Hundreds gather in Mpls to watch inauguration

Inauguraiton party at the Riverview Theater
At an Inauguration party at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis, almost 1,000 people turned out to celebrate. About 200 had to be turned away due to the heavy turnout.
MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

After joining hundreds of others at a south Minneapolis theater to watch Barack Obama's inauguration, Lareesa Hooper felt one emotion above all.

Relief.

A decorated van welcomes Obama revelers
A decorated van outside the Riverview Theater welcomes Obama supporters to an Inauguration party held Tuesday morning.
MPR Photo/Nikki TUndel

"I finally had the feeling like it's going to be OK. It might not be tomorrow, but it's going to be OK," said Hooper, 29, who joined a sometimes euphoric crowd of about 700 people at the Riverview Theater.

There would have been more if they could have fit inside. A line snaked around the front of the Riverview and down the block, and the theater was full less than 20 minutes after opening its doors at 9:30 a.m.

Inside, the atmosphere was festive, with old, young, black and white faces. Some parents brought their children. Before Obama's speech, people snacked on goodies from the theater concession stand or bought hot dogs from Scott Simon, a vendor who showed his patriotism by wearing American flag-emblazoned boxer shorts over his pants.

"It's kind of like being on the Washington Mall," said Simon, who was helping out his theater-manager friend. "We should have a Jumbotron on the side of the building."

The crowd hushed when Obama finally delivered his speech. Afterward, people stood applauding and whistling.

Sharon Schrantz said the inauguration felt different from those she had seen in the past.

A child holds a flag during an inauguration event
This child holding a flag during an inauguration event was just one of close to 1,000 people that showed up to the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis to celebrate the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

"Before, they were always kind of an intellectual political experience. This is an emotional one," said Schrantz, 64.

Several people cried, including Hooper's mother, Roxanne Swanson, 49.

"It was fabulous," she said.

Chris Conry's wife went to Washington see the inauguration in person. He stayed behind, but wasn't going to miss a chance to see the event with others. Conry, who works for TakeAction Minnesota, a nonprofit group that advocates for health care reform among other things, was there to both see and volunteer at the event.

"I'm moved to think that these kinds of gatherings are happening all over the country right now," he said.

Pres. Barack Obama
U.S President Barack Obama gives his inaugural address during his inauguration as the 44th President of the United States of America on the West Front of the Capitol January 20, 2009 in Washington, D.C. Obama becomes the first African-American to be elected to the office of President in the history of the United States.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Fifty-two-year-old Tya Schrader said she was surprised to hear Obama spend so much time talking about America's current troubles.

"It was exciting to me," Schrader said of the speech. "I didn't expect Obama to go as much into what was going on in the world. But I think that shows his courage and his bravery."

Admission to the event was free, but people were encouraged to donate to a local food shelf and tables were set up by community groups seeking volunteers who might be inspired by the speeches in Washington. A life-size Obama cutout loomed between two tables.

Hooper's husband was in Washington working security for the event. She stayed home to tend to her kids, and attended the theater event with a friend.

That friend, 30-year-old Mellisa Nelson, was still damp-eyed as she left the theater.

"Not everyone can go to Washington, so this was our way," she said.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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