Denver residents share tips on what to expect in St. Paul during the RNCby Nikki Tundel, Minnesota Public Radio
It's hard to predict exactly what the Republican National Convention will mean for Minnesota. But if anyone can offer advice to the people of St. Paul, it's the citizens of Denver.
Denver — Minnesota Public Radio's Nikki Tundel talked to those who endured last week's Democratic National Convention and got their insight into what the Twin Cities might be facing this week. For starters -- higher prices.
As hosts of the Democratic National Convention, Denver residents anticipated the hoards of politicians, protestors and police officers. What they didn't expect were all the percussionists.
As it turns out, political conventions are magnets for street performers. But as romantic as it might sound to have music meandering through your city, the tunes can get a little tiring.
"The guy with the banjo and guitar is pretty good. But the bagpipes just bug me. It's like on repeat. It all sounds the same."
Denver citizens say the round-the-clock refrains are just a few of the many things Twin Cities residents should be prepared for during this week's Republican National Convention.
There are also the crowds.
"This is even bigger than the World Series."
There are the characters.
"They say the freaks come out at night. They were out all day."
And then there's the potential cash flow.
"I felt like a New York City cab driver for the first time in my life. Best week I've ever had driving a cab."
That's Ratcliff. During the DNC, the Colorado cab driver says he made almost as much in a week as he typically does in a whole month. And he wasn't the only one on the receiving end of an economic windfall. Street vendors also profited from the city's huge influx of visitors.
Delegates and protesters alike snapped up everything from Barack Obama action figures to mesquite-grilled buffalo burgers.
Vendors at the DNC all seemed to have the same bit of advice for their counterparts at the RNC, raise your prices.
"Raise their prices. Seriously."
That's Luba. She and her husband, Boris, have a hot dog cart in downtown Denver. She hadn't even considered upping their prices until a loyal customer insisted on it.
"He said to us, 'Are you out of your mind? You have a once in a lifetime opportunity to make money. Do it.'"
So, on the second day of the convention, Luba bought some poster board and whipped up a new sign, one listing higher prices. She quickly learned that people on the east and west coasts are used to paying more for things than those in, say, Denver or St. Paul. Out-of-town visitors didn't even flinch at Luba's temporarily inflated hot dog prices.
Unfortunately, not everyone in Denver benefitted from the convention and its crowds. Unlike street vendors and souvenir salespeople, the downtown's more traditional establishments saw very little business.
"We knew it was gonna be boom or bust. And it's turned out to be pretty close to a bust for us."
Bars, clothing stores, hair salons and even pawnshops, the majority saw their customer levels drop during the DNC. Fearing traffic congestion, regular patrons chose to avoid downtown during the convention. Then there was the fact that protesters would often end up blocking business entrances.
Not many customers wanted to battle screaming demonstrators in order to get a pedicure, even if it did include the DNC special.
"We do Obama toenail design, his picture in the shape of heart," said Sue, the owner of 707 Nails.
She wishes she had simply closed up shop during the Democratic National Convention. And she's not alone.
"For the most part, I don't think they're spending the money we thought they were going to," she said.
Dane conducts horse-drawn carriage rides through downtown Denver. Not only did visiting politicians forgo his services, they were so preoccupied sending text messages that they kept walking right into his horse.
"It's ridiculous when you've got a 1600-pound horse and they are on their blackberries instead of watching where they are going," Dane said.
- Morning Edition, 09/01/2008, 6:54 a.m.