Campaign, PSU Unite In Planning

This story was written by Katharine Lackey And Jessica Turnbull, The Daily Cardinal
The Old Main lawn underwent dramatic changes over the weekend in anticipation of a visit from presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

Hours of planning and preparation were required to successfully host the senator and the record 22,000 people who filled the lawn, said Sean Smith, Obama's Pennsylvania spokesman.

"The campaign puts the entire event on, working in conjunction with the university after they agree to let us use the site," he said.

Smith said equipment for the event is rented from local vendors.

Fences, trashcans, Port-a-Potties, tents, tables and risers were erected and torn down by contractors hired by the Obama campaign, Smith said.

An advance team from the campaign arrived at Penn State Tuesday to scout out the location and to begin preparations for the event, he said.

Specific logistics were worked out with Penn State staff, Smith added.

For example, the Old Main bells -- which usually ring every 15 minutes -- were silent during Obama's 50-minute speech.

Smith said the bells are a good example of collaboration with the university, which could share details such as the clock's schedule with event coordinators.

During the event, numerous officers from Penn State police, State College police and Pennsylvania State police were on scene with Secret Service agents, who guarded all entrances to Old Main.

A police officer could also be seen in the Old Main bell tower, using binoculars to watch the crowd below.

Other changes included the closure of Pollock Road and the removal of the armillary sphere sculpture that usually rests in front of the building. The sculpture, a gift from the Class of 1966, was moved several days before the event to make room for the anticipated crowd.

Smith said Obama, who had moved on to a Harrisburg forum by 6 last night, was pleased with the event, which was one of the largest of the 15-month campaign so far.

Smith said the presidential candidate was especially happy with the size and enthusiasm of the crowd.

"When we pulled in on the buses, there was a line that stretched for what looked like a mile long," he said, adding that the event still was able to start soon after the intended time despite the number of people going through security.

All attendees who wanted to be within the fenced area closest to where Obama spoke had to pass through a security tent where officers used wands and searched bags.

Members of the press also were searched before they could even board a bus to Old Main.

Nearly 30 members of the press, including reporters and photographers from CNN, The Associated Press, NBC and ABC News, attended a tour of Penn State's Dairy Complex with Obama and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., before the speech.

Before they could board a bus to the site, a bomb-detecting dog sniffed their bags.

As each reporter boarded the press bus, they were patted down and searched with wands. Secret Service agents lurked nearby, listening to their earbuds.

At the barn, the press pool stepped off the bus, making a "fashion statement," as Obama said, dressed in blue booties that are required for biosecurity purposes for entering the Dairy Complex.
© 2008 The Daily Cardinal via U-WIRE