alabama governor since then has used the Davis Bible.

More country music will headline the inaugural ball. Sara Evans, 2006 Country Music Female Vocalist of the Year, will perform at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. The Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, the Sweet Young'uns of Tallassee and the Tip-Tips of Mobile also will perform.

For the first time, the inaugural ball will not be in Montgomery. The Montgomery Civic Center, the site of Riley's first inaugural ball, is closed because of construction and expansion. The state-owned Garrett Coliseum is not centrally heated and cooled and does not have enough seating. The Acadome at Alabama State University also lacks sufficient seating and is used for basketball games at the university.

Hubbard said the committee looked into renting a floored, heated and cooled tent building with kitchen and restrooms at Blount Cultural Park in Montgomery, but the governor vetoed the $300,000 price tag.

Hubbard said the inauguration committee uses no state funds and must raise funds for inaugural events.

The inauguration ceremony and parade are free to the public, but the ball and an early morning breakfast, which costs $25 per person, are not. The Rev. Dan Ireland, who heads Alabama Citizens Action Program, will speak at the breakfast. The Voices of Mobile ensemble from the University of Mobile will sing.

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