EDITOR’S NOTE: This article went to press prior to the Democratic National Convention Committee’s announcement Wednesday morning that convention programming, originally planned for Bank of America Stadium on Thursday, will be moved to Time Warner Cable Arena, the site of the first two days of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, due to severe weather forecasts. The DNCC also announced that President Barack Obama will address community-credential holders in a conference call on Thursday. Call information will be emailed directly to them.
The 2012 Democratic National Convention officially began in Charlotte on Tuesday, after a long weekend of kickoff festivities preceding the event. It will conclude Thursday night, when President Barack Obama will formally accept his party’s nomination at Bank of America Stadium.
Many eyes locally are looking ahead to this grand finale, including those of Lillian Richardson. The Vale resident will be one of 50 Lincoln County residents who will load a charter bus Thursday at 10:30 a.m. to head for Charlotte. Richardson and the others committed to the “9-3-1 Pledge,” a program which allowed those who volunteered nine hours for the campaign, equal to three completed shifts, to receive one ticket.
Richardson told the Times-News on Tuesday that she signed up for the program “the minute the opportunity was given to me.” Her donated hours included time spent making calls, canvassing and registering voters.
She is expecting the evening, which she described as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity, to be “like a rock concert.”
“The enthusiasm will be fantastic,” she added.
Richardson, who is the treasurer for the Lincoln County Democratic Women, has served various positions with the local party in the past. She knows most of those who will be with her on the bus Thursday, adding that the DNC’s proximity has really “invigorated everybody.”
“I would not be attending (the convention) if it was not in Charlotte,” she said.
Beyond the excitement on a personal level, Richardson noted that the DNC’s impact also includes helping with the Democratic Party’s momentum within the state, in terms of bringing out volunteers and getting people registered to vote and to the polls.
In fact, many of the people she personally helped register were either first-time voters or had not been involved in politics in years, she said.
She also stressed the importance of people, whether Democrats or Republicans, getting involved in the political process to allow them to make informed decisions in November’s election.
In terms of Thursday’s speech, Richardson has specific issues in mind that she hopes the president addresses, including education, Medicare and women’s rights. She’s also looking forward to Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks, saying she’s fortunate to get to hear both on the same night.
Though she doesn’t expect to get home from the convention festivities until early Friday morning, she said she believes it “will be worth it.”
Robin Johnson of Lincolnton will also be there Thursday night, but in a slightly different capacity. She has worked at Bank of America Stadium on Panthers football game days for 13 years. However, she told the Times-News on Tuesday that working the DNC will be something completely different.
Johnson, who works in the suites helping to stock their food supplies, is expecting a “different set of people” in those seats Thursday night.
She will also be dealing with a different schedule and different security policies than are typically the norm.
Johnson and her fellow staff members, which she noted would be generally the same as on game days, have to arrive at the stadium by 8:15 a.m. All the food must be stocked by 4 p.m. Additionally, they will have to enter from a back entrance, after being checked in at a parking lot some distance away and taking a bus ride over.
While they will wear their same uniforms, they will not be allowed to bring anything with them except for their identification, cell phones and keys. They may also bring food, but it will have to be in a see-through bag. No outside beverages will be permitted. She doesn’t expect to be back in Lincolnton until 2:30 a.m., if everything is on schedule, since she will also have to help clean up.
“It’s going to be a long day,” she said, noting that her supervisor has been planning for it for months.
Nonetheless, despite the “hassle,” Johnson said she is looking forward to the task. Just who will be in the suites remains a secret, but she noted that she “can’t wait to find out.” She is also interested in seeing how the interior of the stadium will be transformed for the event.
Most of all, however, she is ready to be a part of history.
“It’s something exciting to tell my grandkids,” she added. “Even though I’m a worker bee, I was a part of it.”