In the masses, legislators huddled to discuss transition issues, parents clustered to see their high school children march in the inaugural parade and reporters wrangled for the perfect spot to set up their cameras for the historic event.
Disarray was the defining tone of the hours preceding Gov. Ernie Fletcher's inauguration, and in the hubbub of last-minute sound system checks, police securing the area and people making their way to the long stretch of program seating, a small eastern Kentucky choir was practicing for one of its biggest performances ever.
Approximately 40 members of the Harlan Boys Choir made their way to the stage for rehearsal. There were a few nervous coughs, deep breaths and sweaty palms. Boys Choir director David Davies reviewed a few problem spots, then the group was off to the sidelines to await their turn.
There were other choirs scheduled to perform choirs from the northern part of the state. But the Harlan Boys Choir had been extended an invitation to sing at Fletcher's inauguration, and no matter how intimidating their appointment may have been, the excitement of it all made their nervousness worthwhile.
When it was time for the boys to take center stage, a hush fell over the enormous audience and the pure, harmonious voices were lifted upon the wind. With the crescendo of patriotic stanzas came silenced attention.
As Boys Choir members exited the stage after their performance, some made eye contact with a lineup of another nervous ensemble scheduled to follow. One group may have been from the mountains, and the other from the Bluegrass region, but in essence, they were the same.
Unity, as a matter of fact, was the theme of Fletcher's inaugural speech.
"The geography of Kentucky is drawn not only on the map, but also on the culture," Fletcher said. "Everyone here, regardless of age, lives as part of a generation that has yet to know the full power of true unity as Kentuckians, one and all. That ought not to be."
While Fletcher touched on such issues as the state's poverty problem and low educational levels, the theme that kept permeating throughout his speech was the need for breakdown in regionalism.
Fletcher also said he planned to work toward curtailing the state's drug problem, rebuilding its sluggish economy, improving healthcare, and offering more "vigorous support for the industries already here."
"We will restore hope," Fletcher said. "Today marks a fresh start. As we begin, the water is still undisturbed in front of us ... Kentucky government has long focused on the leaves and branches instead of trunk and roots. ... We celebrate today, but we know that the work begins tomorrow. We will turn to the light and to the harder road."
After the inauguration, Harlan Boys Choir member Sam Harris said he couldn't believe he had been a part of something so grand.
"It was a great experience," said Harris, a junior at Harlan High School. "Here I am, just a small-town boy singing on the front steps of the state's capitol that's just hard to soak in. This is something I'll definitely remember for the rest of my life."
Harris' mother, Tina, who helped chaperone the Boys Choir trip to Frankfort, said the group's participation was an excellent opportunity for the students to witness the handing over of leadership reins within government.
"It's good for them to see that we live in a country where one leader steps aside to let another take over in a nice, smooth orderly fashion," Tina said. "They saw American democracy today. They saw history in the making."
Harold and Sue Middleton, parents of Boys Choir member Isaac Middleton, said it was nice to be back in a country where patriotism was fervently displayed. The couple has been serving as missionaries in Mexico for the past six years and are currently on a one-year furlough in their hometown of Harlan. Even though Isaac will only be a Boys Choir member for one year, his Frankfort experience more than makes up for the other years he'll miss.
His parents, with camera and video recorder in hand, said they hadn't realized how much they missed patriotic gatherings until their trip with the Boys Choir.
"Days like today not only make you proud of your state, but of your country," said Sue Middleton. "Today has made us excited all over again to be Americans."
As he stared up at the capitol's towering dome, Harold Middleton said he was in awe.
"You gain a new respect for government when attending an event like this," he said. "And these boys are seeing firsthand how important their country and state are to them."
The selected Kentucky school choirs were nervous, yet exhilarated because they understood the significance of the day. Just a few steps above them, Fletcher sat with his family and made an address promising a brighter future for Kentucky's youth.
"In the long view of time, I'll be your governor for only a little while," Fletcher said during his speech. "But in this time, I want to make a new way for our state. ... If we light our way with whatever is true, whatever is honest, just and pure, whatever is lovely and of good report, and do so not only in sentiment but in fact, then we will see our hopes fulfilled. ... Any immortality we know will be not only in our faith, but also in that which we give to the generations that follow."