How early should I get to an Obama rally?
February 23, 2008 7:50 PM   Subscribe

How early should I get to an Obama rally at which the "doors open" at 4pm?

Pardon me if this is a dumb question, but I'm a relatively new attender of political rallies in which very popular politicians will be there.

On Monday I'd like to go see Barack Obama speak, at my university's full-sized basketball court/arena. The doors open at 4:00pm, and the event's evidentally supposed to start at 6:00pm. I don't need to be super close, but I'd also like to not be in the nosebleed section. No tickets involved, and seating on a first-come-first served basis.

If I show up at 4, will I be pushing it to be getting in at all? Should I be showing up at more like 3? Is that overdoing it? Thoughts? Experience?

posted by Quidam to Society & Culture (15 answers total)
Get there at 2:40 pm.
posted by america4 at 7:53 PM on February 23, 2008

I say get there at lunchtime, take a book, relax, chat to other people while you're there. I am British though, and we do love our queueing.
posted by uk_giffo at 7:59 PM on February 23, 2008

I am a newly minted veteran of NH primaries, and it's much better to be safe than sorry. People will be lining up like crazy. Get there at least by 2:30, and yes, bring a book, mp3 player, notepad, homework, whatever you need to pass the time. People will likely be sociable and the waiting will likely be civil and friendly and go pretty quickly, but if the doors open at 4 that means they'll be seating everyone who's stood on line for an hour or more at 4, and whoever comes later will get the dregs. And there will definitely be people online quite early.
posted by Miko at 8:03 PM on February 23, 2008

Can you check periodically through the day to see how the line is coming? (Starting in the morning) If you go to a big school or if there are likely to be people from the town/city there, my guess is there will be a big line early.
I know two people who have tried to get into Obama rallies in the last month and not been able to. So I would play it safe and get there much earlier than you think is needed.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:26 PM on February 23, 2008

Here in Seattle we had 18k inside the building and 3k waiting outside who couldn't fit in. I was volunteering at the event and I had multiple people offer me bribes to get in. They were only half joking. Get there early!
posted by lemuria at 8:32 PM on February 23, 2008

I'd say ditto america4, unless you're press... Even if you get there at 2:40 p.m., there'll likely still be a line already, but you'll definitely be closer to the front.

(I worked press at the Obama rally in St. Louis recently.)
posted by limeonaire at 8:34 PM on February 23, 2008

I'd shoot for two hours early. Keep in mind that the candidate isn't likely to speak until at least an hour after you get in (sometimes more like two). Bring a good book.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:35 PM on February 23, 2008

Great! Just the information I needed. I have class until 2:30, so I should be able to dart out and get over there by 2:40 - conveniently, just as suggested.

Thanks everyone!
posted by Quidam at 9:42 PM on February 23, 2008

Get there at least 2 hours ahead. You won't believe how quickly people stricken with Obamamania begin to queue.
posted by HotPatatta at 12:28 AM on February 24, 2008

Based on my experience seeing him speak on a Friday, in downtown Milwaukee, in a large auditorium: If you get there at 4:00, you'll get in just fine (though you'll obviously be behind a fairly large crowd).

I agree with a previous poster that it's a good idea to bring some form of entertainment, too -- other people, optimally, though a book would suffice.
posted by joshjs at 1:17 AM on February 24, 2008

I have class until 2:30, so I should be able to dart out and get over there by 2:40

Make sure you go to the bathroom before you leave.
posted by essexjan at 6:16 AM on February 24, 2008

This sounds like it might be more the exception than the rule, but I had dinner a couple of weeks ago near the World Trade Center in Boston the night of the Massachusetts primary. Doors were scheduled to open for Obama's rally at the WTC at 10 PM, and he was going to arrive around midnight. I'm not sure how large the room they had was, but it was the longest line I have ever seen, and not by a close margin. Since I can't figure out how to draw lines on a google map, use this map for a reference, and I'll describe the lines

When we first walked by, around 6 PM, the line started at the WTC (hopefully in the bottom right corner of the map), and went to approximately where the arrow is on the map. It was anywhere from 2-4 people wide - most people were having a blast, making Get-out-the-Vote calls, etc... When we left dinner, it was absolutely amazing - the line continued northwest on Seaport Blvd until it reached that little cross-street just before the water. It then turned right down that side street, then right again on Northern ave, and went back towards the WTC. Once the line got back about even with the arrow, it doubled back over itself, and went all the way back, across the walking bridge, about 30 yards short of hitting Atlantic Ave. This was about 8:15. I was absolutely amazed.

Reading back over that, I'm not so sure it helps answer the question, but I just had to tell someone the story. There must have been eleventy billion people in that line...
posted by um_maverick at 9:26 AM on February 24, 2008

UPDATE! (not sure if anyone will see this, but, just in case)

Well, I got there at 2:45pm, and there was already a line of people that ran all the way down the length of one side of of the arena, then doubled back and ran all the way back - there were a crazy number of people there, even more than 3 hours before he was scheduled to speak. This was all to enter into one gate.

Then about 10 or 15 minutes after I got in line, a security guard announced that they would also be allowing people to enter at another gate on the other side of the arena - so about the back 1/3 of the line or so (myself included) booked it on over to the other gate. Fortuitously I wound up near the front of that mass of people, so by the time they opened the doors (which was more like 3:30 than 4:00), I was among the first in.

No tickets were required for the event, but if you went down to his campaign office downtown that morning, you could get "preferred seating" tickets that allowed you access to the floor level. I didnt have a ticket, but I ended up inside about the same time that a group of older folks (well, older than me) were figuring out that this "preferred seating" actually meant standing up for, at that point, close to 4 hours.

Well heck, I do that at my job as a barista all the time, so I announced to anyone within earshot that I would gladly take anyone's ticket who didn't want to stand, and some kind old woman handed me her ticket.

So I went down to the ground floor, and ended up there early enough that there was only one guy in front of me at all. I was about 10 feet away from the stage the whole time. Close enough that after the speech, I got to shake Obama's hand.

So in short, it was totally sweet. Thanks to you all for helping it to be. :)
posted by Quidam at 8:26 PM on February 26, 2008

That's great! How was his handshake? Presidential?
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:50 PM on February 26, 2008

It sounds cliché, but what struck me more was how genuine he was, more than "presidential" per se. He made his way all the around the perimeter of the rectangle of a gate that was barricading the crowd from him (clustered in the middle of about 5 secret service agents, of course), more or less taking his time, shaking every person's hand that he could reach. He said he couldn't pose for any photographs, understandably. Beforehand an agent had come by warning us that if we wanted any autographs that he would have a pen, that we were not to hand him a pen, that we were not to have any food or drink in our hand, and that we were not to have anything in our hand. Dude was not messing around.

So I had a scrap of paper ready just in case, but in then end the only thing he ended up signing were copies of his books - and actually, a secret service agent collected all of those as he went, took them all to the back at once (he had a stack of probably 9 or 10 by the end), and I assume brought them back out afterwards - I didn't see that happen, I had ducked out by then.
posted by Quidam at 9:13 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

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