/Organizers are scrambling to plan an unprecedented virtual gathering for the 2020 DNC

Organizers are scrambling to plan an unprecedented virtual gathering for the 2020 DNC

MILWAUKEE – So, now we know.

This will not be the Democratic National Convention of Milwaukee’s hopes and dreams, a colorful political party filled with big events and big crowds.

Instead, when Democrats trickle into Milwaukee for their convention Aug. 17-20, they’ll be participating in a scaled-back and oftentimes virtual show, an unprecedented and unconventional gathering in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

What will it actually look like?

“I think it is going to look like nothing you’ve ever seen before,” said Joe Solmonese, chief executive of the Democratic National Convention Committee.

DNC Convention CEO Joe Solmonese speaks with Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, and State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski during a media day Tuesday, January 7, 2020  at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in advance of the Democratic National Convention  in the Summer of 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Organizers have less than two months to come up with something new, innovative and energetic as Democrats try to launch presumptive nominee Joe Biden and his running mate into the fall campaign against President Donald Trump.

They’ll also have to establish health protocols to create a safe environment for visitors and residents.

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Wednesday’s announcement of a revamped convention laid out the broad brushstrokes of staging a significant political event during a health emergency.

Unlike Republicans, who will go for the glitz and glory at a full-on convention in Jacksonville, Florida, Democrats are poised to conduct “official business without risking public health” while trying to fire up their supporters across the nation.

That means, there will be no delegates in Milwaukee. Most business will be done virtually and remotely, including the nomination of Biden. And there will be no need to use the gleaming Fiserv Forum.

They’ll pack whatever’s left into the Wisconsin Center.

That long-ago promise of 50,000 visitors to the city will likely be slashed to just a few thousand.

But Democrats are aiming to take their message to the rest of the nation through events beamed in from remote sites.

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Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, center, reacts after spilling a celebratory beer on the convention contract with, from left,  Milwaukee Bucks Senior Vice President Alex Lasry, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Lt.  Gov. Mandela Barnes on March 11, 2019, following the official announcement that Milwaukee will host the 2020 Democratic National Convention at Fiserv Forum.

Milwaukee will still be at the heart of the proceedings.

About all we really know right now is that Biden and his running mate are expected in Milwaukee to accept the nomination.

“We came to Milwaukee a year ago because we believed that it was important to be there,” Solmonese said. “We wanted to make sure we lifted up the stories of people who lived there and talk about how it is that their lives could be different under a different kind of leadership. And we still intend to do that.”

“We’re going to be creative and innovative,” Solmonese said. “And can we also in the course of that through technology go to a lot of other places around the country, involve other people in important states? Absolutely. But we’ll always come back to Milwaukee because we understand that the road to the White House runs squarely through Wisconsin.”

Surely, there will be some disappointment locally.

Bars and restaurants hoped to cash in on parties. That won’t happen now.

The Bucks owners were primed to show off Fiserv Forum to the wider world. That won’t happen, either, although significant rental payments have already been made to Deer District LLC.

“We’ll continue to work with everyone to ensure that it’s super successful and that Milwaukee will still be put on the map in showing the world that it’s a top tier city,” Milwaukee Bucks Senior Vice President Alex Lasry said.

Lasry helped spearhead the original push to gain the convention, along with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore.

Lasry said that winning the race to hold the convention “showed the entire world that  Milwaukee can handle” large events.

Now, the city is showing an “ability to adapt in tough times.”

“I think this will only make us that much stronger as a contender for future, not only conventions, but events going forward,” he said.

Convention organizers said they made a conscious decision to keep the convention anchored in Milwaukee all four nights. And they say Wisconsin themes will be abundant at the event.

Barrett said the key word now with the convention is “nimble.”

The mayor said the convention changes send “a very strong message that the number (of attendees) is going to be significantly lower than the figure we had hoped for when this was first announced last March.”

One of the key people moving forward will be producer Ricky Kirshner, who will play an important role weaving together the various live and virtual elements. Kirshner has produced the Tony Awards and Super Bowl halftime show.

It’s his job to make sure that the show really does go on.

Ben Wikler, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said all the elements for a successful convention are in place.

Wikler said: “While I wish we were welcoming 50,000 honorary Wisconsinites to the Cream City, I’m also excited that we’re going to hold an event produced by one of the most talented and accomplished producers in the world that launches Joe Biden from Milwaukee without spreading coronavirus.”