Festivities leading up to George W. Bush's inauguration began Thursday with a star-studded show at the Lincoln Memorial.
Bush obviously relished the event, smiling, flashing a thumbs up sign at entertainer Wayne Newton and promising to give the country a fresh start.
Before laying claim to the presidency this weekend, Bush and his wife, Laura, as well as Vice President-elect Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, mixed with celebrities including Latin singer Ricky Martin.
Organizers had anticipated that 75,000 people would attend, but the cold and an intermittent drizzle apparently kept many away, although police gave no official crowd estimate.
Muhammad Ali came on stage and gave Bush a big hug as the two exchanged greetings.
Vice President elect Dick Cheney introduced Bush to the crowd.
"I am honored to not only assume the vice presidency, but to serve with the chief executive who is equal to this great office. He's a good man, a man of generous instincts and high standards, a man of integrity, worthy of the trust America has given him. Yesterday he said farewell to his home state of Texas. Let us now welcome him to Washington as the next President of the United States."
SUPER CAPTION: Dick Cheney, U-S Vice President elect
Bush and other members of the incoming administration sat under a canopy that protected them from the elements.
Bush said he was ready to take office and is looking forward to a fresh start.
"I will treat the office with care, never take it for granted, always remember to whom it really belongs. The presidency does not belong to any one person, but to all of us. It belongs to the American people. As Vice President-elect Cheney has said every inauguration continues the oldest commitments of our country to the law and the enduring power of our constitution."
SUPER CAPTION: George W. Bush, U-S President elect
Martin was the headliner for the show, set on a stage built on the memorial's steps.
After Bush spoke, Martin sang one of his signature songs, "Cup of Life," swivelling his hips to the
salsa-style music. He brought Bush on stage afterward to watch the fireworks with the other entertainers.
The focus of the hoopla, of course, will be Bush's swearing in at the Capitol at noon Saturday.
About 500,000 people were expected to attend, including 1,000 dignitaries, among them members of Congress, the Supreme Court and the diplomatic corps.
Later that night, celebrating Republicans will be attending eight official balls and many other parties.
On Sunday, as president of the United States, Bush was to open the White House doors to public tours.