Why Is Connecticut's Inaugural Parade In The Middle Of Winter? | Connecticut Public Radio

Why Is Connecticut's Inaugural Parade In The Middle Of Winter?

Jan 9, 2019

Ned Lamont was sworn in as the 89th governor of Connecticut Wednesday following a short parade outside the state Capitol. But the pomp and pageantry greeting a new governor didn’t always happen in the middle of winter.

Connecticut used to have two state capitals, Hartford and New Haven, with the General Assembly bouncing between both.

It was an odd arrangement, dating back to colonial times, which persisted for well over a century.

"In the 1870s, P.T. Barnum of all people says, you know, you really shouldn’t do this. You ought to have one state capital," said Walt Woodward, Connecticut's state historian.

We spoke on inauguration day as newly-minted Governor Ned Lamont paraded from the state armory to the Capitol.

Woodward said before the 1870s, “Election Day,” as it was called then, was a big deal. The event happened annually. And for Puritans who didn’t celebrate Christmas and Easter, it was a day to party.

"This was a day that came, back then, in May. It came at the end of winter," Woodward said. "It celebrated the fact that they elected their own officials and they could combine religion, a party, a cautionary tale to the governor, a school break day, and a baking contest all in one."

But when Connecticut dropped its co-capital arrangement, it also lengthened the time a governor served. That meant no more annual parade. And a giant May party replaced with a somewhat diminished winter celebration.

"When they did this 1879 election, the first one at the new state capitol, it must not have been the event of old," Woodward said. "Because in May, the Governor’s foot guard held a memorial parade to celebrate what election day used to be."

That extra parade didn’t last. But today, the Governor’s foot guard is still a big part of inauguration day traditions, as the new governor himself noted, for 250 years.