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Montanans head to D.C. for Trump’s inauguration

January 17, 2017 GMT

Donald Trump becomes president of the United States on Friday, and Helena native Mark Fisher plans to be there.

Fisher is bringing a camera, a heavy coat and quite possibly a stopper, which will play a part in Fisher’s photo’s essay about “draining the swamp,” a play on Trump’s promise to upend DC politics.

“We’re going to support a change in the government,” Fisher told The Gazette. “We’re going to help drain the swamp.”

The tickets to the inauguration came from U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont. Fisher moved to Florida a few years back. He’ll be meeting up with his daughter, Amy, who is traveling from Helena.

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Amy scored the tickets, Fisher said. Once a staffer for former Republican Montana Sen. Conrad Burns, Amy still has a few connections, which she called upon.

Members of the House and Senate collectively distribute about 250,000 tickets. Daines told The Gazette in December that ticket interest among Montanans was pretty strong. Montana’s lone Congressman Ryan Zinke reported the same. Zinke could be leading the Department of Interior on Inauguration Day, having been confirmed by the Senate earlier in the week.

Democrat Jon Tester, Montana’s senior senator, still had tickets Friday when he was visiting Billings. Tester offered his wife’s seat to one woman who said she was traveling to DC, not for the inauguration, but for the woman’s march the following day in protest of Trump’s presidency.

The seat was 16 rows up from the swearing in, Tester said. Tester will be at Trump’s swearing in but will skip the parade, at which he said he nearly froze to death in 2008.

Daines was the easy source for last-minute tickets in 2013. He offered tickets within plain viewing distance of the ceremony to one Billings family who contacted him one week before President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Initial estimates put the inauguration attendance a 600,000 to 800,000 people, roughly the same size as Obama’s second inauguration. Obama’s first was a record setting 1.8 million. The Washington, D.C., Transportation and Tourism Department, which has posted crowd estimates in the past, hasn’t this year.

Joining Fisher on the West Lawn of the Capitol will be 11 teens from 4-H groups in Montana. Chaperone Chris Skorupa said 4-H has its own lodging for attendees in D.C. and will cover most of the costs for students, who will spend the entire week leading up to inauguration in the capital. Each teen will have to pay $1,500.

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The Gazette will be posting photos and tweets from the 4-H crew throughout the week.

“Really, tell me how many times have you heard of a 4-H delegation of kids going to the inauguration,” Skorupa said. “I don’t know if it’s happened before.”

There’s a full slate of things to do for the 4-H crew, Skorupa said. Daines has invited the group and all Montana visitors to an open house for Montana visitors the day before the inauguration. Stella’s diner and bakery in Billings is shipping sweet rolls baked fresh for the occasion.

The Montana State Society hosts a bipartisan “Best of the West Inaugural Ball” in D.C. the Saturday after the inauguration. Tickets are $100.

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