Chicago Gets the Celebratory Party Started
By Kari Lydersen
CHICAGO -- The party in downtown Chicago started long before the announcement of Obama's victory, with tens of thousands streaming into Grant Park for Obama's evening rally from afternoon on, cheering and celebrating as if Obama had already won. People ran out into traffic to pose with a white Cadillac convertible emblazoned with the word "Obamallic." A cheering, camera-toting crowd gathered around a city park sign saying "No Dogs Allowed" onto which someone had posted photos of McCain and Palin. People with tickets to the rally waited in a nearly mile-long line, while those without tickets gathered in other parts of the park.
In the ticketed rally area, a beach ball skipped from hand to hand across the crowd and several people juggled as the returns came in.
The announcement of Obama's victory was greeted by a wave of cheers, pumping fists, flashbulbs and waving flags.
A father hoisted his smiling blonde young daughter on his shoulders to wave blue and red pom-poms for reporters, back-lit against the backdrop of a high rise with windows that spelled out "USA" in lights.
A middle-aged female maintenance worker taking a break on a hilltop behind porta-potties to get a glimpse of the crowd said, "There's a new sheriff in town."
"My hat goes off to the man," said her co-worker, who lamented he wouldn't be able to celebrate until almost 4 a.m., when he would finish cleaning up the rally site.
"I think this will cure the racial divide," said Matthew Nalett, 31, a Texas native who runs a Chicago music production website, as he strained to get video footage of Obama. "I think America's growing up now and it's now socially acceptable to have an African American president. But I wouldn't want to have his job for the first year. It will be tough. There are still a lot of people who want to hurt him."
The crowd of ticketed guests in Grant Park chanted "Yes We Can" and cheered throughout the speech, then poured onto Michigan Avenue and surrounding streets which were closed to traffic. People did "the wave" up a quarter-mile stretch of Michigan Avenue, where the medians and low walls were lined with revelers taking photos with cell phones and cameras. "It's like the running of the bulls," remarked one young man.
"It's crazy!" 18-year-old Max Allison, a student at Northwestern University, told a friend on his phone. "After Ohio we knew it was over and it just simmered from there," he said. "This was like the best moment of my life. Well not the best, but..."
Several lines of police in riot gear and on horses were stationed on Michigan Avenue, but fears of violence or rowdy behavior didn't materialize as people walked peacefully and cheerfully toward subway and bus stops. "I was impressed with the crowd's demeanor," said Beth Moon, 33, a copy-writer for a brokerage firm. "People were so confident in the results, I'm sure that helped."
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