Obama Speech Spawns Watch Parties as Weather Forces Venue Shift
Tickets to hear President Barack Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, tonight were hot items, so few could hide their disappointment when the threat of storms forced organizers to move the event indoors to a much smaller venue.
“That is devastating,” said Obama campaign organizer Jyoti Friedland, who had distributed 25 tickets to the finale of the party’s quadrennial nominating convention, originally planned for the Bank of America Stadium, which can hold almost 74,000 people.
Encouraging local Democrats in Charlotte to volunteer to help at the convention, she said, “I promised them especially: ‘You work nine hours you get a ticket.’ Now they are so shocked” and “I don’t think some of us will take it lightly.”
The organizers’ decision yesterday to move Obama’s speech to the Time Warner Cable Arena, where the convention currently is under way, means that 50,000 fewer Democrats can witness Obama accepting their party’s nomination to a second term.
Friedland, 57, and fellow volunteers said they wouldn’t allow their disappointment to damp their enthusiasm for Obama and the work that needs to be done to help him win re-election.
The disappointment is offset by the excitement the convention has helped generate, New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell said.
“This place has been jumping since before the gavel, very different from what we saw last week” at the Republican convention in Tampa that formally nominated former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to run against Obama, he said yesterday.
“This is a minor point compared to what we are facing when you think about the difference between Romney and the president,” said Rosemary Lawrence, 67, a retired Charlotte city employee. “It makes me work harder.”
The decision forced convention planners and television producer Ricky Kirshner, hired to choreograph the stage presentations of speakers, musical performers and videos, to adapt tonight’s program, which will be watched by millions of television viewers, to the indoor sports arena.
At least one musical act set to perform outside at Bank of America Stadium, Earth Wind & Fire, will be scrapped because there isn’t enough room inside the smaller arena for the band to set up, said a Democrat involved in convention operations, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Time Warner Cable Arena stage was being adjusted to accommodate the Foo Fighters, the person said.
People accompanying the Texas delegates would have to go back to their hotels and watch Obama’s speech on a “big-screen TV,” said John Moffitt, a Texas delegate. “They’ll probably have a nice, comfortable seat, but it’s kind of sad -- 54,000 people are not going to make it,” Moffitt said.
Virginia delegate Mamie Locke said she had to inform people who held community tickets for the stadium that they may no longer be able to get into the arena to see Obama speak.
“The response I’ve gotten is, ‘Oh this is disappointing, but I understand,’” she said in an interview.
This week, Obama campaign officials said they wanted the stadium speech to also give Obama a boost in neighboring Virginia, also a battleground state like North Carolina. People were expected to drive from Virginia to see the speech, Obama’s campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said.
“There’s going to be frustration because I’m sure a lot of plans have been made to get into the city,” said Representative Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat. He said people may not be satisfied with just a speech “piped” into a “plasma screen.”
Representative G.K. Butterfield said watch parties were being organized in his eastern North Carolina congressional district for the four busloads of people who had planned to travel to Charlotte to hear the speech.
Campaign officials had discussed the possibility of a conference call for ticket holders with Obama.
Still, “that’s not the same as being in the same room with 20,000 people saying ‘Go Obama,’” said Joyce Holfield, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer who now lives in her hometown of Gastonia, North Carolina. “It’s not going to reduce my desire to see Mr. Obama the president of the United States.”
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