COLUMBIA — The preparations are well under way for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's Thursday night rally in Columbia.
By 11 a.m. Wednesday, beeping forklifts and flatbed trucks piled high with staging and barricades arrived at MU's Mel Carnahan Quadrangle to deliver setup materials for the campaign appearance, which is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.
Workers in black unloaded staging and other materials that will be set up as a perimeter around the quad, which lies between MU's Cornell and Hulston halls and between Conley Avenue on the north and Rollins Street on the south. The quad is flanked by gardens, and the Tiger Plaza fountain and statue is located at its southern end.
Jeff Winmill of the the Obama logistics team said the setup will continue throughout Wednesday and Thursday. The quad will be secured before the rally, and those who arrive early will have to wait outside the gates until officials begin letting people enter the quad at 7:30 p.m. This will allow the Secret Service to secure and sweep the area. Entrance gates, which will most likely be located on the quad's east sidewalk, will include metal detectors.
Winmill declined to estimate how large the crowd might be but said the number of RSVPs coming through the Obama campaign Web site is increasing by the minute.
Although MU Police Chief Brian Weimer suggested event-goers plan to arrive around 6:30 p.m., the Obama advance team acknowledged people will probably begin arriving much earlier.
The event is free and open to the public. Free parking will be available starting at beginning at 5 p.m. in MU's Turner Avenue, Conley Avenue, University Avenue and Hitt Street garages, and the campaign strongly suggests carpooling to the event.
Umbrellas and signs are not permitted at the event, and bags and personal items are discouraged, given that standing room will most likely be restricted. The weather should be relatively pleasant. The National Weather Service is forecasting a low of around 48 degrees Thursday night, with partly cloudy skies and a breeze of about 8 mph.
Some streets will be closed for the event. Missouri Avenue will be closed all day. Beginning at about 5:30 p.m., Ninth Street and Conley Avenue will be closed between University and Maryland avenues, and Rollins Road will be closed between Maryland Avenue and Hitt Street.
Phil Shocklee, director of Campus Facilities, advised in an e-mail that drivers try to avoid the South Quad area all day. The streets should be reopened late Thursday night or early Friday morning.