Obama, Clinton are in Grand Forks today
GRAND FORKS -- It's Presidents Day today in Grand Forks.
The city and the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party plan to play host to not one, but two contenders for the top executive job in the United States.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a relative newcomer when it comes to presidential races, has captivated millions across the nation with a Bobby Kennedy-esque campaign presence.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who's been through the grind twice before as a challenger's wife and later as a first lady, wants to reclaim her old address at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Both are locked in a fight for the Democratic presidential nomination and both are guests of the state Democratic convention, which kicks off today in the Alerus Center.
Obama is slated to speak at 5:30 p.m. in the main arena, while Clinton is scheduled to take the stage at 7:30 p.m.
Capacity for today's candidate addresses will be 16,000. As of late Thursday, organizers still were holding fast to that number, saying once capacity is reached, no more people will be let in.
The largest event ever held in the Alerus Center was a 2002 Cher concert that drew about 20,000 people. Tonight's event will be the largest since then.
Doors to the Alerus Center officially will open at 1 p.m. to allow spectators ample time to file through security and find their seats in the arena. For security reasons, only the south-east entrance of the Alerus Center will be open to the general public.
About 14,000 stadium seats will be available to the general public. Floor seating is re-served for delegates and participants of the convention, according to Tami Pearson, Alerus marketing manager.
Parking will be at a premium, too. Only about 3,200 parking spots will be available on the Alerus Center grounds.
Alerus guests are being encouraged to take shuttle buses, which will run continuously for free starting at 2 p.m. Pick-up/drop-off sites for the shuttle buses are UND's Memorial Sta-dium parking lot, the Grand Forks public works facility on North 47th Street and the old Target parking lot at Columbia Mall.
Shuttle buses will continue to run after Clinton's speech to get guests back to their vehi-cles.
Guests will have to go through metal detectors as they enter the Alerus. Backpacks are not allowed, and purses are discouraged, unless absolutely necessary.
Cameras are allowed, as are political signs made out of paper and soft fabric. However, the signs cannot have pickets or sticks attached.
No outside food or beverages will be allowed. There will be food and refreshment avail-able inside the Alerus. Alcohol will not be served.
The Grand Forks Herald and The Dickinson Press are both owned by Forum Communications Co.