They came from all around the world to witness the spectacle of the 57th Presidential Inauguration and they all wanted something to take home with them, a reminder of the time they spent witnessing the swearing in of President Obama and the activities surrounding the event.
Those who could provide them a slice of the inauguration came too, plying their wares on Washington city street corners and on the National Mall.
“Pictures and memories are great, but the memorabilia are tangible keepsakes that show proof of the experience,” said vendor Jerrod Keith, 26, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who sold “I Was Here” buttons and collectible dimes with Obama’s image on the face.
There were a multitude of vendors and stacks and stacks of products to help proud American citizens and visitors to the nation’s capital to remember the historical event. There were calendars and T-shirts with pictures of President Obama and late civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. The inauguration coincided with the annual celebration of King’s birthday.
Justin Anderson, 13, of Silver Spring, bought souvenirs to remember his day viewing the parade with his father. “My favorite items were the T-shirts with the Obama family on it,” he said.
Bernice Stafford-Turner traveled all the way from Richmond, Va., to sell her souvenirs. She set up her stand on the National Mall not far from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and laid out her buttons depicting individual images of President Obama and the first lady, family portraits of the Obamas and images from the swearing in. Back in Richmond, Stafford-Turner practices law. She is currently establishing the first issue of a law magazine which will be called Attorney At Law.
“I sell history on a button,” Stafford-Turner shouted proudly from her place on the National Mall. “The pictures tell the story and the history.”
Jesse Meyerson traveled to Washington as a representative of the Harlem, N.Y.-based company he works for called Say it with a Condom. His Obama condoms got mixed reviews.
“People kept surrounding me to take pictures. At one point I couldn’t sell any condoms for 10 minutes,” Meyerson said. The company started selling Obama condoms during the first inauguration in 2009.
Vendors said they traveled from all over the nation for the opportunity to participate, as well as to make money.
“Being able to talk to all of these people is making this experience for me,” says Ian James, 32, a graphic designer who traveled from Jacksonville, Fla., to sell his hoodies.
Rachel Bennett and Emily Dirienzo sold handmade knitted scarves and hats with the image of the American flag. They traveled from the Williamsburg community in Brooklyn, N.Y. early on Jan. 21 to be present at the inaugural celebration.
The vendors said they came up with the idea for the flag hats and scarves from a crafts festival they attended back home. Bennett also sells her knitted items online.
The scarves take about six hours to knit while the hats take about an hour and a half, they said.
Though there were many vendors selling products, the hot ticket appeared to be T-shirts. As the festivities began to wind down, many people who had converged on the mall were desperately searching for Obama T-shirts.