It wasn't like a celebration after a Bulls victory or a Pistons victory in Detroit.
It wasn't like a Taste of Chicago or a Blues Fest.
It didn't lure hooligans or Obama-haters looking for trouble. They weren't in the neighborhoods either.
It wasn't a "complete mess" or any of the things some people said it would be. It was a gathering whose core was made of people deeply involved in the outcome of the election.
What it was, was an evening of watching CNN on a Jumbotron and then hearing McCain's concession and Obama's victory speech. And then it was time to go home. The Chicago Tribune has a time lapse photography video of the entire event in 3 minutes.
There were two high points for me. First, when at 10pm CDT, CNN announced a projected Obama win from Virginia, immediately followed by their projection of Obama winning the Presidency. The jubilation of that moment is something I will never forget. Next, and this is a funny one, was seeing Biden come out with that smile and his sky-blue tie. I like that guy.
The Chicago Tribune caught a pic of me in the crowd at one of the moments of jubilation. (It's pic #56 of this slideshow.)
The appearance of Obama himself was a bit anti-climactic. His energy level was not like the best we've seen from him, and his speech was more humility than jubilation. I was prepared for this by watching one of his campaign speeches earlier that day on the internet, where it seemed that fatigue from the final push was starting to get to him. Also, I already sensed a Barack Obama changed by his new responsibility. He knows his words aren't just for the purpose of bathing supporters and Democratic faithful in a warm glow. He's now on a higher plane, talking to all of America, the Congress and Senate, the World.
The majority demographic there seemed to be post-college people in mid to late 20's. One reporter described them as "poly-sci nerds." Plenty of people in their 30's, 40's and 50's too though.
There were a few negatives. The Chicago Tribune advised us to bring stuff to eat, but both our water and snacks were confiscated at one of the checkpoints. What's up, Tribune? The second is the standing and the waiting, which comes with the territory of course, but always requires some endurance. The third was the lack of cellphone signal (which everyone warned would be the case) so I couldn't do the Twittering I was hoping to do.
As previously announced, there was no live music (save for a solo singing of the National Anthem), but the choice of recorded music was very nice. Good mix of rock, blues, soul, funk and country, quality songs, but with none of the pieces being tired, worn-out overexposed classics. The African-American artist who sang the National Anthem sang in "the key of soul," but it wasn't one of those over-the-top, love-to-hear-my-voice Whitney-Houston kinds of renditions. The music that followed the Obama speech was of the same cinematic-sounding orchestral variety that was played after Obama's acceptance speech in Denver: a bit manipulative, yes, but not nearly as clicheic as actual movie music and not transparently patriotic sounding. I have good feelings about the music that will be associated with this Presidency.
For the walk back to our train, we were corralled by the police to go west on Jackson (although I needed to go north on Wabash). There the crowd really let some energy loose, whooping and hollering, where the echo from the canyon of skyscrapers was deafening.
Today, I can't find a copy of the Chicago Tribune or the New York Times...they were all bought up before 9am!
Congratulations to President-elect Obama and all his supporters!