Denver 2 Minneapolis 1: Where’s the ‘there’ here?

Denver has taken a lead over St. Paul News Cut’s Convention Competition. Today’s category: “There’s a there there.”

Here’s Denver’s “there,” the core of the convention activity on the 16th Ave. Mall.


The place where all sorts of “characters” showed up…


… where there were street musicians and people trying to make a buck. There was the giant Guitar Hero game. It was a never-ending show.

Where’s the show in the Twin Cities? Where’s the “there” here? It’s not St. Paul. Other than the kids and the cops, people meeting in a convention behind barricades, and a few restaurants within spitting distance of the security zone, there’s nothing going on there.

Naturally, there’s even less economic trickle-down out around Grand and St. Clair. I stopped at the St. Clair Broiler on Monday afternoon and learned I’m only the third convention-related hack to show up there.

And so I headed to Minneapolis in search of the Main Street of the Republican National Convention. Nicollet Mall would be the logical choice, but it was mostly empty, too. Few delegates, no bands, no hucksters, no show, no festive atmosphere and no (daytime) fun.


Some establishments were closed to get ready for private parties.


The Dakota was all locked up because of the big “Keep Florida Red” celebration featuring LeAnn Rimes on Monday night. The minimum cost to get in? $10,000.

The National Education Association reserved another establishment on the same block. The NEA is thick in the Democratic Party, but as things shifted to the Twin Cities, the union stressed its Republican membership. One of every 3 teachers is a Republican, the union trumpeted.

Nearby Brit’s Pub was also closed because of an event hosted by a women’s business group.

With the media dropping us like a hot potato, about a third of the total attendees have disappeared. Unfortunately for the vibe, it’s the third that tends to mingle with real people. The remaining attendees mingle with themselves at private parties and receptions.

Even the opponents seem down. Here’s the Unconvention headquarters:


High-noon on the mean streets of Minneapolis…


Other than an occasional whiff of tear gas, there’s very little for Minnesotans who aren’t big spenders to experience at the convention.

Where is the convention hiding? If you find it, drop me a note. I’ll check it out.

  • Larry

    There are some principles at work here. Notice what happens in neighborhoods. People sit on their steps (think Harlem or Baltimore). There is water (a fire hydrant opened for splashing will work just fine). There is food (a hot dog cart will suffice). There are games on the street and sidwalk. And, most of all, there are people. The space has business, but it is not designed for business. The patrolling happens by virtue of the people who welcome an ocassional cop into their space, their place . . . their neighborhood.

    Break these principles and people-gathering becomes far more difficult. The sidewalks aren’t where people live; they are simply ways to get somewhere. The big buildings serve to draw people into them or keep people away from them . . . they are not part of the landscape.

    And so . . . the pictures are revealing. In the Denver pictures there is an “OPEN” light on the Subway store . . . the place is open.

    St. Paul has as much life as any community; but its spaces need a lot more porosity . . . a lot more street venders . . . some games . . . some officers who tell kids they must not, ever, never, never but never again open the fire hydrant . . . and who laugh when they come back an hour later and see the kids cooling off.

  • Joshua

    Wow, sure makes the Twin Cities look like Loserville!

    Too bad yesterday was a holiday, which left most of both downtowns empty. Not to mention a big chunk of the RNC’s festivities were dropped Monday.

    Now, I’m not one to say things around here are always hoppin’, but your photojournalism project is a bit skewed.

  • independent21

    And the streets empty enough to roll a bowling ball down and not hit anyone are a surprise? It’s Labor Day weekend, back from the cabin and back to school time. Minnesotans are busy with life.

  • BJ

    The fat cats were at the St. Claire Broiler on Sunday. It was quiet there for dinner, but there were a number of them there wearing suits and laminates. They’re easy to pick out: suits at the St. Claire? Not from these parts…

  • Aaron

    This is easily explained with four words. Labor Day. Hurricane Gustav.

  • Bob Collins

    I don’t think so, Joshua. The question is around the “festivities” that a convention brings in. So whether it was a holiday or not is actually irrelevant. If people are moved — or invited — to participate, they will.

    One of the biggest concerns of organizers is that the Twin Cities locals wouldn’t engage with it. Their solution was Civic Fest.

    Labor Day can keep a crowd down, unless the event is so special, that it doesn’t matter if it’s Labor Day. Otherwise, how do you explain the crowd at the State Fair?

