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Obama to Carrboro?

Nothing’s confirmed, but town is readying for a major rally and rock show May 2 at Town Commons

By Kirk Ross
Staff Writer

No official confirmation yet, but Carrboro officials are planning for one of the largest crowds in town history after the board of aldermen greenlighted a request by the Barack Obama campaign to hold a major event Friday afternoon, May 2 at the Town Commons.

Town Manager Steve Stewart said the event, a concert and rally for the Illinois senator and leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, would be unprecedented since it will happen during business hours, while typically large events at Town Commons are held on weekends. The Obama campaign asked for the time slot, he said, because they want to be able to encourage attendees to take advantage of the early-voting site nearby at Town Hall.

The bands have not been announced, but several local music sources said that Superchunk and popular Canadian band Arcade Fire will make up the bill. In recent weeks, Arcade Fire has been playing Obama rallies. Stewart said that organizers expect between 3,000 and 4,000 people to attend the event.

Stewart told the board that it is also possible that Obama may speak at the rally.
The event is not listed on Obama’s itinerary, which can change rapidly. On Tuesday, for instance, the campaign added an event in Raleigh for this Thursday. That announcement was quickly followed on Wednesday by the endorsement of Fourth District U.S. Congressman David Price of Chapel Hill and Twelfth District U.S. Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte. Both congressmen are so-called superdelegates, and many observers expect most, if not all, Democratic representatives from North Carolina to follow suit.

Both New York U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have also scheduled appearances and rallies in the Tar Heel state.

Citing the logistics of the event, the fact that the Carrboro Farmers’ Market celebrates it’s 30th birthday the following morning and that Carrboro Day is the following Sunday, Stewart asked the board of aldermen for the authority to negotiate agreements with the campaign to cover additional town crews and other expenses.

Board member Jacquie Gist said she wanted to see the town make the event work. She said that when the Squirrel Nut Zippers played the Commons, the crowd was large but very orderly.

Mayor Mark Chilton said he would also like to see the town be able to accommodate the request.

In a quickly drafted resolution offered by board member John Herrera, the board agreed to have Stewart — who along with other town officials has been in discussions with Obama organizers in Chicago — work out the plans “in the best interests of the town.”

On Wednesday, Stewart said he had contacted the Obama campaign to relay the board’s decision, but had not heard back.

Clinton and Obama are scheduled to debate April 27 at the RBC Center in Raleigh.

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