An UnConventional Experience

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Non-partisan party-giver Carol Fitzgerald.

No need to float a trial balloon. Carol McCullough Fitzgerald CW’63, executive producer of PoliticalFest, is sure the nonpartisan celebration of American politics she’s planning will be a strong sideshow to this summer’s Republican National Convention. She says the nine-day event, which runs from July 26 to August 3, “will engage the public and visitors to the Philadelphia area, not only the 4,000 delegates and their guests, but the people who live here and want to have a convention experience but really can’t because of the physical restrictions.”
    Appointed to the post by former mayor Edward G. Rendell C’65, Fitzgerald has been working hard to create an experience that will be both educational and entertaining. “This is the first time anything like this has been done in conjunction with a nominating convention,” she says, “so we’re really creating the model. And I am working with wonderful people from both sides of the aisle.” (Hers is not the only Penn connection to the convention. Karen Buchholz G’97 is president of the convention-hosting committee, Philadelphia 2000; David Cohen L’81 and Brian Roberts W’81 are co-chairs.)
    There will be four components running through PoliticalFest: 
    The Experience, featuring interactive games and virtual reality; Media Central, where live programs will be broadcast; The Stage; and Memorabilia.
    So while the next Republican presidential candidate is being chosen at the First Union Center, visitors to PoliticalFest at the Pennsylvania Convention Center can tape themselves delivering a nominating speech for the candidate of their choice; browse through artifacts on loan from various presidential libraries; watch political films, live pundits and musical performances; and check out a replica of an Air Force One—or possibly, a smaller plane that was actually used by a former president.
    Fitzgerald, who has nearly 20 years of experience organizing special events, including alumni reunions at Penn and Drexel University, calls her latest job “a test of everything I’ve ever done. But it’s truly exciting to work on something you really care about and know it’s for your home town.”
    Lately, she has spent a considerable amount of time traveling outside of Philadelphia to borrow artifacts that will “make the presidency more personal.”
    And when the real thing is not available—such as the Oval Office —a replica will do. Fitzgerald was hoping to borrow the one from the set of West Wing, on which her daughter, Melissa C’87, plays a character in the White House press office named “Carol Fitzgerald.” Alas, the television show will be filming in July.

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