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No balloon finale for Democrats

A worker adjusts some thousands balloons as they prepare lift balloons ceiling Fleet Center site for 2004 Democratic ConventiBoston. File

A worker adjusts some of the thousands of balloons, as they prepare to lift the balloons to the ceiling in the Fleet Center, the site for the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston. File Photo.. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

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Updated: October 7, 2012 8:08AM



CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The red, white and blue balloons are going to have to wait until 2016.

The massive balloon drop that was to have been the exclamation point on President Barack Obama’s Thursday night speech was cancelled Wednesday when organizers pulled the plug on Thursday’s outdoor conclusion to the Democratic National Convention.

The convention’s planning committee moved the last night of the three-day political show from the 70,000-seat, open-air Bank of America Stadium to the 24,000-seat, indoor Time Warner Cable Arena because of the threat of “severe weather.”

Some had questioned whether Obama, facing a discernible drop in enthusiasm from 2008 when he packed a stadium in Denver, might face the embarrassment of having empty seats at Bank of America Stadium the night of his acceptance speech.

But convention organizers insisted that was not the case Wednesday.

“We have been monitoring weather forecasts closely and several reports predict thunderstorms in the area, therefore we have decided to move Thursday’s proceedings to Time Warner Cable Arena to ensure the safety and security of our delegates and convention guests,” said Steve Kerrigan, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee.

All week, frequent lightning-driven deluges have hit downtown Charlotte, drenching delegates and their guests, whose access to umbrellas within the convention perimeter has been restricted because of security concerns.

A spokesman for Illinois Democratic Party Chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), said the shift would cost several hundred Illinoisans, who aren’t delegates, the chance to see Obama in-person.

Will County Executive Lawrence Walsh, a former state senator who served with Obama and remains friends with the president, said the change of locale and fewer audience members will lower the overall voltage of the event. In 2008, Obama accepted his party’s presidential nomination before 84,000 frenzied supporters at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver.

“Absolutely it would have been nicer to be out there at the stadium. It would have been huge, almost like Colorado, that we’d have had 60,000 or 70,000 people,” Walsh told the Chicago Sun-Times. “His constituency that wanted to come see him and accept that nomination would have been huge, but we’re not going to see that.

“We’re still going to have a rocking place here at the convention hall Thursday night, but it’s not going to be near the enthusiasm and energy that would have been created by being outside,” Walsh said.



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