Hundreds of thousands of people are flocking to Washington, D.C. this week for the inauguration of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president, including several Republican Party faithful from central Maine and beyond.

Sandra Blanchette, 60, of Orland, said she was driving down to Washington overnight on Wednesday to avoid as much traffic as possible. She said she changed work plans to be able to leave Wednesday night, and was excited to be with a group of people who were also thrilled that Trump had won the election.

“It’s going to be nice to work with people who are not so pessimistic and who will give the man a chance,” Blanchette said.

Top-ranking elected officials such as Gov. Paul LePage and outgoing Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett are attending, as are party activists and Trump supporters who want to see him become president in person.

Lauren LePage, of Waterville, the daughter of the governor who also worked as Maine coalitions director for the Trump campaign, said she would fly down to Washington on Thursday. She said being able to attend was a good way of seeing everyone’s “hard work pan out.”

“It’s just rewarding to see that,” she said, “and it’s a once-a-lifetime experience.”

LePage said she was staying only until Friday before flying back to Maine. The 28-year-old, who is in her final year at University of Maine School of Law and works as executive director of Maine People Before Politics, an advocacy group formed to advance her father’s agenda, said she was most looking forward to hearing Trump’s speech and sharing the moment with other Maine residents. She said she is looking forward to the festivities of the ceremony and seeing how Trump’s first 100 days go.

“I’m hoping that this is an opportunity to reset the tone after the election and opportunity for the nation to come together,” LePage said.

Former Maine Rep. Alex Willette, who now serves as the Republican National Committee Chairman for the Maine Republican Party, said this will be the first time he has attended a presidential inauguration. Willette, 27, a state prosecutor who lives in Lewiston, flew into Washington on Monday to begin meeting the RNC in preparation for the series of events.

Willette said he wasn’t sure what to expect from it all but was excited to see the transfer of power from one president to another.

“The mood is definitely festive in D.C., that’s for sure,” Willette said.

Willette said this was the first election cycle in which he had voted for the winning candidate, and he was looking forward to everything involved in the ceremonies. “To actually witness the president-elect become the president and all the pomp and circumstance of a peaceful transition of power is very exciting,” Willette said.

Willette is far from the only Maine Republican to travel hundreds of miles to see Trump sworn in.

Rep. Ellie Espling, 43, of New Gloucester, said she was headed to Washington on Tuesday afternoon to work on the RNC winter meeting. She said this will be the first time she’s attended an inauguration, although she did attend this summer’s Republican National Convention on Cleveland. She said while the meeting she is attending was the driving force for her trip, she was looking forward to the series of events.

“I’m just hoping to see what its like and hoping for a peaceful transition here,” she said.

Espling said she probably would not have attended the inauguration if it weren’t for the meeting, because of other responsibilities here.

“I would have been content to stay if I had to,” she said.

Leslie Dubois, of Lewiston, said she said would be driving to Washington this week with two others to see Trump get sworn in. She said was planning to arrive at U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office before heading to the events.

“I have never attended an event such as this and I would like to be a part of the festivities and see it firsthand,” Dubois said.

The 58-year-old office manager of her husband’s law firm, Michael L Dubois P.A., said she was looking forward to “the great, big, wild experience” on Friday. She said she hopes it’s a peaceful series of events and that there isn’t any trouble.

“I’m just so excited about being able to go an be part of everything,” Dubois said.

Laura Zajac, of Cape Elizabeth, said she was driving to Washington on Wednesday after a meeting in Vermont. The 47-year-old will also be attending a Collins event Thursday, and will attend the slate of events on Friday before heading back to Maine on Sunday. Zajac, who is president of the engineering firm Zajac LLC, said she had supported Trump from the beginning, and wanted to attend the inauguration to “be a part of history.”

“My expectations are just to enjoy the ceremony and enjoy being part of his presidency,” she said.

Blanchette, the Orland woman who is also a music teacher at Bangor Christian School, said initially she didn’t plan to go to the celebration, but found out she could get tickets from Collins’ office. Then she joined a group going to Washington. As someone who is “extremely fond of history,” Blanchette said this opportunity was not something she could miss. She said while she supported Trump “100 percent,” she wouldn’t have minded going to a different presidential inauguration because of her fondness for history, and this is the first time she has attended one.

“I think just participating, being there and watching it, seeing the real thing” is what Blanchette said she hopes to take away from the celebration.

Blanchette is the former chairwoman of the Hancock County Republicans, and she said that entire group worked hard canvassing in support of Trump during the election cycle. She said Trump is “breathing new life” into the party, and she thinks his detractors don’t understand him.

“It’s exciting times to be a Republican,” she said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis