‘Spirit of America’ draws over-capacity crowds

Saturday, September 26, 2009
The Providence Journal

Schoolchildren from all over Rhode Island took a field trip to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday morning to see Spirit of America, a musical and theatrical performance by active-duty Army personnel tracing the history of the country and the military through song, story and battle reenactments.

Thousands got in to see the show, but thousands of children did not.

In the weeks leading up to the free show, organizers and Dunk officials said Friday, more tickets were distributed than there were seats. The overbooking meant that roughly 2,000 students with tickets didn’t get to see the show and had to return through a maze of traffic to their schools.

Dunk general manager Lawrence Lepore said that when buses continued to pull up to the door on Friday morning, “We saw there was going to be a problem; we realized we were at capacity,” and employees started turning groups away.

He added, “We’re disappointed that we couldn’t take care of everyone who wanted to see the show.”…

…Col. Daniel Baggio, chief of public affairs for the Army’s Military District of Washington, said that more than 10,000 free tickets had been distributed for the Friday morning show.

The Dunkin’ Donuts Center’s capacity varies, depending on the configuration of the show it’s hosting; for Spirit of America, it holds 7,100 people.

Baggio, who has been involved with the show since the ’80s, says that, normally, 45 percent to 46 percent of those who get tickets actually use them. He said that there was no contingency plan in place to handle such a crowd, saying more than once that such a turnout was “unprecedented.”

He added that a few of the acts from the show went to the Rhode Island Convention Center and put on a hastily arranged performance for the students who had not left. Elements from the drill team and fife and drum corps, one of the singers, several soldiers in period uniforms and the command sergeant major went to the convention center and performed for about 800 students, many of whom got a chance to talk to some of the soldiers one-on-one…

…The Spirit of America was scheduled to perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. If there’s that kind of response at later shows, Baggio said, plans are in place to put on other performances: a closed-circuit broadcast, and a contingent of the performers who are already tapped to head to the convention center to play for any overflow. He also advised ticket-holders to get to the arena an hour before the performance.

The show Friday night had a full house and no one was turned away.

Baggio said that while the show’s schedule is tight, and that the performers are real soldiers who get deployed, Providence would be “high on the list” of towns they’d be interested in returning to….

The complete article is here.

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