After some 21 months of electoral run-up, planners dared only to label Barack Obamas mass gathering in Chicagos Grant Park on Tuesday an Election Night Event.
But ebullient crowds of line-waiters, T-shirt-hawkers and history-seekers didnt wait for the final poll numbers from California to wash over the continent Tuesday night before they started amending their rallying cries.
Yes we can? Yes we did! one man began shouting just before 9 p.m., with an enthusiasm usually reserved for arena-rock shows, as he and his fellow event-goers navigated concrete steps toward the park where campaign supporters crammed in to wait.
Bursts of news gleaned from mobile devices traveled up the line: Ohio had just gone for Obama. Pennsylvania was a sure thing. And Virginia!
Murmurs were heard that California was going to put Obama over the top when the polls closed at 10 p.m. CT. I looked at my cell phone and saw it was already 9:30 and we still had not made it through what was said to be a fortresslike security regimen at the front of the line, where, without national media credentials, I would present my ID and have the barcode on my laser-printed e-ticket scanned.
Not so much. One woman glanced at the ticket, another told me to turn on my cell phone but did not look at it, and a third made sure I had a drivers license that read Joe Carlson.
As I neared Grant Parks Hutchinson Field with all the speed of an ambling throng, the disembodied voice of Anderson Cooper seemed to be saying something in the bright distance on the other side of a row of trees. Something about electoral votes? Was Anderson Cooper in Chicago?
Beyond the foliage, temporary stadium lighting illuminated the bowl-shaped field so brightly it cast a white haze for cameras capturing the event, including the live CNN feed from Hutchinson Field that beamed images of the crowd back to itself via the JumboTron screen set up near the stage.
Flags waved, kids sat on parents shoulders, and thousands upon thousands of cameras rolled in what had to be one of Chicagos most assiduously recorded events.
Then 10 p.m. arrived. And with what after 21 months of election coverage seemed like little warning, there it was up on the screen, for the jumping and screaming crowd of supporters to read: CNN projection: Barack Obama elected president.
Joe Carlson covers not-for-profit hospitals and health systems and human resources issues, including staffing, labor and management. He also covers regional healthcare business news in Florida, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.