ST. LOUIS — With St. Louis as a strong contender for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, organizers of the city's bid are wasting no time making a push to secure volunteers.
The St. Louis 2012 Convention Host Committee announced plans Thursday for a free downtown concert headlined by native St. Louisan Chuck Berry. The goal of the concert on July 29 will be to attract volunteers who would work at the convention.
Free tickets for the concert are available online at STL2012.org, though priority will be given to those who pledge to volunteer if St. Louis is picked.
"This rally is a great way to build and show grass-roots support and energy for our bid," said Mayor Francis Slay, a Democrat. "We will need a lot of volunteers willing to work."
St. Louis was chosen in June as one of four finalists, along with Charlotte, N.C., Cleveland and Minneapolis. The fact that three of the four finalists are in the Midwest is no coincidence as the middle part of the country is seen as pivotal to the outcome of the next presidential election.
President Barack Obama narrowly lost to Republican John McCain in 2008 in Missouri — the first time in more than 100 years that Missouri failed to side with the election winner. Obama carried the other states with cities in the running for the 2012 convention — Ohio, Minnesota and North Carolina.
Despite losing Missouri, Obama had wide support in heavily Democratic St. Louis. A rally just before the 2008 election drew an estimated 100,000 people to the grounds of the Gateway Arch — one of the largest events of his campaign.
Democrats will nominate their 2012 presidential candidate the week of Sept. 3. The Republicans gather the previous week and have already chosen their site — Tampa, Fla.
Hotel rooms in St. Louis are filling up for the period around the convention. Democratic officials are expected to visit St. Louis this summer, though the date of their visit has not been disclosed. Democrats have not said when the winning city will be chosen.
Supporters say the convention would be a huge economic boost for St. Louis, noting that the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver generated $266 million for its economy. That convention brought an estimated 50,000 people — delegates, media and others — to Denver.
St. Louis has hosted national political conventions before — but it has been a while. The city last hosted one when the Democrats met here in 1916 to nominate Woodrow Wilson.
St. Louis also hosted Democratic conventions in 1876, 1888 and 1904, and the Republican convention in 1896.