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BLOOMINGTON — Central Illinois residents at Friday's inauguration had nothing but praise for what they saw, and heard, as Donald Trump was sworn in as the nation's 45th president.

Jim Woodward, vice chairman of the McLean County Republican Party, said Friday's ceremony was “unbelievable” with “an extremely positive atmosphere.”

“I can’t even put into words how emotional and wonderful it was to experience something we’ve never experienced,” said Woodford, who traveled to D.C. with his wife and son.

Chuck Erickson, chairman of the McLean County Republican Party, also traveled from Bloomington to the Capitol in support of the president.

“It was a very joyous occasion. Everyone was happy and festive and respectful,” said Erickson. “People were respectful of (President Barack) Obama’s service and of him leaving and are now proud of our new president.”

In comparing Trump’s inauguration speech to those of past presidents, Woodward said it was one of the most “down to earth” speeches he’s heard, particularly the theme of “giving the government back to the people.”

“I think, truly, especially for people in Illinois, the (state) government is not in the hands of the people,” said Woodward. “His speech was moving, motivating and inspiring and I hope that Congress follows up with some of his agenda and we get back on the right track.”

Despite reports of rioting and protests near the inauguration, Woodward said he saw only one small group of people escorted out after protesting as Trump took the oath, but he saw no other objections.

Former state and U.S. Rep. Thomas Ewing of Pontiac is also in Washington with his son and grandsons. He said the inauguration crowd was enormous and security was "tight as an airport."

“It has a very uplifting and patriotic experience to be back here,” said Ewing. “It was really touching when the choir began singing ‘America, the Beautiful.’ The words were so meaningful as we watched the transition of power from the Democratic Party to the Republican.”

Ewing said he believes if Trump keeps commitments made during his campaign, "the administration will make a real and important difference in America.”

“I feel very strongly that maybe that type of attitude can invade Illinois politics and changes can be made to start us on a road to rebuilding the reputation and vigor of our state,” he added.

Republican U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood of Dunlap, whose district includes part of the Twin Cities, applauded Trump for "putting forth a unifying message to all Americans as we begin to put our nation back on track towards economic prosperity and greatness.”

While watching events unfold the rest of the afternoon, Ewing said the experience was meaningful for his two grandsons who he said asked “penetrating” questions about political leaders.

“It was great for them to see Democrats and Republicans having lunch together. It was interesting to see former Sen. Hillary Clinton shaking hands with and having words with Donald Trump. No matter who lost that race, that was going to be a painful experience,” he said.

Ewing said his family would watch the inauguration parade from a balcony overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue and continue the trip with some sightseeing in the city.

“Overall, it was an outstanding and motivating transfer of power and there’s a very positive attitude here in Washington,” he said.

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Follow Julia Evelsizer on Twitter: @pg_evelsizer

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