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Jacksonville's Rally[Sep. 20th, 2008|05:30 pm]

aramina
Let me tell you, that was pretty awesome. My brother and I got to Metro Park at noon, and there were already about 3 or 4,000 people waiting in line. It took a little over an hour (35 minutes after the gates opened) to get inside the park, through the metal detectors, and into the event area or whatever you want to call it. So by 1:15 we were standing in 'our' spot. There were no chairs, we weren't allowed to bring towels or blankets, and damned if I didn't think there wouldn't be a need for a poncho. The ground was really squishy, so basically we stood on muddy grass for...well, I won't tell you how long just yet.

The weather was actually pretty nice for an outside event. There was a fairly steady breeze blowing (yay for the St. Johns River!), and there was plenty of cloud cover. They did a really good job with the acoustics; I never had a problem hearing either the band or the speakers.

The crowd was fairly excited, well before Obama got there. One little group of the crowd would shout "Yes we can!" or "Obama!" and then the whole crowd would take up the chant. We had a wave going a few times, but it was rather disorganized. :)

At some point, guess what started flying overhead? One plane went by with a banner reading, "Florida is McCain & Palin country!" I'm very proud to say that more than one person in the crowd in my line of sight gave the plane the finger and the entire crowd was booed. That one circled around and proceeded to circle around for at least the next hour. The other plane that flew over our heads was "Raising taxes is not patriotic!" People pretty much ignored that one, and if anyone in the crowd has been watching something over than, ahem, Fixed News, it's kinda obvious why that one was ignored.

We waited pretty patiently until 2:20, and then the speakers started coming up. We heard from Michelle Jones, who is apparently the first command sergeant in the Reserves (or something like that...I don't remember exactly), a few senators or former senators, the director of Jacksonville's Democratic headquarters, and so on. All these people kept coming up, talking for about two minutes and handing the microphone off. By 2:45, we knew they were stalling: Obama was late.

They stalled for a while, and people kept introducing other senators by saying something akin to, "Now let me introduce to you a senator...from your hometown," and then the entire crowd would go "Awww." Around 3:10, a girl about 10 feet in front of me passed out. The people standing around her caught her and lowered her to the ground, and then we all started asking for water. Water didn't help, so we started shouting for a doctor, and eventually Fire Rescue made its way through the crowd, put her on a stretcher, and got her out of there.

Finally, around 3:45 (yes, that is almost a whole hour and a half late), Obama got on the stage. And the crowd screamed for a full minute, at least. He never explained why he was late, but he did give a great - and appropriately short - speech. I managed to catch a good few glimpses of him, but for the record, if you ever go to any kind of event like this, do NOT wear any kind of hat other than a baseball cap. This guy fifteen feet in front of me was blocking my view with his stupid hat for almost the whole speech. But when I did see Obama, he looked good.

Anyway, people started leaving as soon as he finished speaking, and my brother and I were in that group. Needless to say, the place was crawling with people selling Obama everything. And I'll update this more later. Final count for the crowd: 18,000. 10,000 inside, and an estimated 8,000 outside.

I'm very sunburned. I figured the whole thing would be over by 3:45 at the latest, so I didn't bring my sunscreen in with me...big mistake. We did have great cloud cover, but that only goes so far. Also, my hands are kinda sore from clapping so hard. :D

Just to get in line, you had to pass at least 5 people shouting, "Are you registered to vote?" And there were a few people telling everyone to turn their cellphones on before they went through the gate...not sure what that was about. For those of you doubting my crowd estimate: we had 3,000 people in my high school so I know what 3,000 people looks like. More importantly, the fire marshal did in fact close the gates and keep more people from coming in (Metro Park's capacity is 10,000; the kid's park is another 2 or 3,000), and there were plenty of people still outside, who could be heard shouting from time to time).

Pretty early on, Obama asked if we had any Gator fans in the house. Then he made the mistake of asking about Bulldogs, and got a lot of boos. :) To which he replied, "Whoa, I'm not trying to start something here." So cute. Also: "I'm amazed we got such a big crowd - I don't know if ya'll are aware there's football today." :D

So basically, it was totally worth the time and money to go to the rally. On the plus side, GA may have one more Democratic vote: my brother. I think he was pretty unimpressed to begin with, and by 3:30 he was trying to convince me to leave. By the time we left, though? He was telling me that it was totally worth it to stay. YES.

"Live" coverage of the rally, in text message and picture form. If you look at the very first picture: I was standing directly in front of the flag, about even with that girl in the green shirt and blue jeans. Coincidentally, I was wearing a green tank and blue jean shorts. :)

One last thing I've just remembered: at one point during Obama's speech, he paused and someone in the back shouted, "I love you, Obama!" Then another person shouted it, and then another, and then the crowd (at least around me) cracked up. Brilliant moment.
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