In The News
Final details of Obama’s speech at Laborfest
September 4, 2010, Labor Press
Of all the Labor Day celebrations in the US, President Obama chose Milwaukee’s Laborfest, a free festival for the community organized by the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, to visit and talk about workers’ issues on September 6.
The decision requires significant preparation by the festival, which begins downtown with an 11 a.m. parade and then moves to Summerfest (Maier Festival Park) where the president will speak from a secured area at the Miller Stage.
All tickets issued for the event by the sponsor were distributed by the weekend before Labor Day Monday, and priority was given to families and workers participating in the annual union parade at 11 a.m. that Monday.
“This is organized labor’s festival and our folks come first,” said Sheila Cochran, the council’s chief operating officer as she reminded hundreds of delegates and volunteers at September meetings that the council affiliates, staff and volunteers organize, arrange and pay for Laborfest.
The White House advance team agreed to the ticket distribution, since the president – speaking after a motorcade through Milwaukee, with his speech amplified to be heard beyond the Miller Stage area itself -- is a guest at the council’s annual event.
Laborfest traditionally draws 8,000 visitors. The additional attraction of the president and such special guests as National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis on the Summerfest grounds – plus a number of noted names from top Nov. 2 political races – has swelled that traditional estimate enormously. In response, Laborfest has been extended until 7 p.m. with activities for all continuing outside the vast secured area around Miller Stage. Thousands of seats plus standing room have been arranged within that security area, after attendees with tickets pass through security measures.
In an extensive coordinated effort among the hundreds of locals, unions and affiliates of the council, thousands of union rank and file and their families have or will receive tickets ahead of marching in the 11 a.m. Laborfest parade through Downtown. At the end of the parade, participants will proceed immediately through the required barriers. Volunteers have already been selected and assigned for special duties during Laborfest.
Only those with tickets will be allowed through the barriers and electronic checkpoints as they complete the parade, and if they leave the section they will not be allowed back in. The labor council confirmed Friday that there are no more tickets to give out and no advantage for those without tickets to arrive early hoping to get past security.
Even children, retirees and the elderly have to arrange for tickets if they want to see the president and be seated before his arrival. There are groups affiliated with the council working with them on access.
The children’s area and stage, with its clowns, games and magicians, will remain in operation, so children can go there. But everyone, children included, within the security area will need a special ticket.
Advice is simple. Limit carry-ins and avoid liquids – much the same as travelers do at the airport. Union members who love to wear metal buttons were reminded by Cochran to leave those at home. Carry less and dress comfortably. The weather forecast is pleasant.
There will be a special program including music and noted Wisconsin dignitaries before the president’s arrival, so the crowd that must arrive early to see him will be amply entertained, Cochran said.
All media inquiries are being handled through the White House, but space in the press area is limited and national media traveling with the president is expected.
Since Laborfest has been extended until 7 p.m. this year – and since all security restrictions are removed once the president departs -- the festival expects to resume full blast around 3 p.m. That includes food and beverage vendors, pro wrestling, live dance music and concluding raffles.
Some activities will continue all day outside the extensive secured area (which stretches from the mid-gate to the lakefront and south to the edge of the Harley-Davidson stage) – including the vintage cars area, select beverage vendors, and Bingo.