CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - With helicopters buzzing overhead and button-covered convention-goers milling about, Atlanta residents Gretta Tutson and Sherna Parson stood on a street corner on Thursday determined to get tickets to see President Barack Obama's nomination acceptance speech live.
"We went to Colorado without tickets. We got in," Tutson said, referring to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. "We will be in there tonight."
Their chances in Charlotte were not good, with the capacity for Thursday night's event already cut by tens of thousands after concerns about severe weather prompted Democrats to move it from a 74,000-seat outdoor stadium to the far-smaller Time Warner Cable Arena.
The switch disappointed those who had volunteered, waited in lines and traveled to see the president in person, and some state delegations hurried to set up alternative watch parties at local hotels.
One vendor hawked his goods to the crowd on a busy sidewalk outside the arena by saying, "I didn't get in, but I got a program."
Enthusiasm remained high among delegates lucky enough to still have their seats, with some people showing up dressed in Obama ball caps and sequined flag vests 10 hours before the president was due to speak.
"I'm so revved up," said Oakland, California, delegate Lynette Gailord as she made her way to the arena, her red, white and blue-painted toenails peeking out of her sandals.
Actress and Tennessee delegate Ashley Judd, also an early arriver, stopped to pet a police dog before making her way through a security checkpoint.
Inside the arena, people snapped photos of singer James Taylor during his midday sound check and draped newspapers over chairs to claim prime viewing spots for later in the night. Lines at the merchandise booths were steady.
"We keep saying we're doing history all over again," said Uduak Ntuk, a delegate from Long Beach, California. "It's different, but there's still excitement."
"The emotion is still there," he said.
Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; editing by Edward Tobin and Alden Bentley