Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Experience Selling Merchandise at the Democratic National Convention

Last Thursday I had the privilege of working at the Democratic National Convention. Two weeks before, I heard about the opportunity in my Intro to Venues and Events in Sports and Entertainment class. I knew it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I even got paid! While I don’t identify as a Democrat or Republican, it was an incredible experience.

* The “arena” is where all the speeches and performances happen in the evening/night. The “convention center” is where workshops and seminars are during the day.

7:30am – Arrive at the meeting location on campus
7:45am – Finally leave Columbia
9:30am – After stopping to get snacks at a gas station, we arrive at the warehouse in Charlotte. We stand around for a while.
10:15am – We drive less than five minutes and get dropped off, then have to walk about 10 minutes to Time Warner Arena. To get inside, they check our credentials to make sure they aren’t counterfeit and we go through a metal detector like at an airport (before the new scanners). We stand around a lot more inside, get trained, walk around the outer part of the arena, and watch James Taylor rehearse.
12:30pm – I finally start working at a booth on the upper level, which is a lot less busy than the lower level.
1:30-2pm – We take a lunch break and watch the Foo Fighters rehearse for a little. We also see Fran Dresher and there are five of us that talk with her for a few minutes. She had a camera crew with her and they were recording! She just asked us about what we were doing there, where we go to school, what we were studying, etc.
2-3:30pm – I continued to work the booth on the upper level.
3:30-6pm – The booths on the main level, which was were everyone was coming in, needed more workers, so I moved down there. I was constantly helping people and the time flew by. While I was getting the merchandise one customer wanted, the girl I shared the register with was checking out another customer. The transaction took awhile because we had to get everyone’s name and address since they were technically making a donation to the Democratic Party and we needed to know where the money was coming from. The items they received were their “gifts” for donating.
6:30pm – A group of us walk over to the Charlotte Convention Center, which is about 7 blocks away. The public got let into the building at 7, so they thought we would get really busy, but we didn’t.
7:15pm – One other girl and I leave convention center to go back over to the arena because they need more help. Each of us had to carry a large box of t-shirts all the way. Just as we are leaving the convention center we see a woman who was either part of a protest or angry with protesters, get arrested literally right in front of us. All of a sudden half a dozen police officers surround her and one handcuffs her. I was probably six feet away from the officers. The girl I was walk with, Lindsay, was in front of me and I just told her to keep walking.
7:30-8pm – We arrive outside the arena and there are at least a hundred people waiting outside the gates, but no one is getting let in. Lindsay tries to talk to police officers to let us in, but that gets us nowhere. We soon find out that the place is on lockdown and then find out it is because they aren’t allowed to let any more people because they are at capacity. Three other people that also work selling merchandise return from having dinner and we wait with them for a little.
8-8:45pm – Lindsay and I leave our boxes with the other people and go have dinner at Firehouse Subs. On our way back we see dozens of police officers in a line and holding batons get into white vans.
8:45-9:15pm – When we get back to the gates outside the arena, there are only about 20-40 people still waiting to get in. The people watching our boxes said that while we were gone an announcement was made saying that no one else was getting in the rest of the night. We continued to wait a little longer because we were waiting to hear from our boss if he would be able to get us in. During this whole time there were protestors and one guy with a microphone preaching about Jesus and the Bible, which was quite annoying. Eventually we decided to return to the convention center.
9:15pm-2am – The rest of the night I worked the convention center and had a steady stream of customers throughout the night. We then go back to the warehouse and wait for everyone else from the arena get there.
2:45am – We leave the warehouse and stop at a 24-hour gas station on the way back. On the way back people tell us who they saw: Michelle Obama (she was at the arena when I was there, but she was on the upper level while I was on the main level), Zach Braff, Forest Whitaker, and the guy from Will and Grace.
4:30am – Finally arrive back in Columbia!
8:30am – I wake up for class!

My credentials 

James Taylor rehearsing

Foo Fighters rehearsing

What the booth looked like on the main level at the arena (I tried to include as much as possible in the shot)

This was where we were trying to get into the arena, but no one could get in

The bright orange shirt we all had to wear. Yes, it does say "DNC (Democratic National Convention) Convention." I'm pretty sure it was the company I worked for that printed them, not the DNC.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like a lot of fun & excitement !!!
    Did you get to keep you creds ?
    That is something to keep.

    Love you !


    PS - Did James Taylor put everyone to sleep? :-b