Chicago Hosts Obama's Election Night Party
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. This Election Day serves as a reminder that politicians are gamblers. Two men devoted years to seeking the presidency. Both planned big celebrations tonight. And only one can be a celebration of victory. Barack Obama and John McCain will learn the results in their home states. And as Americans vote today, we have a preview of what you can expect to see tonight. We begin with NPR's Cheryl Corley in Chicago.
CHERYL CORLEY: Chicago's skyline will be a backdrop for Barack Obama's election night party which will be in a section of Grand Park, the main park in the city's downtown.
Mayor RICHARD DALEY (Democrat, Chicago): This is going to be a night of celebration. You can feel it in the air, not only in Chicago, but throughout the country.
CORLEY: That's Chicago Mayor Richard Daley who said he expects nearly a million people to pour into downtown. But the Obama party is a ticketed event, standing room only for about 65,000 people in an area specifically for them. Raymond Orozco, the head of the city's Office of Emergency Management, says he understands that people might want to join in what could be a historic event, so there will be an area in the park for those without tickets, and some concessions have been made for them.
Mr. RAYMOND OROZCO (Executive Director, Office of Emergency Management and Communications, Chicago): A jumbotron that will broadcast the evening's remarks. And we will also have access to others if the need arises.
CORLEY: Plus there will be a few other necessities, like water people can purchase and portable restrooms. Beyond that, not much else. There won't be any nearby parking. No seating provided. So Orozco says Grand Park tonight really is no place for senior citizens or families with children. And if it gets too crowded...
Mr. OROZCO: People will be turned away.
CORLEY: But Grand Park has seen its share of large crowds. There was a visit by Pope John Paul II, championship celebrations for the Chicago Bulls, and that dubious political bit of history in 1968 when demonstrators and police clashed during the Democratic National Convention. On a more positive note, the Grand Park site is the same spot where thousands of concertgoers gathered during the Lollapalooza music festival and listened to groups like Radiohead.
(Soundbite of Lollapalooza music festival)
CORLEY: There was even a mosh pit at the festival, but Chicago Tribune critic Greg Kot says...
Mr. GREG KOT (Music Critic, Chicago Tribune): There's not going to be a mosh pit at Obama.
CORLEY: That's even though the senator has had his own rock-star-like draw at election rallies. What will be present, though, is tight security. Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis says they will aggressively screen people coming into the park, and he's certain that nothing will go wrong.
Superintendent JODY WEIS (Chicago Police Department): I'm extraordinarily confident that we can keep Senator Obama safe, that we can keep the citizens of Chicago safe, and we can keep the neighborhood safe.
CORLEY: Weis wouldn't talk specifics, but said police have been working with the Secret Service and other agencies to set up the appropriate level of security for a person who is potentially the next president of the United States. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.