COLUMBIA — More than 700 miles from Denver, about 300 Democratic supporters descended upon the Blue Note in downtown Columbia to watch Barack Obama's historic Thursday night acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.
"Yes, we can," cheered Robin Remington, 71, as she banged her umbrella on the venue's wooden floor.
Hand-painted banners with the words "hope" and "change" were on display as guests stomped their feet, hollered in support and chuckled at the presidential candidate's wit.
First-time voters Danny Ramey and Ryan Schmitz nearly left the Blue Note when a downpour briefly interrupted satellite reception, but soon the show was back on.
"If they don't fix it soon, we may go back to the dorm and see if we can catch it," said Ramey, an MU freshman, of the constant on-and-off TV reception.
Alex Lange, a sophomore at the University of Missouri-St. Louis joined his girlfriend, MU freshman Claire Pohle, who is a self-professed "huge supporter of Barack Obama" at the rally.
Lange said he was "more of a Republican growing up" but, with Pohle's prodding and after hearing Obama speak in St. Louis in February, he has begun to rethink his previous convictions.
In the assembled crowd, MU professor emeritus Peter Gardner saw somthing he hadn't seen in about 40 years.
"I took American citizenship in 1960 to vote for John (F. Kennedy); I can see the same enthusiasm now," Gardner said of the watch party.
The same enthusiasm found at The Blue Note could be seen in the enormous crowd in Denver that surrounded Obama. He promised a clean break from the "broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush" Thursday night as he embarked on the final lap of his bid to become the nation's first black president.
"America, now is not the time for small plans," the 47-year-old Illinois senator told an estimated 84,000 people packed into Invesco Field at Mile High , a football stadium at the base of the Rocky Mountains.
He vowed to cut taxes for nearly all working-class families, end the war in Iraq and break America's dependence on Mideast oil within a decade. Polls indicate a close race between Obama and John McCain, the Arizona senator who stands between him and a place in history. On the night 45 years to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I have a Dream Speech," Obama made no overt mention of his own race.
"I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree" of a presidential candidate was as close as he came to the long-smoldering issue that might well determine the outcome of the election.
Obama was the first to deliver an outdoor convention acceptance speech since Kennedy did so at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960. There was no joking about the stakes in the speech, a once-in-a-campaign opportunity to speak to millions of voters who have yet to make up their minds between McCain and him. The polls show a close race nationally, with more than enough battleground states tight enough to tip the election either way.
In Columbia, Obama campaign staffers had asked Blue Note founder Richard King earlier this year if he would be interested in hosting Thursday's watch party, one of several events for which he has opened the venue's doors.
Asked whether he would afford McCain supporters the same opportunity during next week's Republican National Convention, King replied, "No one from the Republican party has ever approached me about doing something here."
RNC watch parties are planned for McCain's acceptance speech Thursday night, Sept. 4, including a large gathering at Boone Tavern, 811 E. Walnut St.
Missourian reporters Catherine Martin and Stephanie Smith contributed to this report.