Shortly after breakfast on Thursday morning, we began hearing rumblings of massive pedestrian and vehicle traffic heading toward Invesco Field. The last thing we wanted to do was miss a second of the chance to be a part of history; so, shortly after noon, four of us (Minority Leader Ward Armstrong and his wife, Delegate Pam; Ward’s Chief of Staff Claire Wilker; and me) set out by foot on the 3-4 mile march from our hotel to the field. In all it took us two hours door-to-door, with a few stops in between. Our route took us down through a shopping area, so while Ward did a campaign conference call on his cell phone from the back of a pet supply store, Pam window shopped and I did Starbucks. Actual travel time was maybe an hour fifteen.
It was surreal to walk down the middle of six-lane streets approaching the center — the streets and parking lots had all been closed off for security. Under a warm sun and occasional breezes, the atmosphere was like a moving, political Woodstock: button and t-shirt vendors hawking their wares, religious proselityzers riding flag-mounted bicycles along the caravan route, and a lot of friendly and congenial conversation among the walkers (everybody knew Virginia is in play, and they urged us on. We told them to send money and volunteers.).
Because we were on the front edge of the tsunami, going through security was easy. We staked out our seats on the stadium floor directly in front of the podium (the state delegation floorplan was identical to the Pepsi Center, so once again Virginia was in prime territory right back of Illinois. That gave us a vantage point for spotting home state figures including Rahm Emanuel, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and his father, and my favorite — Mayor Daley). Then for the next five hours, as the sun set back of us and we were entertained by musicians including Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder, we watched this massive amphitheatre fill to near capacity with over 80,000 people.
Inside the Bubble, you get a different sense of the sights and sounds that are going on all around you: it wasn’t until I got back to the hotel and saw a rerun of the proceedings on TV that I saw the overall visual spectacle of all those people and all that energy. It was also the first time I had a chance to listen to what Senator Obama actually had said in his speech. (It’s hard to be analytical when you’re simultaneously standing on a chair waving a sign, shouting “Yes We Can” in unison with 75,000 other people, and trying to operate a video camcorder). So when people ask, “How was the speech?” the best I can come up with is, “It was great.” (In this morning’s Richmond Times-Dispatch I demonstrated my keen knowledge of sports by telling the reporter, “He hit it right out of Invesco Field,” where the Denver Broncos play football.)
So with streamers, confetti, and fireworks, our four days in Denver ended. We’re all headed home, tired but happy. Summer camp for political junkies is over, and now the real work begins.