Charlotte Motor Speedway officials are looking forward to giving as many as 100,000 guests some flavor of the sport during the DNC kickoff party Sept. 3.
The speedway is hosting the free, family-friendly event at the infield, which DNC organizers have billed as a celebration of the South.
Details are still taking shape, although Marcus Smith, president and general manager, said last week there will be “activity for people to drive cars, ride in cars and get a taste of a little bit of NASCAR here.” Convention CEO Steve Kerrigan said last week attendees won’t need to RSVP or have a ticket.
Smith said while the speedway is used to hosting big events, there aren’t too many when attendees are mostly in the infield. Staff will get a good practice run on Saturday, when the speedway hosts The Vietnam Veterans Homecoming Celebration. Sold out to the general public, but open to any veteran, that event is expected to draw 60,000.
Plus, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway – which, like the Charlotte track, is owned by Speedway Motorsports – hosted big numbers last summer without a hitch, Smith said. The three-day Electric Daisy Carnival, an electronic dance music festival attended by 230,000, went off with no problems.
Both the veterans and DNC events “will bring in new fans that traditionally haven’t been out here,” said Dan Farrell, senior vice president for corporate sales. “Hopefully we can convert some new race fans as well.” Celeste Smith
Sweet treats for Dems, GOP
An engineer by trade, Tracy Watkins of the family-owned Kai’s Kookies & More bake and coffee shop at 3905 South Blvd. gets a kick out of being known for her treats artistry, too.
“It’s fun when you take a cookie out after it’s decorated,” said Watkins, “and you don’t tell them who it is, and they guess correctly.”
As is the case with her President Barack Obama iced-sugar cookie – part of a set of political cookies that includes the GOP elephant, the Democrats’ donkey, the convention logo and the Charlotte crown. Specialty cookies start at $2.50, and larger assortments are available for special order as favors, baskets or boxed sets.
“We wanted to do cookies … around the theme of the convention, but also incorporate the election into it,” Watkins said.
“That’s why we did things that are for Republicans as well, she said. “When we find out who the GOP candidate is, I’d like to do a cookie of that candidate’s face as well.”
Watkins had searched the Web – unsuccessfully – for an Obama cookie-cutter to help with the artwork. “I just used what I had, and tried to make it look like him as much as possible.”
She was tempted to get started on a Mitt Romney cookie creation, but decided to wait.
So, is there any particular cookie she likes more?
“Honestly, I don’t have a preference,” Watkins said. “The Obama cookie was a challenge…I look forward to the challenge of doing one for the Republican candidate.” Celeste Smith
‘2,012 Hours for DNCC 2012’
Staffers at the Democratic National Convention Committee committed last week to putting in 2,012 hours of community service before the convention starts in September.
On Friday, about 50 of them spent the afternoon at Ramblewood Park, working with Mecklenburg Park and Recreation on mulching, weeding, trail and greenway trash pickup and other projects.
Since coming to town in June 2011, DNCC staffers also have tutored each week at Allenbrook Elementary; assembled care packages for 500 members of the N.C. National Guard deployed overseas; volunteered with the local Veterans Day parade and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service; staffed food drives at Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and worked with various nonprofit organizations throughout the city.
DNCC CEO Steve Kerrigan touted the “2,012 Hours for DNCC 2012” program this way: “The people of Charlotte have been so welcoming, and we want to give back in any way that we can.” Tim Funk
Another high-profile Democrat has endorsed a move to include a “marriage equality” plank in the party’s platform when delegates hold their September convention in Charlotte.
Elizabeth Warren, who’s running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, recently told the Washington Blade, a leading LGBT newspaper, that such a plank would build support for ending the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman and provides that no state may be required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it’s now legal.
“I’d be glad to see it included in the Democratic platform,” she said. “It helps raise awareness of the impact of DOMA and it helps build support to repeal it.”
Warren, a heroine to liberals and a good bet to be on any short list for keynote speaker at the Charlotte convention, also urged President Barack Obama to go ahead and back same-sex marriage.
When he ran in 2008, Obama said he opposed gay marriage. Since then, he has said his view is “evolving.”
“I want to see the president evolve because I believe that is right,” Warren said. “Marriage equality is morally right.”
Last week, Obama let it be known that he opposes as discriminatory a proposed N.C. constitutional amendment reaffirming the state’s legal ban on same-sex marriage. N.C. voters will consider it May 8.
But the president and his campaign have taken no stand yet on whether a “marriage equality” plank should be added to the party platform.
Warren joins a growing chorus of Democrats who have endorsed the plank, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who will chair the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Tim Funk