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Tickets go fast for Obama’s visit

By Staff | Feb 10, 2009

Thousands of people were frustrated and angry they did not get tickets to President Barack Obama’s visit today.
Disconcerted chants of “We want tickets! We want tickets!” filled the morning air in front of the Harborside Event Center on Monday, as more than 2,000 people were left without the coveted passes for Obama’s Lee County sojourn.
Only 1,500 tickets were available when the event was announced last week.
Yet, rumors ran wild among those with, and without tickets, that a mere 500-700 were distributed among the waiting masses. That left many people, some waiting all night long, incensed and dejected.
Columbus, Ohio, resident Marcus Watkins arrived at 11 p.m. Sunday to snag a place in line. He was one of many who camped out overnight, yet unable to get tickets.
Watkins could see the box office window when Harborside officials announced over a loud speaker that all the tickets were gone.
“They said some of the tickets were going to members of Congress. They get to see Obama all the time,” Watkins said, blankets in tow. “When do I get to see my president? Why give them to Congress? There’s no transparency with this process. It’s pretty bad when you have corruption handing out tickets to see the president.”
Lee County Democratic Chairman Will Prather said Monday morning after the distribution of tickets ended that he was never given an official number of available tickets.
“I have no knowledge of how many tickets were printed or distributed,” he said.
When asked why the Obama’s visit was not held at a larger venue, like Germain Arena, Prather cited security concerns and the fact that it would take away from the intimacy of the town hall formula.
“This is not a campaign rally. This is an intimate town hall,” he said. “Everyone should take a deep breath, we should be honored he has chosen to come here.”
People began lining up as early 4:30 p.m. Sunday to get tickets to the town hall meeting.
Lehigh resident Robert Buffington was one of the lucky ones to grab a pair of tickets.
Buffington said he slept in a cardboard box — his “cardboard condo” — all night long, and his spirits were high leading up to the box office opening at 9 a.m.
“He’ll bring more awareness to Lehigh, and hopefully more attention to the area,” he said.
As it now stands, the president’s Lehigh trip will not happen. According to Prather, the trip was never a reality — just a rumor that had spiraled out of control when Obama’s visit was first announced.
“Lehigh Acres is not part of the visit,” he said. “The president will not be touring the area.”
The tickets were all handed out just 30 minutes after the box office opened. Almost instantly, vague whispers began to circulate that tickets were being scalped on the street.
As of Monday evening, there were several listings on the Craigslist Web site for tickets with an asking price of upward of $200.
Prather said the resale of tickets is illegal, and White House staff would try to quell the sale of tickets online.
“Selling tickets is against the law,” he said.
Doors open for the town hall meeting at 10 a.m., and the program begins at noon.