    Bottom line: There’s no “buzz” around the convention and part of the reason for that is there’s no “center” of the convention. And part of it is that the locals don’t seem to care.

    Sunday was a Sunday in Denver, too. But their streets were filled. St. Paul’s weren’t.

    Skewed. The pictures don’t lie. It’s dead out there. Maybe it’s the hurricane, maybe it’s labor day, but the fact remains: the convention hasn’t been much of a draw for people.

    Now find me the giant Guitar Hero stage! Find me the hucksters! Find me the freak show! Find me the little old ladies walking up to laminates and asking “where are you from?”, just because they want to ‘experience’ their own slice of the convention.

    That’s where the center of a convention is.

  • Nick

    Well, also, I’d like to think that if Minnesota really could be qualified as a “swing state,” or perhaps a “not-all-that-blue” state like I’ve began to hear, I don’t know how well it works to host the reddest event in the country in one/two of the blue-er cities in the country.

    There were people yesterday participating in the convention yesterday…they were just outside the Xcel with signs and megaphones. A few brought a bit more than that.

    I think we’ll see more people get out as the convention progresses. With both cities hosting farmer’s markets this week during the RNC, along with a greatly weakened hurricane and no more holidays, there has to be a guitar hero stage set up SOMEWHERE.

  • bsimon

    My perception of the convention – which would hold true if the other party were here instead – is that all the security perimiters, fences & private events are screaming:


  • Paul

    Before we pile on Bob Collins for making the score 2-1 in favor of Denver, let’s do a bit of self-acknowledgement:

    We Minnesotans are a bit quirky.

    – We love to go to the lakes as often as we can, especially Labor Day weekend. This was a ghost town during the past few days.

    – We aren’t all that pedestrian friendly.

    – We can’t decide on investing in one downtown, so we have two. The result? Neither is as robust as it would be if our metro area had just one.

    – We love rankings and lists. We love pointing out when we’re #1 in a natonwide study of this or that. So it really gets to us when someone ranks a peer city like Denver ahead of us in anything.

    – Republicanism is a fairly new phenomenon in these parts. We’re still trying to figure out if having the GOP here is good or bad.

    With all that said, I love living here and wouldn’t live anywhere else. Perhaps Denver has the edge on us as a convention destination. I’ve been to Denver many times for meetings and conventions — I can buy that. But in the end, I’d rather that we have a great place to live, and do we ever.

  • MPLS_Guy

    I am just waiting for all the Republicans to leave my beautiful, liberal city. Both dowtown St. Paul and Minneapolis suck right now. All there is in either one is police just waiting for any excuse to lock up “anarchists”, and really old bitchy Republicans complaining (as they ride on and get to where they are going) about public transportation. I can’t wait until they dump all their money here, and then leave town. Minnesota has NEVER voted for a republican presedential candidate in the last 100 years and we aren’t going to start now, RNC being here or not. So hurry up all you repubs and empty your wallets and then go home.

    (Collins notes: Nixon 1972. And it wasn’t close. We liked Ike too (g))

  • Bob Collins

    Deep breath time. The scorecard has nothing to do with which is the better city to live. It is a competition between cities w.r.t. the poltical convention.

    One of the categories is citizen involvement/excitement over the event.

    I have no problem with people going to the fair or the lake or anywhere else OTHER than experiencing the convention.

    I don’t know if Denver has the edge on us as convention cities. For these two conventions however, so far Denver does and whether it’s because of Gustav or Labor Day or the lake or the state fair doesn’t really matter.

  • Sara

    However you count it, Obama invited about 60 thousand more people to the finale than there were credentialed delegates, press, and assorted others, in the Pepsi Center. Likewise there were many more forums and organizations hosting watch parties for those without convention credentials, but engaged with policy — and these invited in all who wanted to participate. There was the convention, and then the well organized fringe. Having not been in Denver, but having watched a good deal of C-Span, I just hope that some local art gallery brings to Minnesota the Political Drawings of Dr. Seuss, which were a featured exhibit in Denver. Dr. Seuss drew for the progressive old PM in New York for years, and the little I could see on C-Span intrigued. Where was something like that in the Twin Cities? This isn’t about the two metro areas, it is about the vision of the convention organizers. Could one access something like that without standing in a long security line?