When people got to the end of the line at 11th and Washington, they cheered like they’d just won a prize.
Understandable: They’d just walked approximately 1.7 miles from the entrance point at Independence Mall, where Hillary Clinton would soon hold an Election Eve rally with both Obamas and rock icons Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.
“She walked 11,000 steps to get here,” said one woman, pointing at her friend’s fitness tracker.
“Will we get into the rally?” many people wanted to know. Clinton campaign volunteer Will Hudson, who’d been marshalling the line for several hours as it wound its way down Fourth Street and guided it along Washington, couldn’t give them a definite answer. What he did know was that the cap on the rally had been lifted from 20,000 to 30,000 people, so their chances were better than before.
Despite the uncertainty, spirits remained high.
“Where should we stop for a sandwich?” one father asked his two girls as they peered around the corner of Fourth and South streets. Locals advised them that they were right next to “famous cheesesteak place” Jim’s Steaks, so they quickly ducked in for a bit.
“Maybe we should just quit and go to dinner,” panted one high-school aged boy as he and his mates jogged back, aiming to join the queue. “Nah,” said another as they laughed and continued on.
What time did you have to get in line to be assured entrance? No telling for sure, but people who were being let into the “airport-style” security checkpoint at Fifth and Chestnut around 5 p.m. had been in waiting since 1:30 p.m.
VIPs and press were in totally separate line with an entrance on the other side of Independence Mall. Also walking in from the Arch Street side were people who’d attended the Building Trade Union’s “Hard Hats for Hillary” rally. Philly union boss John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty was there to greet them and hand out free t-shirts and rally signs.
When he spotted this reporter snapping pics and taking notes, he stayed true to his dealmaking reputation, asking, “Are you looking to get in?”
If I was, I’d have been smart to take him up on the offer: As of 6:15 p.m., the line had grown even further, wrapping back up north all the way to 11th and Christian.