Exploring the unconventional at the DNC
Published: Sunday, August 24, 2008 - 10:52pm
The real Casa Bonita, almost as impressive as the one immortalized in "South Park." Gargoyle photo by Will Fernandez (click to enlarge)
Note: Sophomore Will Fernandez is in Denver to cover the Democratic National Convention. This is the second in a series of articles he will publish during the coming week as he reports on the historic nomination of Sen. Barack Obama for president. His first article can be found here.
"South Park" Lives at Real Casa Bonita
In a famous episode on Comedy Central's hit cartoon "South Park," Eric Cartman, one of the fourth-grade stars of the show, gets to go to a magical place called Casa Bonita.
Well, Saturday I visited the real-life Casa Bonita, and it is indeed magical. It's a Mexican restaurant just west of downtown Denver, with more than 50,000 square feet complete with a waterfall, strolling mariachis, and high divers who do jack-knives into a small pool of water to very pleased audiences.
Rob Hall, the manager of Casa Bonita, told me, "Within a day of the 'South Park' episode having been aired, our customers rose by 15 percent."
Hall said he never expected a cartoon to boost sales by "so much." He's hopeful that the "South Park" fans among the delegates, media, and other conventioneers also will provide a boost.
Is It Biden or Not?
My Southwest Airlines trip from Chicago Midway to Denver was jam-packed with delegates, media, and Obama campaign workers. All the talk on the plane was about when people heard that U.S. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware was the vice presidential running mate for Barack Obama.
The news apparently broke around midnight of Friday night-Saturday morning, before the Obama campaign could send its text message to tens of thousands of its supporters. But was the news leaked or was it just a smart guess?
Some of the Democratic faithful on the plane were teasing a Chicago Tribune reporter on the plane because his newspaper ran a headline: "Biden is It?" Cross-town rival the Chicago Sun-Times ran what would turn out to be a more winning headline: "Biden is It!"
Ah, my fifth-grade teacher always told me there was power in punctuation!
The Presidential Experience
In search of some locals to comment on the impact of the Democratic convention on Colorado and Denver, I flashed my press credentials to take a peek at a traveling exhibition on display in the parking lot of INVESCO Field (where U.S. Sen. Barack Obama will accept his party's nomination Thursday night) called the American Presidential Experience.
Any political junkie would love it: more than 150,000 square feet of memorabilia from full-size replicas of the Oval Office and Air Force One to Florida voting machines from the 2000 election. Shoe company Johnston & Murphy even had a display of presidential shoes. Of course, I had to take my turn at the presidential podium.
Denver artist Malcolm Farley caught Will Fernandez's attention as he painted a portrait of Sen. Barack Obama during Saturday's media party at Elitch Gardens. Gargoyle photo by Will Fernandez (click to enlarge)
It's Media Party Time
Being press at the Democratic Convention has its perks. For one, you get to go to a big party on Saturday night before the convention at Denver's largest amusement park, Elitch Gardens, talk to other reporters about the campaign and story angles, eat endless quesadillas and veggie pizza, view some interesting entertainment, and listen to some great music.
My dad rubbed elbows with some people he knew from his days on Capitol Hill in the 1970s and 1980s, including Frank Greer of Greer, Margolis, Mitchell, which has produced some of Obama's presidential advertising.
Meanwhile I found myself mesmerized by Denver artist Malcolm Farley, who painted a portrait of Obama during the media party.
The best, though, was rock group Flobots, famous for the hit single "Handlebars."
The Denver band not only played fabulously, but they made a pitch for young people to get involved in the political process. They are involved with a cause called Fight With Tools.
All in all, the first day of my trip to Denver was memorable, and hopefully each day will just keep getting better.
Official Schedule for the Democratic National Convention
Note: All events listed below will take place at the Pepsi Center unless otherwise noted.
Monday, Aug. 25: One Nation
• Headline prime-time speaker: Michelle Obama
• A tribute to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy
• Other speakers include Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
Tuesday, Aug. 26: Renewing America’s Promise
• Headline prime-time speaker: Sen. Hillary Clinton
• Keynote speaker: former Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia
• Other speakers include pay equity pioneer Lilly Ledbetter, Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel
Wednesday, Aug. 27: Securing America’s Future
• Headline prime-time speaker: Barack Obama’s vice presidential nominee, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware
• Featured speakers will include former President Bill Clinton, former Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley
Thursday, Aug. 28: Change You Can Believe In
• On Thursday night, the DNCC will throw open the doors of the convention and move to INVESCO Field at Mile High so that more Americans can be a part of the fourth night of the convention as Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination
• Additional details of the program preceding Obama’s acceptance speech to be announced