Standing by the passenger side of their car in Frawley Stadium’s parking lot, Jim and Susanne Hussey bobbed their heads to John Mellencamp’s “R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A.,” waving hand-held American flags above their heads.
Laughing, the couple swayed jovially from side to side, their excitement growing as the music boomed loudly from a screen at the front of the parking lot.
“Everybody’s excited, but this is especially exciting for me because I’ve known Joe since he first ran (for Senate) in 1972,” said Jim Hussey, vice chair of the Delaware Democratic Party and a state delegate.
“I hope he becomes president.”
Joining the Husseys outside the Chase Center Thursday night were several hundred others — delegates, elected officials and other Delaware dignitaries — all of whom had been invited to a drive-in viewing of former Vice President Joe Biden’s speech.
He accepted the Democratic nomination for president Thursday, making history in The First State by becoming the first Delawarean to do so.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Delawareans couldn’t gather inside the Chase Center to watch Biden speak in person. So the state Democratic Party adapted, hosting the drive-in in its place.
The idea for such a viewing came from The Grand Opera House’s Concerts by Cars series, which are held in Frawley Stadium’s parking lot. For those concerts, a couple hundred cars pack the lot abutting the Chase Center, with one or two parking spaces in between vehicles.
Thursday’s drive-in watch party functioned much the same, and though attendees were asked to remain in their cars, many couldn’t help but jump out when they spotted a friend or colleague across the parking lot.
The music that played prior to the convention’s start also wasn’t conducive to remaining still — like the Husseys, dozens of others swayed and bopped along to the tunes.
“We’re here to celebrate today,” said Muthoni Wambu Kraal, who works for the national Democratic Party.
She and a friend who also attended the drive-in, Venus Figueroa, both graduated from Howard University, where Biden’s vice presidential pick, Kamala Harris, received her bachelor’s degree.
The Harris connection made the viewing especially exciting, the two women said.
“Alpha Kappa Alpha has been supporting Harris (since) her presidential bid, so when we got the (vice presidential pick) announcement, everybody was so excited to get behind her and get behind the ticket,” Figueroa said. “We’re so excited to be here.”
Though the drive-in watch party was invite-only, that didn’t stop excited Delawareans who wanted in on the action from gathering at the edge of a security fence erected around the Chase Center.
U.S. Marshals, police and Secret Service agents patrolled that barrier, where about 60 people, mostly Biden supporters, sat or stood outside the metal perimeter Thursday night.
“I’m trying to get my son into politics like I am,” said Taylor Smoyer, who sat near the gate with her 4-year-old son, Howie. “He’s excited to see Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren, and now he’s excited to see Joe Biden on the TV.”
Smoyer, who lives in Townsend, said she would have liked to have been inside the perimeter, but she was still excited to be here, listening to people cheering and clapping.
When asked what he was excited about, Howie broke away from playing with a cellphone to say “Joe Biden.”
Two others, Ben and Sameerah Gitonga, made a 20-minute drive to the Riverfront to show their support for Biden. The couple said they, too, wanted to be inside the fence, but just being near there was enough.
“The state that the world is in today, we just need a change and someone who is going to take the seat seriously and do the right thing by everybody,” Sameerah Gitonga said.
U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, who stood by her car with Delaware Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long within the perimeter, echoed Sameerah Gitong.
“People are seeing the incredible wonder of Delaware, but more importantly, they are seeing Joe Biden and who he is,” Blunt Rochester said. “Tonight is about America’s promise, and I am so excited.”