DUNEDIN — Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, is coming to the city and the whole town is abuzz, Mayor Bob Hackworth says.
"My cell phone rings every two minutes," he said Monday. "It's ringing as we speak."
Many ask the mayor whether he can get them tickets, but there won't be any tickets. When the gates open at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Knology Park, admission will be first-come, first-served.
"I endorsed Barack Obama back in December 2007, before he won the Iowa primary," said Hackworth, a Democrat. "There weren't a whole heck of a lot of people who were on his bandwagon then."
The mayor also is gratified that Dunedin will help local residents get to know Obama better.
"This is going to be a battleground state and I think it's going to be decided in Pinellas County," said Hackworth, who's running for Congress against Republican C.W. Bill Young. "I want them to see what I saw back in December: that he's the right choice to lead our country."
The mayor had heard that Obama was coming to the county to prepare for the debates.
"I tried to put the word out that we'd certainly like to do an event in Dunedin," he said. "And it worked out."
He found out Saturday night that the campaign was taking him up on his offer. And on Sunday, the city figured out many of the logistics.
Hackworth said the city expects a crowd of 8,000 to 10,000, with seating on the field in addition to the 6,500 seats in the stands. Full concessions will be available, but the crowd will exceed onsite parking.
"We want to encourage people to use the Pinellas Trail and come by bicycle," he said, or to carpool.
While Dunedin focuses on the logistics, the Obama campaign is working on the program for the event, Hackworth said. The mayor will be there to welcome the candidate to the city.
Others around town are excited about Obama's visit, too, including the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce.
"It's a good thing for the nation to see our community and our town," said Terry Hodge, the chamber's chairman of the board. "We're very proud of it."