Va. Gov.-elect Northam’s inauguration will feature a few firsts

Virginia Gov. elect Ralph Northam celebrates his election victory and addresses supporters and at the Northam For Governor election night party at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After months of planning and coordinating, the countdown is on.

In hours, Ralph Northam will take the oath of office to become Virginia’s 73rd governor.

About 4,000 people are expected to pack the grandstands in Richmond’s Capitol Square on Saturday to see it happen.

“We’re feeling excited. There’s definitely a sense of excitement here in Richmond,” said Christina Freundlich. “I think everyone is buzzing around the Capitol talking about the inauguration.”

The theme is: The Way Ahead.

“The Way Ahead is about leading Virginia with unity and bringing everyone together,” said Freundlich, who is part of the Northam Inaugural Committee.

At Northam’s request, this will be the most Americans with Disabilities Act accessible inauguration in Virginia history.

Freundlich said inclusion is a big focus of this ceremony.

There’s also a new initiative this year called The County Collective.

“We’re going to have a representative from each county — a special leader in their community or someone who has made an impact on someone else,” she said.

As part of the celebration, Northam will be the first Virginia governor to have a custom-made beer for his inauguration.

It’s a Belgian-style blonde ale called InaugurALE from Center of the Universe Brewing Company. All of the ingredients are grown in Virginia.

And while preps and planning are on track, there is one thing that’s out of their control.

“Hopefully it looks like the weather forecast says that things will clear up, but you can never be overprepared enough,” said Freundlich.

Just in case, boxes of ponchos are waiting in the wings.

The ceremony will begin at noon. The inaugural parade will kick of immediately following the swearing-in.

The parade will be the largest inaugural parade Virginia has seen. 26 groups will be marching, including the entire VMI Corp of Cadets.

It’ll move east from Grace Street and will circumnavigate Capitol Square.

The parade is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.