I took some time out this afternoon to attend the Barack Obama event at the Crown Coliseum here in Fayetteviile. It’s a little difficult to know what to say about these kinds of events, but it was certainly a lot of fun to hear him speak live and to watch and interact with others who are so enthusiastic about his campaign. The Coliseum itself was packed to capacity. I’m unable to estimate crowds, but according to this report the Coliseum holds over 10,000 for hockey games, and virtually every seat in the arena was full with several hundred others standing in front of the podium (I’ll try to add attendance numbers when I get them). In addition, there were at least 2,000 others who were turned away because of fire code violtions, although many of them stayed and listened to the speech on speakers set up outside.
According to the Fayetteville Observer, people began arriving well before 9 AM–I’m told that some people showed up around 5 AM–but the parking lots were not opened until 9. A friend and I arrived at about 9:45 to an already long line where we had the chance to chat with others while waiting for the doors to open at 11 AM (trying to put a positive spin on being forced to wait for so long). After a beautiful performance of the National Anthem and introductions from a couple of local politicians, Obama arrived,
I believe to the tune of “Beautiful Day” by U2 while Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” was playing* and proceeded to announce to the crowd the news that Colin Powell had endorsed him for president on Meet the Press to raucous cheers. Obama used Powell’s endorsement to emphasize the criticism of McCain’s heavy use of negative campaigning, including McCain’s extensive use of ominous robocalls and fliers (I got this one, tying Obama to Bill Ayers, a couple of days ago here in North Carolina). Much of the rest of the speech was Obama’s standard stump speech, but his discussion of health care, the economy, and education was a healthy reminder of why I became so enthusiastic about an Obama presidency over the last year or so.
In some ways, however, I may have been just as intrigued by the orchestration of the event as the event itself, the sheer amount of labor and planning that goes into orchestrating a single campaign event. The Obama volunteers were clearly well-prepared, and the event was smoothly run (although traffic after the event was a nightmare). More than that, however, I enjoyed getting a sense of how carefully stage-managed these events are. This is, of course, something I know as a scholar of media studies; however, it was difficult not to be aware of the presence of the news cameras–and there were a surprisingly large number. More than anything, though, I can’t help but think that there are only sixteen days left until this thing is finally over.
Update: Melissa Garcia already has photos. I’ll link to others when I get them (sadly, I still don’t have a digital camera).
Update 3: Thanks to techsassy for the song correction (via Twitter).