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Democrat’s Party Over; All that Remains is the Clean-up

August 30, 1996

CHICAGO (AP) _ The immense video screen was down. The podium _ what was left of it _ smelled of stale beer. Renegade flecks of red, white and blue confetti drifted slowly from the rafters.

What a difference half a day makes.

Where 12 hours earlier President Clinton accepted his renomination, a throng of workers pulled cables, hauled freight and filled garbage bags on Friday, undoing what the Democratic National Convention had done to the United Center.

Some, toiling on little or no sleep, sighed in relief that the party was finally over.

``They were chanting `Four more years’ on Tuesday,″ said one security officer. ``We were chanting `Four more days.‴

After months of meticulous preparations, the city began packing away the remnants of its first political convention since the Democrats’ demonstration-scarred 1968 event.

Democrats had roughly 10 weeks to construct the podium and renovate the United Center for the convention. They were given 10 days to restore it. A Neil Diamond concert was coming and after that, the Chicago Blackhawks were expected back on the ice.

``We had 16 guys to take down the video screen,″ worker Tom Marconi said Friday morning, his feet up on a chair at the podium where Clinton had stood. ``We broke it down last night and are hauling it now.″

Media tents, which hours earlier housed hundreds of busy reporters, were dark and empty but for busy technicians by morning.

``There’s not much turnaround time,″ said technician Janice Devine as she reclined on the grass outside a tent. ``We’ve been up all night.″

Leslie Fox, director of Chicago’s host committee, estimated it would cost between $1 million and $2.5 million to put it all back as it should be.

As workers scurried around the United Center, an estimated 35,000 people in town for the Democrat’s big show were preparing to leave. Delegates stood in lines at downtown hotels to grab buses for Chicago’s airports.

``We were thrilled and pleased to be here, and we can’t wait to come back,″ said Joann Martin, of Little Rock, Ark.

Martin and others still had one of the city’s two airports to conquer.

City officials estimated that the convention, combined with the Labor Day weekend, would send 261,000 passengers through O’Hare and Midway by day’s end.

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