An Event Planner's Worst Nightmare: Inaugural Edition

An Event Planner’s Worst Nightmare: Inaugural Edition

5 Times Throughout History the Presidential Inauguration Didn’t Go Quite According to Plan

The 2021 Inauguration is here. A day that changes history – and this year certainly is a big one. While everyone has their eyes on Capitol Hill, our event planner vision has us peeking behind the curtain.

It takes a lot to plan a presidential inauguration, and as every event producer knows, events of this scale don’t always go according to plan. We decided to take a fun look back at the epic fails (do people still say that?) from inaugural’s past, complete with some of our own experiences sprinkled in.

#5 – 1865: Andrew Johnson was Hammered at the Inauguration

???????? 1865. At the second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, Vice President-elect Andrew Johnson had the bright idea to manage a bout of typhoid fever with a giant jug of whiskey. He ended up absolutely hammered before the inauguration and was booted off the dais. (Sidebar: bummer social media wasn’t around back then, after leaving office, he’d have scored a sponsorship with EmergenC.) 

Decibel has produced hundreds of events over the years, and we have thankfully only encountered this scenario a handful of times. Most memorably at an award ceremony for a government agency helmed by a Cabinet-Level appointee.

One of the winners came in hot + over-served, and when it was time to accept their award, they hip-checked the Secretary and commandeered the mic to give an acceptance speech… even though no speeches were planned. ????

We needed to manage the situation with the least amount of disturbance. We queued up loud award music with our audio engineer, and ballyhoo with our lighting tech, and when the drunk awardee took a pause in remarks, we hit the cue, cut the mic, played the music, moved the lights, and our awesome ASM came out with the proverbial Vaudeville Hook maneuver to walk them offstage.

End result? Looked like it was planned. Yeah, we can handle that.

#4 – 1961: JFKs Lectern Catches Fire

???????? 1961: The inauguration of JFK. As the cardinal was mid-invocation, the podium caught fire. Turns out the electric motor used to adjust the podium’s height shorted out.

The fire was quickly extinguished by Secret Service, and the inauguration continued without further incident, but srsly, can you imagine that After Action report?!

Rest assured, when we say Decibel’s events are ????, we mean metaphorical fire…never, ever literal.

#3 – 1873: The Champagne & Canaries Froze

???????? 1873: This is a sad one. It was so damn cold at Ulysses S. Grant’s 2nd presidential inauguration in 1873, that the ‘celebratory canaries’ (yes, that was a thing), froze to death. ???? 

The 16 degree windy weather had the same impact on the ‘celebratory champagne.’ History books don’t attribute Grant’s frigid inaugural to the invention of frosé, but that’s a leap we’re willing to take. 

We’ve encountered our share of adverse weather, from the double hurricane that hit while we were managing a bus tour in Florida, to the time torrential storms in DC dumped so much rain that we had to slice the roofs off a few tents to avoid collapse under the weight. 

Decibel never compromises on safety, #period. We have developed a long-standing relationship with #WeatherDecisionTechnologies and have come to depend on their trusted, hyper-specific forecasting services. Through their team, we are assigned a dedicated meteorologist to stay on top of the situation for the total duration of our outdoor events.

Because if your event isn’t a success, neither are we. So yeah, we can handle that.

#2 – 1973: Nixon’s Bird Shit Remediation Greatly Backfires

???????? 1973: Understatement: Richard Nixon didn’t care for bird ????. So much so, that he asked the route be sprayed with chemical repellent. Reader: that was not the move. 

The poisonous chemicals resulted in a path covered with dead birds. (What is with dead birds & inaugurals??) 

Let’s be clear – Decibel Event Management is highly environmentally conscious, and we love birds and animals of all kinds. We haven’t – nor would we ever – use dangerous chemicals at our events, however, we have some experience with shit…the discourse kind.

One of our recent large-scale virtual events was free and open to the public, so our client understandably, wanted a profanity filter in place. We worked with their internal counsel and social team to develop a comprehensive list of profane words. 

The list not only included standard profanities, but also social media work-arounds (shit vs s h i t – with spaces). Turns out that when we imported the CSV, it uploaded each individually spaced letter as a curse word. In other words, every word that contained an “s” was blocked. ????

It took our team nearly 24 hours to trace back why we were blocking so many non-profane words, right in time for the event to go off without a hitch. So yeah, we can f****ng handle that.

#1 – 2021: Due to the Global Pandemic We Are (Mainly) Virtual Again

????????2021: Yup, we’re going virtual. Joe Biden’s parade will be the first ever virtual presidential inauguration parade, due to COVID-19. 

Inaugural planners say they’re going to celebrate America’s heroes, highlight Americans from all walks of life, and reflect the country’s diversity, heritage and resilience. 

We know first-hand that switching to virtual can create a new host of problems, but  know  that the Presidential Inaugural Committee shares in our ‘yeah, we can handle that’ attitude. 

Our advice to #prfirms #adagencies & #eventprofs: Tune in. Take notes. Democracy doesn’t wait, and we don’t either.

Bonus: Forklifts for Dead Horses

????????Bonus: This one is more of an urban legend, shared among #eventprofs in hushed tones…. 

Horses are a crowd favorite during the before-times’ presidential parade. But if one happened to pass away en route, everything could literally stop in its tracks. 

Event planners prepare for this heartbreaking scenario with two forklifts on standby, and the fervent wish they’re never needed. This is hardly a fun fact, and absolutely our worst nightmare, but yeah, we can handle it.