CHARLOTTE, N.C. About a dozen delegates showed up for a mimosa brunch and shopping event that was planned for 150 guests at The Hotel Concord Sunday.
For the past year, Stacie Jacobs has been working with nearly 20 local businesses that will help cater to hundreds of visiting delegates staying in Cabarrus County for the DNC. Jacobs said a lot of people expressed interest in coming, but they didn’t have to pay the $50 fee in advance. Fewer than 10 percent of them had shown up by around noon.
“She could only go by what we were told numberwise and that’s what she prepared for,” said Lynn Neal, manager of The Hotel Concord. “We prepared for 150 guests and we even did overflow just in case, because of the last-minute uncertainty of the sign-ups, so we were prepared for them with food and setup.”
Cabarrus County is hosting thousands of delegates representing nine states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. They are expected to generate a $6 million economic impact during the week ahead, according to the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Jacobs has put together an array of themed activities for delegates representing Florida, Kentucky, Texas and Virginia that spotlight Cabarrus County’s history and attractions. A hefty tri-fold Day Trip Itinerary offers tours of historic downtown Concord and the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, as well as spa visits, craft beer and wine tastings, a golf outing and racing shop tours.
Delegates and their guests pay anywhere from $85 to $185 to participate in any of the various activities throughout a seven-day period.
If she had to do it over, Jacobs said she might consider taking on only events that were guaranteed, such as the 12 breakfast events, seven lunch events and 10 cocktail parties Concord vendors will help create, set up and take down.
More events on tap
She’s disappointed with the brunch turnout, but she’s not too jaded.
“My next event is super cool,” said Jacobs of her next stop Sunday. “It’s for Kentucky delegates and their teams’ football game is on, so we’re throwing them a party so they can all watch it together. And (Monday) night we have the Great Wolf Lodge Delegate Bash, a 1,000-person event for people representing 12 delegations. I’m still excited about my other stuff, but I’ve done all I can do. That’s why I can’t get upset about this.”
Later Sunday, she said that events scheduled after the brunch on Sunday were much better attended, with hundreds of people turning out.
Charlotte native Alan Bishop, vice president of operations for Bistro Catering and Events in downtown Concord, and his staff provided the food for Sunday’s brunch.
His staff of 40 will work up to 60 hours each during DNC week. His company, which hired four extra full-time employees, will provide food at about 20 other events, one for as many as 200 people.
Members of his crew arrived around 3 a.m. to begin preparing food for the brunch. A few signature items were the French toast casserole, a hash brown casserole and the Southern staple of biscuits and gravy.
“We’re typically very much weekend-oriented ... so I’ve been able to hire more people that I can work more toward a full-time schedule because I can use them more through the week,” said Bishop. “For this week, it’s probably eight to 10 times the volume of a typical week.”
Delegates shop downtown
The delegates that did show up at the brunch said they were impressed with the region so far.
Kansas delegate Cynthia Nelson said she couldn’t pass up a trip to historic downtown Concord.
“I love the historical aspect about it and I wanted to take in as much as I could in the area. This is my first time to North Carolina. My son-in-law is from here and he’s kind of jealous I’m getting to tour where his roots are.”
Nelson had only been in town about 24 hours, so she couldn’t say what she liked most yet.
“But I am loving downtown Concord,” she said. “I am a shopper and I just thought the atmosphere of the brunch in a historical building was right up my alley. I was the only one on my shuttle, so they took me on a little historical drive on the way here and that was neat.”
This week will be Elizabeth Herbert’s first convention as a delegate for Kansas. Born and raised in Montgomery, Ala., she joined Nelson for the event after riding a bus to their hotel together from the airport.
“My father’s family is very old in the South, so I’ve always been fascinated by antebellum homes and just the historical districts anywhere,” said Herbert. “But what passes as old in Kansas is relatively new compared to the south and Alabama.
“I’ve been to the Carolinas before, but not to this area, other than going through the Charlotte airport. When they emailed me about this jaunt, it sounded like something I’d like to do. I’m a shopper and I love the historic buildings, I love old restored hotels, so I just knew I’d enjoy it.”
Nelson had already purchased some soap, which coincidentally was handmade in Wichita, a DNC-themed bracelet with a donkey charm on it from The Bead Lady and some donkey earrings for her daughter.
The two also are excited about convention events.
“We’re looking forward to the week enormously,” Herbert said. “We’re going to get to hear not only the president, but the vice president, the first lady, Elizabeth Warren and President Clinton.
“If you’re a Democrat, this is inspiring and exciting and hopefully will help us go back to our communities to do everything we can to get the vote out. It’s for rallying the troops, getting peoples’ spirits up and getting people galvanized to go out and tell the party’s story.”
Sometimes, in a rural community, Nelson said she sometimes feels alone in the effort. “It’s very, very rural where we live,” said Nelson. “I live on a farm and events like these help us realize we’re not the only ones.”
Mayor to talk up Concord
Concord Mayor Scott Padgett, who attended the brunch, said he will welcome a group of 12 delegations with Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx later this week in Charlotte. He has prepared a couple speeches for visiting delegations.
“First I’ll tell them a little about our history,” he said at The Hotel Concord. “People find it hard to believe that where we’re standing used to be gold mines ...
“Then I’ll tell about how this area used to be a trading center. George Washington came here, Jefferson Davis slept across the street. Then I go on to textiles and I’ll talk about tobacco and then about the amazing fact of how tourism is now a major part of our economy.”
He’ll also try to debunk stereotypes surrounding NASCAR.
“People used to wouldn’t even admit that they liked racing,” said Padgett. “Until you started talking about the 24 or the 3 (car), then they’d have to admit they knew who those drivers were. And, now, it’s even fashionable. You can admit that you’re a NASCAR fan.”
“I just want everyone to go away with a good impression of this area because we really do have a lot to offer,” said Padgett.
“Other than Charlotte, (Cabarrus County) is hosting the most delegates. And that is a great boost to the hotels because it’s Labor Day. These guys are usually 25 percent occupied, so this is a really big bonus.”