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Obama campaign rally is really big deal for Dunedin

Facing the grandstands, Matt Holden checks the microphone Tuesday on the stage where Sen. Barack Obama will speak today during a rally at Knology Park in Dunedin. Event organizers expect to fill the grandstands as well as bleachers on the ballfield.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Facing the grandstands, Matt Holden checks the microphone Tuesday on the stage where Sen. Barack Obama will speak today during a rally at Knology Park in Dunedin. Event organizers expect to fill the grandstands as well as bleachers on the ballfield.

DUNEDIN

Under the hot September sun, they were tending to the details Tuesday at Knology Park. • Campaign officials, local officials and others were setting up bleachers, moving sound equipment into place, looking at public safety considerations, along with a hundred other tasks needed to prepare the field for Sen. Barack Obama's "Change We Need" rally today.

"Just to be a part of an historic race, to say that I have a small part of it, is exciting," said Malcolm Hope Sr., an African-American union stagehand from Tampa. "One of the ones building the stage, assembling sound, all that good stuff."

The scale of the event may be a first at the stadium.

"We've never done anything like this before," said Ken Carson, director of Florida operations for the Blue Jays.

"I don't know if there's ever been anything this big in Dunedin," said Russ Williams of Palm Harbor, the concessionaire at Knology Park. He said a sold-out spring training game brings in 6,000. Event organizers expect to fill the grandstands as well as bleachers on the field.

Resting a minute next to a picnic table, Williams said the security preparations have been impressive.

"You're playing by a whole different set of rules when you're doing something like this," he said. "They're doing stuff I never even thought about before."

Inside the stadium, Dunedin Fire Rescue officials were talking with campaign staff, going over field entrances and exits.

"Always nice to have an international celebrity in delightful Dunedin," said Fire Marshal Bill McElligott.

In a breezeless heat, crews were setting up bleachers, rolling out sound speakers.

And Roy Zahid of Clearwater, in the auto body repair business, was looking for someone to talk to. He hoped that someone in Obama's campaign would listen as he told them that auto body repair workers are leaving the industry because they are underpaid.

Zahid said he has developed a free software for auto body repair shops that can track the amount of time spent for each task. He is hoping his freeware will serve as the basis for standardizing repair times and prices, justifying higher prices and leading to better wages.

A campaign worker paused long enough to listen a minute and say, "I can pass your information along to our headquarters."

Obama campaign rally is really big deal for Dunedin 09/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 29, 2008 3:44pm]
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