When we heard that Obama was coming to Jacksonville, we knew we had to go. I haven't seen a president or candidate live since Reagan came to Jacksonvlle in 1987.
The man himself was scheduled to speak sometime after 2:30 and the gates were opening at 12:30. We knew that it was likely to fill up quick so we got to the stadium (to park, it's across the street from the park where the event was held) at about 10:30. It's a good thing we did -
That was just a small portion of the line. It wrapped around itself several times.
The atmosphere was very friendly and excited, very similar to a sporting event - a lot of people wearing the team colors, a lot of vendors selling t-shirts and buttons, an air of anticipation. One difference was the campaign volunteers handing out info cards and asking for everyone to fill them out. One more piece of Obama's very good grassroots organization.
They finally let us in and we settled in for a long wait. There were a lot of people crowding around the stage -
but we had no intention of standing like sardines for 3+ hours, especially with 5 kids in tow, even if it did mean a better view. We settled into a nice dry spot on top of a ridge under a tree.
At about 2:30, the event finally started up. Some local people spoke, Bill Nelson spoke, a volunteer spoke. We couldn't hear anything as the speakers weren't set up well for the back of the crowd. I was worried that we wouldn't hear Obama. After the speakers finished, the crowd got a little restless. It ended up being another hour or so before the Obama bus rolled in. By this time, everyone had been waiting for about 5 hours, with nothing to eat. The campaign had a lot of water available, so that was ok, but no food inside the park, so we were all starving. We found out later that the park had been filled to the legal capacity, which was about 12,000, and over 8000 were waiting outside.
Finally, Obama came up to the podium. Fortunately, the legal capacity allows for a lot of breathing room, so we were able to come down and compact the crowd and get relatively close. It was really neat listening to him speak in person, even though I had already heard most of the stump speech. Tori listened attentively to the whole thing and told me she was really glad we came. She's starting to really pay attention to politics, for a 12-year-old. We could see Obama, although he was a bit distant. Here's my zoomed in pic -
All-in-all, a neat experience, and I'm glad we went. It also whetted our appetite for some volunteering which I'll address in the next post.