Thousands celebrate before Obama speech on Thursday |

Thousands celebrate before Obama speech on Thursday

Protesters march through downtown at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

DENVER ” Musicians strummed guitars, hawkers sold political souvenirs and the Colorado sun beat down on thousands of people who celebrated in a mile-long queue Thursday to hear Barack Obama’s historic acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High.

“This is going to be the event of a lifetime. I’m ecstatic to be here,” said grocery worker Susan Murphy of Denver, who got her Obama speech credential from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Hours before the Secret Service opened the gates to the 76,000-seat home of the Denver Broncos, people in shorts, flip-flops, sneakers and sandals lined up two- and three-abreast in a queue that snaked for a mile, threading under nearby Interstate 25 and along railroad tracks usually clogged with coal trains.

The day was sunny but mild with temperatures in the 70s.

Vendors sold Obama T-shirts, posters and even Obama foam fingers, the type usually seen at football games. Most celebrants wore Obama gear and had their Obama campaign “community credentials” hanging from their necks ” a coveted ticket obtained via Internet registration or through their work as Obama supporters.

A pair played guitar and bongo drums, adding to the festive atmosphere. Inside a security checkpoint, a drum line from Denver’s East High School played and led the crowd in cheers of “Obama!” They wore red Democratic National Convention T-shirts.

John Vialpando of Arvada, Colo., a Republican and a hedge fund trader, scored a credential, as did his brother, Tim, a teacher.

“This is history. I don’t care if you’re Republican or a Democrat,” said John, 27.

Tim Vialpando, 28, is a Democrat and a teacher who wore a National Education Association T-shirt to the event.

“I think there’s a glimmer of hope that he’ll see the light tonight,” Tim said of his brother. “He was very impressed by the Clinton speeches.”

With the threat of dehydration ever-present in the sun and mile-high high altitude, city officials used a fire hydrant to replenish a truck dispensing water to the thirsty crowd. One company handed out free bottled water.

There were at least two checkpoints at the tightly controlled venue: One to get onto the stadium grounds, and another to get to the blue-and-orange seating of the stadium itself. Transportation Security Administration workers staffed a tent where people passed through more than a dozen metal detectors.

Once inside, many took pictures of a panorama that included the signature bucking Bronco atop the stadium and the Denver skyline.

Joni and Nick Fisher of Platteville, Colo., were thrilled when they got their tickets: Row 6, Section 123, right at the 50-yard line for a Broncos game ” and perfect for viewing Obama’s center-stage speech.

But when they got there, they found their seats were behind the stage. They stared at a black curtain and rigging holding up lights and cameras.

“Surprise! We’ll get to see him on the Jumbotron,” Joni Fisher said.

“It’s OK. We’re here. It’s history.”

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