Our guy tracks the Obama-Biden party train in Wilmington and blitzes the ballroom at the Bayhealth Black and White Gala in Dover.
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“Obama is hot, and Biden is my co-pilot,” was how local fashionista Toni Toomey summed up her feelings when the presidential party train rolled through Wilmington three days before the inauguration. Was it the heat Toomey claims Barack Obama radiates, or was it the promise of a fireside toddy at Harry’s Seafood Grill after the rally that kept her and her friends warm on that coldest of days? It hardly mattered. Toomey and 5,000 other determined, change-seeking spectators jammed the station and neighboring Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park to get a glimpse of the president-elect and our very own Joe Biden. “The last time it was this crowded was when Kennedy came through in ’62,” one attendee commented. Marsha Washington of Wilmington looked quite pleased with the $10 T-shirt she’d purchased on Market Street. “I love it,” she said, “and wasn’t leaving without one.”
Delawareans young and old—as well as several bus groups and a healthy number of Obamabilia vendors—jostled in long lines at the security tents, but no one seemed to mind. Francis Dickerson brought her 12-year-old son James from New Jersey. Hortense Priest, who taught at McKean and Wilmington high schools, walked from her Eastside neighborhood to be there and “thanked God for Obama and for the bright clear day.”
The national anthem was sung very nicely by Nicodemus Williams, a student of nearby Kuumba Academy. Wilmington Mayor Jim Baker wholeheartedly welcomed everyone. Governor Jack Markell likened Obama’s personal vision to that of Harriet Tubman’s. “We have to build a new America from the ground up” said the guv. “We are that new America.”
As the Obama-Biden train pulled into the station, manager Gregg Weaver told the patient patriots how his staff frequently delayed a D.C.-bound train if Biden called to report he was late. At the podium, Biden thanked the Amtrakers who occasionally invented the “mechanical difficulties” that gave him time to catch his ride.
Finally, the man everyone waited shivering to see, Barack Obama, approached the mike. Young Mr. Dickerson hopped up onto a trash can to take snapshots of Mr. Obama. Dozens of camcorders, cameras and cell-phone cameras were instantly thrust his way, so he and yours truly did our best to tape, snap and click until Barack, Michelle, Joe and Jill were whisked away.
The crowd was slow to leave. I had the distinct sense that everyone wanted to revel in their brief encounter with greatness for a moment longer. We followed the bunch filing into Harry’s. At the fire, I found Ms. Toomey with three of her gal pals: jewelry designer Olga Ganoudis, who was enthusiastic about a new government that “will relate, not detach,” Denee Planck, who said she “felt the love,” and Stacy Skinner, who was grooving on a margarita and the “historical sympatico” of celebrating her 44th birthday on the inauguration of the 44th president. Cheers to that.
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