I was pretty excited last week to learn that Barack Obama was coming to Fayetteville, NC today. Obama has a good chance of winning NC. If he does, he would be the first Democratic Presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976 to win the state. (That was the election after Nixon. That is an interesting comparison to Bush's popularity.)
The event today took place at the Crown Center Coliseum which holds about 8,500. Not everyone who showed up was able to get in though. Barack said at the beginning of his speech that about a thousand people had to wait outside to listen. (All of my pictures of the event are on Flickr and all my event videos are on YouTube.) Chuck Tryon was also there and blogged about the event and Melissa Garcia has posted pictures too.
I arrived at 10:30am and doors opened at 11. The event started at 1:30. I was glad I didn't come any later because it took me just under 2 hours to get inside. I was at the back of the huge crowd waiting to get in but by the time I got to the front of the crowd, there were just as many people behind me as when I first arrived. There really were not any lines which made the whole process a little chaotic but overall everything went smoothly. (I heard from some campaign staff that they did have ropes set up for lines but the Secret Service changed things.) Security was moving really slowly, which is very understandable, but that was the hold up. People in TSA uniforms were searching coats and looking at electronics while secret service (not the cool looking ones in suits with ear pieces) were manning the metal detectors. Fortunately my little Swiss Army pocket knife was ok to bring in. I think that is a little funny because I couldn't bring it on a plane but I could bring it a few feet from the potentially next US President.
After I got inside I wasn't sure where I wanted to sit. There weren't many seats open and the lower section was for VIPs. I am not sure what made you a VIP but I wasn't one. I was allowed to go down to the floor though which surprised me because it was fairly empty there. I don't know if everyone wanted to sit after waiting 2 hours standing up or if they thought you had to be someone special like I did to get on the floor. Either way, I was excited to be there and I got a big grin on my face walking around there looking for a good spot to stand and watch.
While waiting for everything to start people were passing out mini American flags and signs. Someone brought a sign that said "Plumbers 4 Obama". Haha! Many were singing to the music playing over the loudspeakers and at one point participating in a very respectable wave. I also overheard a guy who said he had breakfast at Hardees and there were some secret service agents eating there too. About 1:20 there was an opening prayer followed by the pledge of allegiance and national anthem. I haven't said the pledge of allegiance in a while and forgot how short it was! There were only a few opening speakers and then Obama showed up and the crowd went WILD!!
The speech was good. It was not terribly different from anything else I have heard so far but that was expected. My favorite parts though were his story about pie at a restaurant owned by a staunch Republican (they didn't have sweet potato pie btw), his rebuttal to John McCain claiming he is a socialist by pointing out that Warren Buffett supports him (no one around me laughed like I did at that one), the fact that this morning Colin Powell endorsed him and the strong and moving closing about the opportunity America provides and how he wants to make it better with our help.
After the speech he walked around the floor. I didn't get to shake his hand but I did get just 2 people away from doing so. Everyone was going crazy and pushing trying to get to him. It was great. After Obama left, the crowd dispersed fairly quickly. Maybe they all went out to go vote early which was one of the main goals of the rally today.
It was surreal being there today. I went with some friends to see Kerry/Edwards at NC State in 2004 but this was a lot more exciting (and I got a million times closer to the candidate). Also, I was very much a minority at this event and I thought that was a very encouraging sign about this election. Oh, and I bought a shirt.