Since the announcement of the Republican National Convention coming to Cleveland, there has been a feeling of intensified excitement because our city is getting long deserved positive recognition. Cleveland is coming of age.
Last year we had the National Senior Games and this year it is the Gay Games 9. Naturally, being a snoop, I volunteered to help out.
On Tuesday I donned my Cuyahoga Valley National Park Volunteer uniform and hat and headed down to Mall C that covers the roof of the lower part of the new Convention Center. Four of us squeezed into a little booth to show visitors literature and pelts. The National Park was also hosting several events in the Park designed to entertain the GG9 participants and visitors.
It was a good place to view the passing parade of people.
Dave and I had visited on Friday night to view the Ahh Cleveland Light Show. There were laser lights projected over the Convention Center and Malls. They formed a rainbow. There were lights to step on and lights projected against the Public Auditorium. Meanwhile, about 500 people were doing a yoga routine on the grass as twilight then dark descended.
But on Tuesday it was full daylight and easy to talk with people who came up and asked us about the Park. It was clear that locals didn’t know the difference between the Cleveland MetroParks and their National Park. Never mind. We understood each other.
It was great fun to ask were people were from and what sport they were participating in. We talked at length to two men who had done goat dressing at the rodeo. (This means running up to a tethered goat and putting underpants on the astonished animal). In the next several days I talked with people who had competed in ice skating events, basketball, and ballroom dancing. There are 35 events in lots of venues in the region.
All of us were impressed with the organization. There were tons of volunteers, police were evident everywhere. Welcoming flags and signs were in most restaurants and neighborhoods. Just as impressive is the estimation at each visitor spent approximately $1500.
The next day I had volunteered to meet the bus that was going to take GG9 guests from Cleveland to the Park for a free concert. Outside the Horseshoe Casino Gift Shop sat a full sized Lakefront coach. Only 6 people had registered and only 3 of them showed up. It was a gorgeous day and, after two days of rain, I think people blew off the bus ride to explore our city.
As I walked back home, I overheard one participant complain that the venues were far apart and there were few spectators. That was the only complaint I heard. The overwhelming response I got was that people were impressed with our city and all there is to do. But even more so about how friendly and welcoming people are. There were many people who came from overseas. Two of the women on the bus were from Russia and spoke no English. Imagine coming from Croatia or France by yourself to participate.
Personally, I was very pleased with how organized everything was. There were staff, volunteers, medical personnel, and security aplenty. The schedule of options for visitors was crammed with many tempting options. People were happy with all the pleasing options and the availability of things to do and places to eat downtown. I saw participants using our free trolley and other modes of transportation to get around.
Our city is clearly ready to host big conventions and lots of people, including you.