Despite the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac, visitors poured in to Tampa Saturday for the Republican National Convention.
TAMPA—The party must go on. And indeed it did Saturday night on the white sands of St. Pete Beach where the California delegation to the Republican National Convention is staying this week. Music from the '60s and '70s played as fireworks lit the sky and former Governor Pete Wilson, who heads the delegation, chatted with folks, according to one attendee.
It was balmy. A half moon sat above. And Tropical Storm-soon-to-be-Hurricane Isaac loomed a few hundred miles away. Passengers flying into nearby Tampa earlier could see giant marshmellow-y clouds marking the southern horizon.
The convention was supposed to start Monday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The party postponed it a day, fearing Isaac would cause travel delays and possible safety problems for the 4,400 delegates and some 50,000 dignitaries, journalists, and political protestors in town.
“We’ve been through them before and we’ll get through this one,” said Nancy Gilligan, a volunteer greeter at the Tampa airport. “Won’t be a problem at all,” she said of Isaac.
Gilligan boasted she’d lived through the 1994 Northridge Earthquake when she lived in Los Angeles. She took cover under a computer table. Then she smiled and went into her greeter mode, touting Tampa.
“We have happy people. We have healthy people. We have smiling people.”
I admit it. I’m a bit complacent about Isaac. Maybe because of Gilligan’s pleasant assurances. Or maybe it's The Big One Syndrome: I know something bad will happen eventually, but probably not this time.
One more note: an unusual sound filled Tampa International Airport upon arrival. The city had hired an accordion player to welcome visitors.
Andrei Cheine, who picked up the instrument when he was growing up in St. Petersburg, Russia four decades ago, played “God Bless America” and other patriotic tunes as the GOP faithful arrived from around the country. Nice touch.
Cheine sported a tie adorned with American flags. But perhaps not surprisingly, he doesn't like politics. He grew up under Soviet communist rule.
"i'm a musician, not a politician."