Crowds pouring toward Invesco for Obama speech |

Crowds pouring toward Invesco for Obama speech

Aaron J. Lopez
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
Matt McClain/Rocky Mountain NewsNestled in the confines of Invesco Field, the final details for the podium and stage areas near completion for the final night of the 2008 DNC in Denver Wednesday.

DENVER Colorado ” As marquee acts such as Stevie Wonder and Sheryl Crow rehearsed for Barack Obama’s big night at Invesco Field, thousands of people began arriving at the stadium today ready to witness history.

“It’s amazing,” said Daniel Pitcairn, a volunteer usher from Tampa, Fla. “This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

With music as a background and anticipation in the air, the mood was festive and no major problems were reported early this afternoon as Obama-maniacs gathered to take part in the first nomination acceptance speech at a football stadium in 48 years.

Obama is expected to address an expected crowd of 75,000 at about 8 p.m. Other speakers will include Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Vice President Al Gore.

Hype and history will collide when Obama ” the first black presidential nominee of a major party ” takes the stage on the 45th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Obama is expected to draw upon that speech, as well as the speech given by John F. Kennedy when JFK accepted the Democratic nomination at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960.

Obama opted for Invesco over the smaller Pepsi Center in an attempt to be more inclusive, but it certainly is an early gamble as he gets begins an already contentious campaign against GOP nominee John McCain.

McCain’s campaign has dismissed Obama as a celebrity candidate with little experience or substance, and the rock-concert setting at Invesco Field might feed those perceptions.

The Greek-amphitheater stage at Invesco was a hot topic of conversation, and Republicans wasted no time mocking the set by suggesting that delegates come dressed togas.

Obama can help millions of primetime viewers form their own opinion. He is expected to give people an idea of his personal background while also highlighting the differences between him and McCain.

Health care, energy and foreign affairs are among the specific issues that Obama plans to discuss, said Josh Earnest, deputy communications director for Obama’s campaign.

While Obama will have to deliver a speech that will connect with the crowd and a television audience alike, weather is not expected to be an issue.

Meteorologists are predicting mostly sunny skies into the evening and temperatures in the low 70s by the time Obama speaks.

Many Obama supporters believe his speech will be a where-were-you-when event. For Denver commuters, the answer could be: “On the freeway.”

The Secret Service plans to shut down Interstate 25 southbound between I-70 and Sixth Avenue from 5:30 until sometime after 9 p.m. The northbound lanes will be shut down from Sixth Avenue to the Speer Boulevard exit.

Though the buzz this morning focused on Invesco, activists were back out for another day of protests and demonstrations.

Carrying an inflatable Statue of Liberty and a giant reprint of the U.S. Constitution, about 1,000 people marched through downtown in a push for immigration reform.

Turnout for the march, organized by the We Are Americans Alliance, was smaller than expected but still impressive, filling about half of Lincoln Park.

The largest demonstration of the DNC took place Wednesday when more than 2,000 people marched in support of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

The march ended peacefully at the Pepsi Center, where a soldier delivered a letter to a representative of the Obama campaign.

Earnest said campaign officials also are working on a response to a letter. “We will be getting back to them,” he said. “We take their concerns seriously.”

As anticipation built for Obama, the Republicans were not about to cede the spotlight. McCain is expected to name his running mate on Friday and he denied reports this morning that his selection already has been made.

Among the leading candidates are former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The Republican National Convention begins Monday in St. Paul, Minn.

The GOP will have a tough time matching the star power that was seen in Denver this week.

Hollywood heavyweights such as Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway and Eva Longoria have made appearances. The star-gazing shut down the 16th Street Mall for about a half-hour this morning as nearly 1,000 people crowded outside trendy Earls restaurant.

Spike Lee, Tim Daly, Josh Lucas, Giancarlo Esposito, Matthew Modine and Susan Sarandon were among the celebrities spotted today on the mall.

“It’s been like this all week,” said RTD supervisor Paul Lopez. “It’s slow and crowded.”

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