There was an excited and almost vibrant energy as the time of the presidential debate arrived. During “DebateFest,” the center of the University of Denver’s (DU) campus was littered with power cords from media trucks, rows of booths were full of posters, information sheets, and campaign flyers, and live music from groups like the Lumineers blasted through the quad. Red-shirted volunteers and members of a variety of student organizations canvassed the campus, handing out flyers, maps, pens, and DVDs.
Lenny Elsoffer stood at a booth belonging to the DU College Democrats, handing out Obama-Biden posters, and, later, telling people they were out. Nearby were four other students helping him manage the booth. Before the debate came to his campus, Elsoffer had been interested in politics, but never to the extent he was now.
“This debate really builds the hype,” he said. “It’s awesome having this many opportunities to be engaged in something like this.”
Across the quad, Sarah Fernandez, a DU freshman and one of more than 500 volunteers around campus, worked a lost-and-found booth. Fernandez had not been particularly interested in politics before the debate festivities, but after hearing a questionable claim that President Barack Obama would force women to have abortions, she decided to pay more attention. When offered the chance to volunteer at DebateFest, she accepted.
“[The debate] is making everyone realize and become aware of all the policies and credentials going on,” Sarah Fernandez, a freshman at DU said.
“Everyone trying to push for their own personal candidates has led to students becoming more knowledgeable,” she said.
To get to DebateFest, attendees had to navigate their way through temporary fencing and layers of security, in place since that Monday. Some students, like Fernandez and freshman Jamie Stanton, had some trouble getting to class and had to make extra time.
But for some, the street closures were a good thing. John Frenchin and Brian McBroom, graduates of Colorado State University and Colorado University, saw the increased foot traffic as an opportunity to sell hot dogs and drinks and promote their sun visor business, BFresh.
“Road closings don’t really bother us,” McBroom said.
Despite the inconveniences, the students and community understood the safety concerns that must be thoroughly addressed with an event of this capacity.
“I understand since it is about the protection of the candidates, so it was fine with me,”