The energy was almost palpable as about 6,000 people gathered in the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Jan. 26 to hear from presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
The rally brought people from across the Northland. Scott and Maria Schmidt drove for two hours on snow-covered highways from Park Falls, Wisc. As they stood in line in the skywalk leading to the DECC, Maria held a sign covered with decorative lights which spelled out "Bernie." On the back of her homemade sign was a photo of her six - soon to be seven - grandchildren.
"This is why we're here today. I want to see my grandchildren have a future that's not going to be terrifying. I believe Bernie. He ain't a liar. And he may not be able to accomplish everything he says, but he'll give a hell of a try and we're going to help him," Schmidt said.
Lisa Holm of Duluth was attending the rally for her family as well. She took her 14-year-old daughter Lexie Thompson out of school early to attend.
"She's been talking about Bernie and politics more and more lately. I figure, why not support her and her interests and bring her here? This will help her understand the political process," Holm said.
Holm used to work at the DECC while in college. She remembers working while the DFL convention was in session in 1992. She says watching the conventions helped shape her political beliefs. Her daughter is not old enough to vote yet, but she will be by the 2020 election.
"I could be re-electing Bernie!" Thompson said with a smile.
Derek Davis of Hermantown said Sanders reminds him of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
"He's the first guy I've heard who talks like FDR. He's like the real Democrats I read about in school and heard about. My grandma always talked about the New Deal that FDR had for America and I think that Bernie is talking about the same kinds of things," Davis said.
Davis wasn't the only one who thought Sanders had a lot in common with other politicians. Larry Johnson of Duluth proudly wore his Bernie Sanders T-shirt and talked about how Sanders reminded him of Paul Wellstone.
"I've always been an admirer of Paul Wellstone and I think Bernie Sanders is kind of taking up right where Paul left off," Johnson said. "There are many issues I think he has right."
Not everyone was as sold about Sanders' ideas. Michael Bruner, a College of St. Scholastica student, attending the rally with two fellow students, was on an information-gathering mission.
"There are some things that I really agree with and some things that I'm not quite sold on yet, so I'm willing to hear more about all of the angles of his platform and know a little more about him," Bruner said.
Bruner's classmate Megan Brennhofer was there to "Feel the Bern," as the popular slogan states.
"That's a really cheesy slogan. Every time I say it, it's only ever sarcastically," Brennhofer said. "But I'm excited to see the energy people have for him. And to see him in person."
Terry McCarthy of Two Harbors said he was in awe of the energy he felt in the rally.
"It's cool to be with a large group of people that share a vision and are all together for a similar kind of thing. And that energy is palpable and uplifting," McCarthy said.