This week the Democrats did it in Philadelphia, but last week the Republicans kicked off their nominating events in Cleveland. Both are part of the process in the presidential election of 2016.
State Representative Dorothy Pelanda, from Union County, felt privileged to be one of the 4,000 people able to attend the Republican convention in Cleveland. She was not a delegate, and tickets, just to attend, were difficult to obtain. Dorothy’s ticket came through her husband, Sam Gerhardstein, who is a lobbyist for Columbia Gas of Ohio.
It was her first political convention and one she’ll never forget. Not only were there speeches to listen to inside the building, but also outside another whole world was going on.
Businesses and charities in Cleveland were hosting parties to highlight themselves. They wanted invited guests to come in and see their city and learn what each of them had to offer the world. Special security badges, which were required for these events, had to be applied for ahead of time. Also, clear plastic totes were available at most events, because no purses were allowed. At the entry, people were searched and so were the plastic totes. When they got inside, Dorothy said there were hundreds of people at each of the many events they attended.
Of course, the biggest concern for Cleveland, and our entire country, was the safety of everyone at that convention, especially looking back at what has occurred in the world in the last few months. Dorothy repeatedly said she couldn’t have felt safer the entire time.
When they arrived in Cleveland they parked their car at the airport and were shuttled into town and never drove again. They walked everywhere with no problem, thanks not only to the police presence, but also to volunteers who were stationed everywhere along the streets. When Dorothy and her husband were walking along, those volunteers would come up to them and offer to help them. They asked if they knew where they were, or if they could do anything for them. She said that it made everyone feel comfortable in this place where the potential was there for trouble.
There was high praise for Cleveland. Dorothy said one month ago when she visited the city, the downtown was quite torn up. There was construction going on everywhere and she couldn’t see how this was going to look good for the convention. But upon arrival, she said it was a nice surprise. Everything was beautiful and immaculately set up to impress the world with Cleveland. She said the city really shined.
About that safety aspect, Dorothy said that in some places during the demonstrations, the police were three deep. They were motionless and emotionless, but it was clear that they could take care of anything at the drop of a hat. She said you just knew that they could stop any disruption. It surprised her that most of the demonstrators had a religious theme, not necessarily political.
Outside, to enter the convention site, the security was, of course, very tight just like at an airport. Everywhere they encountered security, they soon learned there would be a 30 to 45 minute wait in line. That was OK with everyone. Inside, the atmosphere was circus-like with people dressing up in crazy outfits covered in elephants and Trump – Pence badges.
About Dorothy’s thoughts on Ohio Governor John Kasich not attending the convention, she said, “At least I have to give him credit for not saying anything, unlike Ted Cruz.”
Well, you know the old saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” Maybe that’s what our governor was doing.
With regard to their accommodations, of course there were not enough hotels and motels close by to house all the people who were going to come for the convention, so homes and apartments near the area were opened up for rental. Dorothy and Sam were lucky enough to get the apartment of a woman who just vacated it for the week and they were within walking distance of the convention center and everything they did. They had to be screened ahead of time as the owner left all her belongings there, just moving her clothing aside a little bit to give them some hanging space. Can you imagine opening your home to someone you didn’t even know and leaving your things there? This was a thoughtful person who even left them some wine and a bouquet of balloons.
So, it was Dorothy’s first experience at a political convention and one I could tell she would want to do again. She was only there through Tuesday because of commitments with her job as our state representative, but Dorothy concluded: “The whole experience was just about being together as Republicans. After all, most people there were not delegates. They were just there to be part of history. And I continue to be in awe of how many thousands of people put on the show and protected us through this safe event.”
(Melanie Behrens – firstname.lastname@example.org)
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