By Jenny Berg Posted November 5, 2008, 12:06 PM EST
CHICAGO Lines stretched for seemingly endless blocks outside Grant Park last night as rally attendees waited to hear Barack Obama speak. “Well, I'll see a speck and call it a president," said one woman, taking her crowded surroundings into account.
Though some guests found standing room close to the stage where Obama spoke—television coverage showed Oprah Winfrey and Reverend Jesse Jackson there—catching a glimpse of the next president proved difficult in much of the tightly packed park. Instead, most attendees trained their eyes on a giant JumboTron stationed at the southern end of Hutchinson Field, which C3 Presents erected to broadcast news from CNN throughout the evening and showcase Obama's speech.
The southern end of the park also housed tents (supplied by HDO Tenting) for media, the National Finance Committee, and top campaign officials. In those tents, Limelight Catering's Rita Gutekanst and Kim Hrejsa worked with roughly 105 of the company's staffers to keep 3,000 guests fed over the course of the evening. On the election night menu: Mini BLTs, spinach risotto cakes, and buffets offering rosemary-roasted-tomato soup, beef sirloin tamale bites, and tortilla chips with spicy black bean dip.
Also on site were staffers from vendors such as Hall's Rental. According to Gutekanst, “There was just a wonderful camaraderie amongst everyone there. There was a tremendous respect for the campaign. [All the vendors] just wanted to make this happen for them."
Gutekanst said that though everything ran “smoothly, with no hassle,” it was a “long night"—and week—for all involved. Ten days before the election, all staffers had to submit credentials to be approved by security. On Monday, Limelight loaded in food for a Secret Service sweep (which involved sniffer dogs), and on Tuesday, staffers arrived at the park at about 4 a.m.
When Obama's speech wrapped up around midnight, the rally was over. Crowds spilled out of the park and took to the closed-off Michigan Avenue, where security guards on foot and on horseback stood in clusters at each corner, vendors hawked pins and T-shirts, and cheers seemed to move in waves, starting at the back of the crowd and moving quickly toward the front. While the crowd dissapated, vendors stayed behind: Gutekanst said her staff was still breaking things down at 4 a.m.