Tips on attending a political rally?
November 1, 2012 5:43 PM   Subscribe

Tips for attending a political rally?

I've got a ticket to go to a rally for Obama tomorrow. I've never done this before though, so I wondered if anyone has any tips? Doors open at 1:30. It will be held at a high school gymnasium.

I was planning on getting there about 11:00. I have a few snacks and a bottle of water. Plus some knitting to keep my hands busy while I wait. Does that sound about right? Should I be leaving even earlier? Is security going to take my knitting needles?
posted by Caravantea to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I went to an Obama rally for a primary in early 2008, and it took about 4 hours to get in and go through security. I would go as early as you can - and be prepared to lose the knitting needles (though I don't know for sure if they'll take them, but don't bring them if they hold particular sentimental value)

Also, limit fluids in the morning, and make sure you pee before standing in line!

Good luck! And have a good time! :-)
posted by raztaj at 5:54 PM on November 1, 2012

I'm so jealous! Wear sneakers, go as early as possible, security takes for ever. They will take anything that looks dangerous. Volunteer probably will be offering water to people waiting on line but you will need snacks. Enjoy!!!
posted by 3dd at 6:11 PM on November 1, 2012

I have staffed man, many Obama events. Get there as early as you can. Bring some snacks and water. Don't bring your knitting needles. They will be taken from you. I'd bring a book or something instead. Have fun!
posted by fancypants at 6:14 PM on November 1, 2012

I am not familiar with how strict they are at rallies, but I've had good luck bringing circular wooden knitting needles into places where metal straight needles would not be permitted (airplanes, usually).
posted by insectosaurus at 6:17 PM on November 1, 2012

I attended an Obama rally today at the Green Bay Airport. Security was easy: unzip coat, hand metal things to an officer for inspection, walk through a metal detector and then, if chosen, submit to a wanding. It went quickly, but it was a small event. People were allowed to leave some items that weren't allowed in a heap by the exit (I saw many beverage cups but no jackknives or knitting needles) and collect them on departure.

Our gates opened at 8:30. We arrived around 8:50 and I suspect that about 80 percent of the people that ultimately attended were already in line. All of us were through security by about 9:50. We were told the event would begin at 10:00 but the preliminary speakers started around 9:45 and ended at 10:00. Air Force One arrived at about 10:20 and the President's speech lasted 30 minutes or so.

Wear layers so you can be comfortable both inside and out. Volunteers offered water but no one provided or sold snacks. There were vendors selling Obama/Biden swag who, it turns out, are independent entrepreneurs following the campaign speakers around the country. We were told not to bring signs and campaign volunteers gave us all placards to wave around.

When you get past the gate, look at the podium and figure out where you can have a good sight line that isn't obscured by the teleprompters. And have fun! It was a wonderful experience.
posted by carmicha at 6:22 PM on November 1, 2012

Don't bring your needles, you will lose them.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 6:34 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely bring snacks, you'll be in lines and crowds, and there often aren't food sellers at these kind of events. If you bring a beverage, don't bother with the reusable cup, it'd probably be confiscated. And finish the coffee before you get to security. Also,see if you can being Purell, the bathroom facilities may be overcrowded Portapotties.

I'd leave the knitting at home, frankly. The needles may get confiscated by security, and if its really crowded and/or standing room only, it'd be hard to actually knit. Instead, to spend the time, I'd bring a magazine or two - something that's engaging, but you won't be heartbroken if you lost it in the crowd.

The less you carry the better, in the past I've just had a small purse with the basics, and a magazine or two. That suited me just fine, and I've been to a fair number of rallies.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:53 PM on November 1, 2012

The one thing that people* seem to forget to plan is what happens after it's over. Think: it's like the end of a major league sports game, but the volunteers aren't experienced with managing a tired, hungry, and cranky crowd. I suggest making sure you have enough food, water, and entertainment to tide you over until you can make it back to your car.

*organizers, attendees, etc
posted by oceano at 10:22 PM on November 1, 2012

I went to the rally at the University of Wisconsin--Madison. We were told (I think) to be there by 1, so I figured getting to town by 11 would be sufficient for us to find parking downtown, take a bus down to campus, and find our way in. Instead we ended up walking about two miles along the lakefront path to get to the END of the line, which was about half that length; they had that much of the campus closed to the public, with numerous law-enforcement agencies from campus police to nearby counties' sheriff's deputies, not to mention the obvious G-men. Expect lots of scary looking guys with guns and mysterious vans and K9 units and people with gas kits -- the kinds of stuff you'd expect to see if you were looking at a 24 location shoot where the extras staged. Even though it was a cool, breezy fall day, there were volunteers from the campaign handing out water, with warnings that no food or water would be allowed on the grounds. We were supposed to have our printed internet tickets ready for inspection and expected a detailed bag check at the metal detectors, but in the event we were just waved through as long as nothing beeped. There was still a long way to go to get to the hill where people were seated. (Obviously a gymnasium is a smaller venue. For us pure logistics was a big concern.) At the rally itself we ended up having to wait until roughly 3:15, so there was a long stretch of nothing to do but listen to the overloud music and a relatively brief series of introductory speakers (local politicians, generally). There were large video screens set up so that you did not need a line of sight to the President. As his arrival approached (twitterers were announcing his airport landing and noting aspects of his freeway route to campus), snipers were visible on rooftops and a helicopter hovered overhead.

As a diabetic I really should have brought a snack -- I was lucky a person sitting nearby had some glucose pills. There was no food/drink service at the event whatsoever.

Yeah, the "over" was almost as bad -- we had to backtrack to the west before we could go east again, and we were held up for almost 10 minutes while the security people decided whether that route could be opened.

It was grueling and if it hadn't been super to see Obama alive and upbeat after his morose first debate appearance I wouldn't consider it worth the effort, if one has been to similar rallies before (I was on the periphery of Gore's in Chicago and attended Kerry's in Madison; we're now getting Obama in Madison and having just been I'm pretty sure I don' tneed to go again).
posted by dhartung at 12:43 AM on November 2, 2012

Lots of water, people were passing out at the Clinton rally I attended. (Actually, women were swooning!) Maybe even some Gatorade -- it gets massively sweaty.

Leave the knitting needles and take a lightweight paperback for reading. It'll be hard to find a quiet place to sit if you need to count and your hands are going to get all sweaty once the gymnasium fills up.
posted by mibo at 6:14 AM on November 2, 2012

Seconding the layers - I went to one in Boston a couple years ago where we had to wait outside for hours - SO COLD, but then it was warm inside the arena.
posted by naoko at 6:33 AM on November 2, 2012

I second "grueling." My last rally was a Kerry one in the Seattle area and I was on my feet for at least 5 or 6 hours; I guess I was naive but I didn't expect that. So wear good shoes, wear layers, use sunscreen (you don't know how long you'll be waiting outside to get in, could be a long time), and bring a snack, something to read, and a bottle of water. Pee before you go. Don't bring anything that will set off the metal detectors or get security wound up. If you have a cell phone, charge it up in case you get separated from your party. And don't be surprised if you can't see anything; at the rally I went to, I could barely hear what was said and couldn't see a thing. I think I was actually behind the stage, but all I could see were people in all directions. Hmmm . . . may not be the best time for you if you get claustrophobic. Everybody was really nice, but there were thousands of people there and not much room to move. (Knitting wouldn't have worked.)
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 12:14 AM on November 4, 2012

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