Watch parties draw crowds after Obama venue change

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 06, 2012 6:28 PM
Watch parties draw crowds after Obama venue change

By Colleen Jenkins and Rick Rothacker

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - Threats of thunderstorms and worthless tickets were not enough to keep rank-and-file Democrats away from the glow of their big night in Charlotte.

Thousands of party faithful who lost out on a chance to witness President Barack Obama accept the party's nomination found camaraderie and flag waving on Thursday at impromptu watch parties held in convention halls, hotels and bars.

Concerns about severe weather prompted convention organizers to move the final night of the Democratic National Convention festivities from a 74,000-seat outdoor stadium to the far-smaller Time Warner Cable Arena.

Even some people with tickets for the arena got stuck outside Thursday night after the fire marshal had declared the building full, according to police.

The venue switch disappointed those who had volunteered, waited in lines and traveled to see the president in person, as well as the celebrity sightings and musical acts that came along with the closing event.

One vendor hawked his goods to the crowd on a busy sidewalk outside the arena by saying, "I didn't get in, but I got a program."

Still, enthusiastic supporters came together at alternate events held across the North Carolina host city, decked out in political gear just like those lucky enough to get a seat inside the arena.

The Obama campaign put on one of the night's largest such events for volunteers at the Charlotte convention center down the street from the arena. Attendees cheered high points in the speeches by chanting "USA!" and waving small American flags.

"It's exciting," said Charlotte resident Angie Pack. "Not as exciting as being there, but I think everyone is really fired up."

Even after the heavy thunderstorms that doused the early days of the convention, volunteer Cynthia Peterson said she would have gladly sat in the rain to see Obama in person.

The excitement and diversity of the crowd gathered to watch the speeches on large screens set up at the convention center moved her to tears.

"You see white, black, young, old," she said. "Everybody feels a part of this. This is a very good plan B."

Hair stylists Sylvia Melvin and Elaine Perry drove several hours from Fayetteville, North Carolina, even though their tickets to the stadium were no longer any good. They took in Obama's acceptance speech from a downtown bar filled with people who stood and clapped alongside them.

"I had to be here, just to be in the atmosphere and the energy of togetherness," said Melvin.

Perry pumped her fist, cheered and shook her head in agreement as the president spoke.

"This is just an inspiration to be here," she said.

Outside the arena, close to the action yet kept away due to the full capacity, Charlotte volunteer Kendra Grill waited to assist convention-goers as they departed the event.

Though the rain never came Thursday night, Grill tried to keep things in perspective.

"You're here because you have high hopes to see the president speak," Grill said. "But when it's all said and done, you're also here for the greater good."

(Editing by Edward Tobin and Alden Bentley)