Fewer of the Lincoln County residents who had been looking forward to hearing President Barack Obama formally accept his party’s nomination Thursday night were able to attend, after concerns about the weather forced Democratic National Convention organizers to move the event indoors to a facility with significantly less seating.
While most of the week’s activities were already being held at the Time Warner Cable Arena, the presidential address had been set for the much larger Bank of America Stadium. But the stadium, home to the Charlotte Panthers football team, is also an outdoor venue, while TWC Arena, home to the Charlotte Bobcats NBA team and Charlotte Checkers minor-league hockey team, is an indoor site.
With an eye on a forecast that called for severe storms in the area, the DNC Committee announced Wednesday morning that Thursday’s events were to be relocated to the arena, as well.
This resulted in tens of thousands of community-credential holders from across the country no longer having seats for the convention’s grand finale, including the roughly 50 from Lincoln County who had been planning to ride a charter bus to Charlotte on Thursday.
Lincoln County Democratic Party Chair Deanna McGinnis told the Times-News Wednesday afternoon that the group would instead have a watch party at Tucker’s Grove Family Life Center in Iron Station, “so people can come together and wear their buttons and have a rally.”
Kris Brown, a senior at Lincoln Charter School, was one of the 50 who donated hours locally to President Obama’s campaign in exchange for a community credential. Though he told the Times-News Thursday that he was “really disappointed” he was no longer going to be present for the speech, he said he would have volunteered anyway.
“I didn’t do it for the ticket,” he said.
Brown has been planning to study politics in college. Having the convention so close to home and being an active Democrat has been “awesome,” he said. It has also helped solidify his decision regarding his future major.
Through school, he also got to serve as an usher at a DNC-related movie screening about education on Monday. He watched several of the convention speakers on television and was particularly impressed with first lady Michelle Obama’s speech.
“(It was) the best I’ve heard in a long time,” he said.
Though Brown remained upbeat about the situation, one county resident who has been at the convention all week felt the pain of those no longer able to attend.
“The disappointment has been overwhelming,” Judy Gilbert, who lives in western Lincoln County, told the Times-News Thursday morning.
Gilbert, a former principal of G.E. Massey Elementary School, has been an active member of the Democratic Party for many years. She formerly served as chair for both the local party and the state’s 10th Congressional District. She has also served as president of the Lincoln County Democratic Women and has been on the State Democratic Executive Committee of North Carolina.
Additionally, she has been to five other national conventions as a delegate or alternate, been invited to the White House twice — meeting former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — and worked on campaigns in multiple states.
“It’s been an interesting life in politics for me,” she said.
At this year’s DNC, Gilbert served in a different capacity: she was the co-chair for “Project 100,” which involved making contact with all 100 counties of North Carolina to organize volunteers, buses, viewing parties and other efforts. This allowed her to be on the inside, “seeing all the workings,” she noted.
“It’s been an interesting thing to see, working on the other side of a convention,” she said.
Nonetheless, she was still able to enjoy the various speeches as a spectator, particularly those from the first lady and President Clinton earlier in the week. She described Michelle Obama’s address as “wonderful,” saying also that it helped to set the tone for those that would follow.
Clinton, meanwhile, “never ceases to amaze” her, she said. He was “in his glory,” adding that he always “comes through with a speech you just can’t believe.”
Gilbert said the excitement has been plentiful over the week. Meeting with the North Carolina delegation has also brought “back all the memories from on the floor” from her previous role as a delegate, she noted.
People from other states have commented to her about the sheer number of volunteers that were deployed for the convention, in addition to the wealth of friendly and helpful “Southern hospitality” to go around.
She considers the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago to be the best she’s attended, though she said that Charlotte has been “right up there.”
“It meets the standards,” she said.
Charlotte has been “absolutely beautiful,” Gilbert added, noting that anyone who may have questioned whether the host city was big enough has been proven wrong.
“It’s been phenomenal for North Carolina,” Gilbert said.
“The momentum was incredible,” she said. “I think if people can stay this motivated and excited, we will win North Carolina.”