By Jill Harmacinski and Mike LaBella
HAVERHILL — Douglas Edison had worked on presidential campaigns before, including George McGovern's in 1972 and Walter Mondale's in 1984.
He took a break from it all until last summer, when he got onboard the Obama bandwagon. Edison, 55, a retired financial planner, joined the 60-plus member Haverhill for Obama campaign and did his best to see that a Democrat made it to the White House. Edison's wife, Pamela Price, 50, a marketing manager for a lighting manufacturer, was rooting for Hillary Clinton, until the former first lady dropped out of the race. Then Price joined her husband in his effort to see Obama win the presidency.
Now that the election is over and Barack Obama won, the couple will head south to attend his inauguration.
"We started on this quest so why not see it through?" Edison said yesterday.
Edison won a pair of tickets to the inauguration through a lottery held by U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas of Lowell, who also represents Haverhill. The tickets will allow him and his wife to sit in a reserved area close to the stage.
"We're fortunate that Pam has a sister in Maryland, which is a hop, skip and a jump to get on the metro," Edison said. "When we get to D.C., we expect hours of waiting in line."
Edison and Price are among dozens of people from across the Merrimack Valley who are gearing up to witness presidential history.
When the president-elect puts his hand on the Bible at Tuesday's ceremony and becomes the nation's 44th president, he'll have plenty of local company, including a poet, parents and a birthday girl.
"It's an unbelievable thing. It's just awesome," said Linda Harvey, a Methuen mom who is heading to Washington, D.C., with her two daughters — Maxine, 12, and Talia, 9. Originally Hillary Clinton supporters, the Harvey family turned to Obama and the girls even made phone calls on his behalf.
"They are so excited because they feel like they picked the winner," Harvey said. "Since the day he won, they just assumed they were going (to the inauguration)."
Edison said he was impressed with Obama the first time he saw him on television.
"The dialogue between the parties ... wasn't taking place any longer," Edison said of the lack of communication between Democrats and Republicans. "Obama was the first one to say this has to stop. I also wanted the smartest person in the room to be president, and Obama is brilliant."
On election night, Edison and his wife were working in Brentwood, N.H., until the polls closed.
"I was a canvassing coordinator," he said. "I never worked as hard on a campaign as I did this time, in terms of accomplishing something."
When the results were in, Edison and Price were elated.
Edison expects the inauguration to be the most inclusive ever. He said he's looking forward to chatting with others who campaigned for Obama and "maybe trade war stories about the campaign."
"We might bring a digital recorder and talk to people to get an idea as to what they are thinking," he said.
Edison likens Obama's entry into office to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who began his presidency as the nation was experiencing a gloomy economy.
"FDR started working and people gained strength from that," he said. "Sometimes it takes action to fix things. In the last six months, we haven't had anyone who has a clue. Hopefully now people will get together and the whole country will move forward."
The inauguration also will be a big day for Maxine Harvey because it's her 13th birthday.
"I keep telling her that I'm convinced Obama is going to say in his speech, 'Happy Birthday Maxine,'" Linda Harvey said with a chuckle.
For some, the trip will be their first visit to an inauguration. Others have already witnessed the transfer of power and are reveling over a return visit.
"I am very excited. It's the presidency we are celebrating. I have to confess to having a little bit of Obama-mania," said Andover poet Mark Schorr, executive director of the Lawrence-based Robert Frost Foundation.
To mark the inauguration, Schorr has written a poem, "Elusive Air," which is addressed to Obama from the view of a person standing in the crowded mall during the swearing in.
"I know Obama loves language and poetry," he said.
The preparation, buildup of the event and a young family's move to the White House reminds Rosalie Konjoian of the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. She was 12 then and remembers watching the event on television on a snowy Friday.
"There's a parallel here," said Konjoian, a special education assistant who lives in Andover.
Kennedy appealed to the American people through TV. Obama, in turn, captured the attention of many voters by using computer power, she said.
"One hand washes the other, so to speak," said Konjoian, who is visiting Washington with her husband, David. Their son Matthew lives in the Washington area and works for an energy-related trade association. Last fall, while mom campaigned for Obama in Massachusetts, Matthew garnered votes for him in Virginia. Matthew said the inauguration tickets, which they won through a political lottery, is "a great reward for a lot of hard work."