For many who scored a ticket to President Barack Obama’s farewell address at McCormick Place next week, waking up hours before the Saturday sunrise to brave the frigid cold and winds off Lake Michigan was well worth it.
“I’m so excited. This is a historical moment,” said Tanika Sykes, the first person to receive a ticket to the speech. “I’m just so grateful to be able to witness it.”
Asked what she wanted to hear at Tuesday’s speech, she said: “Hope. I’m ready for the Obama Hope speech to encourage us, to let us know that it’s OK. We’re going to survive, we always do. And it’s going to be a great America.”
Sykes, of south suburban Homewood, said she got in line at 4:30 a.m., though she had to stand outside in the zero-degree weather for about 45 minutes.
Etta McChristian, who proudly said she, like the president, was from the South Side, was also among the first in line.
She and some friends reserved a room at the nearby Hyatt Regency Hotel the night before so they could get in line as soon as possible.
“Whoever the president is, you have some big shoes to fill because, at the end of the day, Barack did a great job,” McChristian said.
The line for tickets snaked through the east building of McCormick Place, out into the frigid cold and back into the convention center’s western building.
By 9 a.m., McCormick Place officials were telling those still waiting in line outside that it was unlikely they’d get a ticket. Despite the warning, hundreds remained outside. An hour later, those already inside were still receiving tickets, according to McCormick Place spokeswoman Cynthia McCafferty.
By 10:45, all the tickets for the event had been given away, according to McCormick Place officials.
Foot and vehicle traffic was dense throughout much of the South Loop and Bronzeville throughout the morning as many late arrivers searched for a place to park or get in line.
Well before 7 a.m., Chicago Police were warning people away from McCormick Place, saying the lines were too long, and that the tickets already spoken for.
CPD on its Facebook page wrote: “Anyone hoping to receive a ticket this morning to President Obama’s farewell address at McCormick Place who is NOT already on property will not be receiving a ticket. Save yourself from the frigid temperatures as a large crowd is already in line.”
Genevieve Perry, who also lives in the city, felt good about her chances of getting a ticket, but said the line didn’t look as long as it actually was, which allowed some nerves to set in.
“I’m getting nervous as I look in and see how much farther the line is,” Perry said. “You think it’s going to be done, you take and look and you’re like ‘Wait, it winds again.’”
Perry brought her headphones and a book to pass the more than three hours she spent in line.
“It’s just been trying to not think about what happens if we don’t get a ticket,” Perry said.
Marcus Bush and his friends got in line at 5:15 a.m. He was in Grant Park on Election Night in 2008 when Obama was first elected and said this speech will help give him a sense of closure.
“I hope that we feel some promise going into the next four years,” Bush, who lives downtown, said. “I think a lot of people are frustrated after the most recent election and so I just think people want to come out feeling positive about the last eight years and feeling hopeful moving forward.”
After getting their tickets, many people hugged and took selfies with their tickets in the main lobby area before security asked them to move to help foot traffic flow better.
Just a few hours after the tickets were distributed for free, they were already for sale on the secondary market.
On Craigslist, a pair of tickets were being sold for as much as $5,000 as of noon.