The air was festive, with flags and buntings bedecking public buildings along the parade route and street vendors hawking huge buttons with Nixon's picture. One teen-age girl who stopped to buy a Nixon picture wore a button that said: "Wendell Willkie, he is our salvation and hope."
The threat of antiwar demonstrations also hung over the inaugural, and 2,000 soldiers and Marines were poised outside the city in event of trouble.
The President, confident he has secured a treaty for peace in Vietnam as his second term is about to begin, returned to Washington from Key Biscayne, Fla., Thursday night as the official inaugural festivities began.
Nixon spent several days in Florida working on the inaugural address he will deliver at noon EST Saturday after he is sworn in at the Capitol. Aides indicated the President would assert the nation is on the brink of a just and lasting peace in Vietnam, and would stress a period of conciliation in the postwar period.
As many as 15,000 persons jammed the three floors of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of History and Technology to shake the hand of Spiro T. Agnew at the special reception for the vice president which kicked off the four-day hoopla Thursday night.
Nixon arrived back in Washington too late to attend, but sent Mrs. Nixon and daughter Julie Eisenhower. His other daughter, Tricia Cox, who is in bed with the flu, could not make it.
After the Smithsonian reception, thousands more flocked to the Kennedy Center for "the Salute to the States," honoring state governors. Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Pat Boone highlighted the salute, and tickets-by special invitation only-ranged from $25 to $100.
Today Nixon attends his first of the events, saying 'thank you" to the ethnic Americans who helped build his landslide re-election victory in November. At his request, a special event, billed as "A Salute to America's Heritage," was instituted for the first time in the inaugural celebrations.
Co-hosts included Zsa Zsa Gabor, Sammy Davis Jr., and Lionel Hampton, but Davis was ill with the flu and was not expected to attend.
Later tonight are the inaugural concerts. Admission also is by invitation only, and the scheduled events for the Kennedy Center include an American Music Concert, a Youth Concert and the traditional Symphonic Concert, featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra and pianist Van Cliburn.
But antiwar protesters, undeterred by rumors of an impending peace settlement in Vietnam, have begun a series of demonstrations they have dubbed "an inauguration of conscience."