You all are still chewing on those Barack Obama attendance estimates from the Democratic presidential candidate’s visit to Roanoke last week. And some of you are chewing on each other, too.
I’m not surprised to find more wide-ranging numbers here. Outdoor events, with thousands of people standing on a ball field, are notoriously hard to estimate. It’s not like you can’t count the number of chairs in a row and multiply by the number of rows. Of all the numbers and news sources, only one estimate is attributed to a specific source in the publication.
So, here’s what I found out there on Google News and on local news sites:
The Roanoke Times reported an “estimated crowd of 16,000.” