Wednesday, March 11, 2009

IGOLD Was a Blast!

I'm going to go ahead and estimate the crowd at around 3,500, which is lower than a lot of estimates out there. I've seen estimates over 5,000, but I'm going to have to stand firm on this one. As far as I'm concerned, the important thing is that we filled up the convention center, we filled up the streets of Springfield, and we filled the Capitol to bursting. Valinda Rowe gave a great speech, complete with her display of the gift the Concealed Carry Chicks made to present to Governor Quinn, a presentation plaque mounted with the three weapons the Illinois State Police recommend women use for self-defense:
  1. A key.
  2. A comb.
  3. A tongue depressor.
Colleen Lawson spoke movingly, too, and state legislators like Brandon Phelps and Senator Carter gave fairly fiery talks. Todd Vandermyde, the NRA's lobbyist in Springfield, covered the anti-gunner's gambit of pushing key anti-gun bills into easy committees and passing them out to the floor this morning before IGOLD. It's so much fun listening to him describe pro-gun lobbying in his Blues Brothers accent . . . I keep expecting to hear "I hate Illinois Nazis." He summed up the morning's action in the Capitol in two sentences:
"They just fired the first shot of Campaign 2010. They started it, and we're going to finish it!"
Tom Shafer shouted himself near-hoarse as he exhorted the crowd to go march, as is tradition, and off we went marching merrily through the streets. The Springfield Police Department had the entire route closed to all traffic, which really helped us stay safe. They did a great job and were very professional. We thanked them all, and a few of them thanked us in return. Come to think of it, the Capitol security, Secretary of State Police, and even the bus drivers made a point of thanking us. Manners go a long way.

One thing I noticed this year was the tendency for rumors to spread rapidly through the crowd. I went on more than one wild goose chase today! Here are some of my favorites:
  • "Wisconsin's Senate just passed their concealed carry bill! They're just waiting on the Governor's signature, and then we'll be the only state without license to carry!" This turned out to be . . . well, I'm still not sure how it turned out. I haven't been able to find any information about the bill or passage in the Wisconsin Senate, so I'm guessing it was just a rumor. It's true that 48 states have some legal concealed carry, and Wisconsin and Illinois are the last two. However, some of those states have terrible CCW laws.
  • "Jesse Jackson is coming today with four busloads of counter-protesters!" This one was widely believed, and marshals and hosts were instructed to keep everyone from engaging protesters. "Keep smiling!" was the advice. As it turned out, this one was false. Jackson did have a press conference, but it was in Chicago. When your opposition has 3,000-4,000 people willing to take a day off work and travel on their own dimes, it just doesn't make sense to show up with a couple of hundred people and try to shout them down.
  • "Do you know what Pfleger looks like?" This wasn't much of a rumor, but a concerned man did ask me that question. There was a priest wearing his collar at the event, and although this guy was young with dark hair, he was worried that maybe Snuffy Pfleger had come in to make trouble. Of course, if Pfleger had shown up in the convention center, we'd have smiled at him and gone about our business.
  • "They just called a special committee session on gun legislation!" aka
  • "Representative Phelps had to rush out because there was a Blackberry message that they're about to hold a special caucus on gun bills!" aka
  • "Hey, guys, my rep says there's a special committee session on guns right now in Room 212. Let's go!" These three variations amounted to the same thing, and apparently they were all false. The damage had been done at that point.
  • "The bus driver from Effingham says we have to get all the flags off his bus right now, but he left, so we don't know which bus it is or where he is!" I personally ran all over creation and bugged ten different bus drivers before I found the right bus . . . only to find that the driver from Effingham hadn't heard this particular rumor. All the flags had been loaded on two other buses, and those bus drivers had gotten lots of help unloading the flappy supplies. The good news was that there was no problem. The bad news was that it took me about a half hour of frantically chasing my tail to find out that there was no problem. The other bad news was that, once we reported to the owner that his flags were not missing after all, he reported to us that he had lost his keys. In the Prairie Capital Convention Center. But it was OK, because the keys were in a black "IGOLD Host" hat . . . . and there couldn't have been more than 100 of those in the building. Piece of cake.
  • "There's somebody missing on one of the buses, and somebody said a guy fell on the steps today and got taken to the hospital in an ambulance!" This one turned out to be true, more or less. The Secretary of State Police worked very hard with us over the phone to confirm that a man with the same name as the missing bus rider had been sent off in an ambulance during the day, and they had a record of the hospital to which he'd been taken. Then the duty nurses in the emergency room made sure we were able to get in touch with the patient and find out what he needed. The last time I talked to him, he was basically OK, but he was sure he would be at the hospital in Springfield overnight. They'd been unable to contact his family so far, but he was confident that one of his relatives would come and pick him up--don't forget, this guy's still got a two-hour drive home, and he missed his bus! He's got my number if all else fails, though. If nobody from his family can get him home, we'll figure something out. It's only a couple of hours away.
I'm going to end this now because, frankly, I'm exhausted. Tomorrow I'd like to attempt a list of people to be thanked. It will be lengthy, but that's only a problem for blogs with readers.


lee n. field said...

Interesting. The only rumor I heard of those you list was the attendee count.

Maybe I'm just unsociable.

Longhornjeff said...

"I personally ran all over creation and bugged ten different bus drivers before I found the right bus . ."
You looked wiped out at the end of the day. I bet you slept good last night !

Don Gwinn said...

You should have seen me a couple of hours after you left! It was shortly after you left that we found out that someone was missing from the Urbana bus and someone had been taken from the capitol by ambulance. Hilarity ensued.

Kevin W said...

This was my first IGOLD and it really was a BLAST! I was proud to be able to contribute something even if just a body count. Well, I did get to meet & speak with my local Rep., and best of all I got to meet Rosanna Pulido of the Illinois MinuteMen.

The photos were awesome, and I am even in one, next to John Naese!

Awesome - I wish I had been able to attend last year.

Don Gwinn said...

I'm glad you were there! Don't forget IGOLD 2010. :)

March 10, 2010.

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