The likelihood of my family being invited to the presidential inauguration or the inaugural ball has a chance close to uh … zero! I also don’t see us joining the crowd of 800,000 on the parade route tomorrow. Instead, we will relive the inauguration festivities through memories of our visit to the American Celebration on Parade at Shenandoah Caverns, which is the world’s largest float museum. One of the highlights of this massive museum is Freedom Hall and it offers a unique tribute to the tradition of Presidential Inaugurals that mark the beginning of a new term in office.
My son and I checked out the exhibition of famous parade floats from the Rose Parade, Presidential Inaugurals, Thanksgiving parades and other prestigious parades a couple of years ago. We were able to see six parade floats from past Presidential Inaugurals including the 55-foot long American flag float that has been part of five inauguration parades including President Obama’s first inaugural parade four years ago. Apparently this float is pretty popular. Not only did we stand on the same float as good ole Bob Hope and Uncle Sam, but it seems that beauty queens also rode this float in the Miss America Pageant Parade. After learning that little tidbit, I practiced my Miss America wave on every sparkly float that was nearby as my son pretended he was Ferris Bueller!
My parents were with my son and I when we visited and my Dad had a great time acting like a kid and playing in front of the presidential props. The 2009 Presidential Seal used as the backdrop at the Neighborhood Ball was on display as well as the podium that President Obama used for the swearing-in ceremony. It was pretty cool to stand where the President stood and my Dad really got into it as you can see from the picture below.
In addition to the famous floats and props, the exhibit also featured memorabilia ranging from program banners, invitations, tickets and items used in the VIP boxes at the Inaugural Balls. Sketches of President Nixon’s VIP Box for the Inaugural ball and a sketch of a float from the 1993 Inaugural parade were also on display. There was a lot of historical photographs as well as interactive touch screens which always makes spending time in a museum more fun, especially for kids. We were also able to test our inaugural knowledge by doing an interactive test based on the information in the exhibit. Thankfully it was open book, so we passed.
Our visit to American Celebration on Parade at Shenandoah Caverns was an unexpected surprise. We were there to check out the caverns and ended up taking in one unique experience. Seriously, who knew that there was even a place that could be called the world’s largest parade float museum? If I did know, I would have guessed it would have been in New Orleans with all the Mardi Gras floats, but no it is next door to a cavern! To top it off, it was filled with political history and we discovered there really is no other place where you can stand on large floats and behind inaugural props to relive the excitement where famous Americans have stood. American Celebration on Parade offers tours and scheduled musical entertainment and makes a fun family outing, so next time you are traveling on I-81 through Virginia make sure you check out this entertaining and educational roadside attraction. Admission is part of a combination ticket that also includes touring the Caverns and Main Street of Yesteryear.