Could Barack Obama race the Republican nominee around the track at the Charlotte Motor Speedway?
That's one of the suggestions floating around for the planned party at the speedway the day before the Democratic National Convention.
That's the one thing the Charlotte in 2012 Host Committee knows it won't do.
What it will do is another question. When we asked the DNC, the host committee and speedway officials this week what the event will be, we got a multiple variations of "We don't know."
How many people will be at the festival? Early estimates were for 75,000 and the speedway can accommodate up to 150,000. Officials would give no estimates this week and emphasized that earlier numbers were premature.
Will there be entertainment? Probably, but they don't know what kind.
Will there be food? Certainly, but they don't know a menu.
How about barbecue? Good idea, but they're not sure. (Given the heated opinions over Eastern vs. Lexington style, perhaps they shouldn't get too specific.)
So what do they know? According to a quote provided by Dan Murrey, the head of the host committee, the speedway event the day before the opening of the convention will be "a nonpartisan, family-friendly festival, sponsored and organized by the Host Committee."
It will be free, it will be big and it will showcase Charlotte, North Carolina and the entire South.
Other than that, everything is on the table.
"I would say there are a lot of possibilities," said Suzi Emmerling, the press secretary for Charlotte in 2012.
"It's a pretty new idea. We just announced it a week ago. Give us a little bit of time."
One thing organizers are facing is the sheer number of possibilities. We are talking about the speedway here: Four tracks, including the main 1.5-mile oval, the luxury Speedway Club and "the planet's largest" HDTV screen, at 16,000 square feet.
The speedway is so big, it once held the world's longest grill, 1,320 square feet with 7,000 pounds of charcoal. It has hosted movie premiers (Pixar's "Cars") and it has welcomed celebrities from Tom Cruise and Elizabeth Taylor to Mario Batali and Larry the Cable Guy.
It's our party
The difficulty in defining the party is partly the nature of the event itself. Although conventions are traditionally four days, this one will be three. Officials with the DNC say President Obama wanted the gathering to involve as many people as possible. So officials announced Jan. 17 that the first day would be replaced with a holiday festival. While it will be a nonpartisan event, it may include campaign activities, such as registering volunteers. Outside groups, such as the Obama campaign, will be able to lease space.
Checks in Tampa, where the Republican National Convention opens Aug. 27, and in Denver, where the DNC was held in 2008, found entertainment and smaller events for non-delegates, but nothing like a day-long festival for both delegates and non-delegates.
For Charlotte and Concord, the festival is looking like a big boost to local economies and reputations. John Cox, president of the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce and Cabarrus Economic Development, declared happily, "This community is always open for business."
Cabarrus County already is in the middle of $180 million worth of infrastructure improvements, including widening I-85 and expanding Exit 49, the speedway exit. Cox said that didn't come because of the DNC - it's the result of years of talks with the state.
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx told an Observer reporter Wednesday that breaking off one day of the convention to focus on Charlotte and the region is a major opportunity to promote the area: "We've been handed a huge gift, being handed one of those nights."
While the host committee's Emmerling was reluctant to say anything that might be seen as committing to a plan, she did say the event will present the region in a new light. "We'll have locals and we'll have people who have never been to this region. So for someone from Seattle, they may discover something."
For herself, Emmerling came here by way of California and Washington, D.C. She says she didn't expect to find such a vital local-foods movement. She's already a fan of several restaurants.
Does that mean food will be a focus? Not so fast. She would only say, "We want to showcase the unique and compelling things about this region."
For the moment, maybe it's best to just remember the speedway's slogan: "It's the greatest place to see the race."
Staff writer Jim Morrill contributed
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