The city of Madison is bracing itself for what is reported to be one of the biggest political rallies to ever hit the city and state.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry will visit Madison Thursday with rockers Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters.
The city gave approval Friday to hold the rally on Martin Luther King Boulevard, but changed the location Monday due to an expected increase in crowd attendance.
“From the crowd expectations, the campaign said there’s no way they can fit everyone around the Capitol,” Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said.
Following the announcement of Bruce Springsteen’s added company, the city’s Street Use Staff Team moved the location immediately. The final permit for the Kerry rally was approved Tuesday and moved to West Washington Avenue, according to Verveer.
“The decision to move it to West Washington was based almost entirely on the fact that they needed more space for the expected 40,000 to 60,000 people,” Verveer said.
The gates will open at 10 a.m. with the music performances beginning at 11 a.m. Kerry is expected to speak at noon. The entrance to the rally is located on West Washington at the Capitol.
According to Verveer, no one will be allowed to enter the rally past Henry Street without a ticket. Access past Broom Street will require passage through secret service metal detectors. Many residents of Broom and Bassett streets and West Washington Avenue, many of them students and their guests, will get a bird’s eye view of the rally from their porches and balconies.
Traffic will be closed on the 400 and 500 blocks of West Washington Avenue at 8:30 a.m. following rush hour traffic. Residents will have limited vehicular access to West Washington Wednesday.
Starting late Wednesday night there will be no vehicular access to West Washington Avenue, including resident’s driveways, according to Verveer.
“I am asking residents to weather street closures in the next couple of days with civility and patience,” Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said in a release. “A presidential campaign only comes along every four years, and one this close happens only once or twice a century. It’s worth some inconveniences to play this kind of role in history.”
Pedestrians and residents will have full walking access along the southern side of West Washington during the event, but access to houses on the northern side will be shut down during the rally.
The Kerry-Edwards campaign will work with residents to limit the impact of the rally on their daily lives by creating alternate access to parking lots behind houses and for residents who cannot access regular parking.
“I am proud that many presidential candidates in recent years have chosen Madison as the location to kick off the final weekend of the campaign,” Cieslewicz said in the release. “Madison and Wisconsin may very well decide who the next president of the United States will be.”
University of Wisconsin sophomore Meggan Babcock said it is exciting to be a student during this election.
“I’m very excited Senator Kerry is returning, and I’ll definitely be going to see him,” Babcock said. “He promised to come back to Madison and by following through I hope he solidifies his place among student voters and influences those who remain undecided.”
Verveer, whose district includes many student residences, went door-to-door in the Bassett neighborhood Tuesday night to hand out a letter with the specifics of the rally to his district residents.
“It’s the next best thing from the Mifflin Street Block Party,” Verveer said. “But we don’t get 60,000 for the block party.”
Event speakers like Gov. Jim Doyle, Sen. Russ Feingold and Madison Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin will speak before Kerry takes the stage, according to the Capital Times.
“No matter your political persuasion, it is an exciting honor for our neighborhood to be hosting this event,” Verveer said.