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Patrick Springer, Published January 20 2009

Walaker amazed by size of inauguration crowd

The sheer immensity of the crowds – almost 2 million souls – is what struck Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker as he took his own place in the throng.

“It’s amazing how many people are here,” he said, undoubtedly grateful he didn’t have to worry about providing municipal services for the occasion. “The entire mall was full of people, standing room only.”

Long lines had already assembled when he arrived more than an hour before the gates opened, but all went smoothly in his section.

Walaker, who met Obama when he campaigned last year in Fargo, found the president’s inaugural speech stirring.

“I’m impressed, I really am,” he said. “He’s an intellect. I hope it unites the country, I really do. I hope it brings us all together.”

After the speeches, he went to a North Dakota luncheon at the offices of Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., where, among others, he joined the president of North Dakota State University, Joe Chapman, and the University of North Dakota, Robert Kelley, and their wives.

Afterward, Walaker noted that prices for Obama memorabilia hawked by street merchants were immediately marked down, as much as 50 percent from their prices before the inaugural events.

Barack Obama, having just taken office, already has gone on sale.

The mayor bought a couple of Obama stocking caps for his grandkids.