Friday, August 29, 2008

Watching the spectacle -- on TV

Kane Farabaugh
Special to The Times

When our hotel shuttle bus brought us to the Pepsi Center Thursday morning, the line of people waiting to get into nearby Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium was a sign of things to come.

We all knew this day was meant to be big, historic and busy. But moving a convention from a heavily fortified and secure area to an open-air arena with tens of thousands of people is something just shy of a miracle to execute.

I made my way to Invesco field the day before Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's big moment to gather footage and interviews of the work under way to set the stage for one of the biggest political acceptance speeches in history.

When I arrived, crews were busy putting the final touches on the podium where Obama would speak. I gathered footage, and when I finally stopped filming, I realized I was standing at a place that would soon become a moment in history people might remember.

As I stood behind the podium, I looked out at all the empty seats that soon would be filled with those who would trek far and wide to witness history in person. I glanced up at the screen where Obama would read his acceptance speech, and I took a moment to soak in the importance of what I've been able to see and what I've been able to witness this week in Denver.

Just after my visit to Invesco Field, I ran into an old acquaintance I had worked with in Charleston, W.Va. Erik Wells is a former news anchor with the ABC station there. He ran for the House of Representatives against Republican Shelly Moore Capito in 2004, and lost the general election. He now is in West Virginia state politics and was a delegate at this week's convention.

He was a pledged delegate to New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, and was someone I was eager to meet with to understand his position and learn how events would play out on the floor of the convention during the state's roll call.

He informed me he just attended a meeting Clinton had with her delegates, where she released them from their obligation to vote for her, enabling them to vote for Obama. Though Wells supported Clinton because of her plans for health care, he has no problem now supporting Obama.

"When you take a look at what took place in this process, Barack Obama won. I happen to support somebody who did not get enough delegates. But in the end, I'm supporting the candidate because we need some change in this country and that's why I'm going to support Barack Obama."

In the end, Clinton made it easy on Wells. She appeared on the floor of the convention with the New York delegation to move to suspend the state's roll call vote and award Obama the Democratic Party nomination by acclamation.

Though it's not the outcome Wells hoped for when he pledged to support Clinton, he was eager to make the move to Invesco Field now that the official party business was at an end.

"This is going to be the first time that we're going to have this type of convention speech since John Kennedy in 1960. Already we've been told that 90,000 people in Denver have signed up to try to get a ticket to get into the stadium."

If indeed there were that many people attending the event, it was hard to miss them throughout a large area around Invesco the day of the speech.

A line that was at least a mile long formed by midday, held up mostly from the detailed security checks.

As irony would have it, my moment behind the podium on the field the day before the speech would be the only time I would set foot inside the arena during the Democratic National Convention.

The crowds of people, as well as the tight restrictions on media before, during and after his speech, meant I might miss my early morning flight today. As my week of coverage in Denver came to a close, the climatic moment of the DNC was a moment in history I shared with most of America ... on the television.

But there is more news to cover, more moments to record and still one more acceptance speech on the road to the final push for the White House. As the wheels of the plane go up in Denver they soon shall land in St. Paul, Minn., where the Republicans take the stage to make their case for Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Kane Farabaugh is a Midwest-based TV and radio correspondent with Voice of America ( He is covering the 2008 Presidential election for VOA. A 1995 graduate of Ottawa Township High School, Farabaugh recently returned to Ottawa, where he now lives with his family. He's worked for various commercial TV stations as a reporter and anchor as well as the American Forces Network Europe based in Germany. The views expressed in this column are Farabaugh's and do not represent the views of Voice of America.

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