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ELECTION IN FOCUS: The Obama rally: Minute-by-Minute

Kaitlynn Riely | Wednesday, November 5, 2008

CHICAGO – Thousands of people, many clad in Obama gear, most from Chicago, descended onto Grant Park Tuesday night to take part in the Election Night rally, a night that ended happily for Obama supporters, as their candidate was named the 44th president of the United States. Approximately 70,000 members of that mass of humanity had tickets to the main event, the part of Grant Park where they were herded to await the results, and at 11 p.m. CST, to hear president-elect Barack Obama speak. The thousands more who had no tickets were directed to the non-ticketed section of Grant Park. The Observer composed two of the thousands. Here’s our minute-by-minute account of Election Night in Grant Park.

4:43 p.m. CSTWe check into our hotel, then walk across the street to the Grant Park entrance. Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers, 67, catches our eye. He is dressed in a Cubs uniform, with Obama ’08 inscribed on the back. “He’ll win by a landslide,” he says. The last time Wickers went to an Election Night rally, it was in 1960, for then-Sen. John F. Kennedy.

4:50 p.m.We go to grab dinner, but first run into Gregory Simon, 44. He’s selling T-shirts that proclaim Obama the 44th president. “This is the victory shirt right here,” he says. “This is the official victory shirt.” Simon says he voted earlier today for the man on the shirt. We leave Simon and his shirts to make our way through to the non-ticketed area. 5:25 p.m. Catherine Matthews, 71, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery. She did not think she would see a black man become president in her lifetime, so she says she wouldn’t miss Election Night at Grant Park for the world. She is not nervous about the results. “At all of the previous elections, it’s been cold weather, it’s been rainy. God has showered us with a beautiful, sunshiney day and so I do believe that everything is going to be in his favor.”

5:37 p.m.Maggie Campbell, 31, has brought her children Henry, 4, and Liam, 2 mos., to Grant Park. She said she didn’t think they would be at the event that late. “It’s such a historic event, that I wanted to be a part of it, and have my kids be a part of it, so even if we could only stay an hour, we wanted to say we were there.” She said she hopes Henry will remember. “I keep telling him what a big deal it is. In 20 years, I want him to be able to say he was here.

5:42 p.m. Andrew Kang, 18, a freshman at Northwestern, has come to Grant Park with several of his college friends. Kang said he is a moderate Republican, but said he voted for Obama. He says there is a lot of excitement at Northwestern for the Illinois senator. “This is Obama country really, so there are a lot of people showing heavy support for the candidate.”

5:50 p.m.We finally run into some Notre Dame people. Betsy Dwyer, a member of the class of ’74 and Fred Nelson, a member of the class of ’66, have entered the park. Dwyer, a community organizer, said Obama is her hero. She says he is the only politician she has ever prayed for. He’s going to win in a landslide, Nelson predicts. He tells us to tell Charlie Weis last Friday’s pep rally was the worst he’s ever attended, high school or college.

5:59 p.m. We head over to the large television screen set up on the lawn, one of several screens all over the park, broadcasting CNN.

6:00 p.m.CNN projects Obama for Vermont, and Kentucky for McCain.

6:15 p.m. CNN introduces its new holographic feature, which gets laughs from the crowd in Grant Park. The station predicts as many as half a million to a million people could be in Grant Park this evening. 6:28 p.m.Three years ago, some people that Delisa Staples, 41, worked with told her Barack Obama would be the next president. Staples came to Grant Park to see if that would happen. “I wanted to be a part of history.”

6:45 p.m.We realize that the Electoral Count is only eight for McCain and three for Obama. This could be a long night.

6:56 p.m.CNN mentions Notre Dame while discussing its predictions for what the Indiana results will look like.

7 p.m.Members of the crowd who had been sitting stand up to watch CNN project Illinois for Obama.

7:10 p.m.Annie Hamel, 27, a citizen of Canada, said she thinks if Obama wins, it will be good for the way that other countries look at the United States. She says elections are not this exciting in Canada.

8:06 p.m. Cody Heiden, 22, is standing in Grant Park in an Obama sweatshirt he has made himself.

8:24 p.m. We receive a text message that Oprah Winfrey has arrived in Grant Park. A few hours later, we see her for ourselves on television.

8:34 p.m.CNN projects Ohio will go for Obama. A few minutes later, CNN’s John King said he does not think McCain can possibly pull out a win. The crowd at Grant Park is ecstatic.

8:47 p.m.Michael Phillips, 39, says he’s feeling “absolutely elated” after the Ohio and Pennsylvania projections. If Obama wins, he says he will kiss the person standing next to him.

9:23 p.m.The crowd at Grant Park tries to start the wave. Seconds later, they give up.

9:52 p.m. Dan Townson, 45, is watching the final returns, victory cigar in hand, ready to be lit.

9:58 p.m. CNN declares an Obama win in Virginia. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer can’t be heard over the cheers.

10:00 p.m.CNN declares Obama the 44th president of the United States. The crowd explodes.

3:30 a.m.We finally go to sleep, just half a mile away from where history was made.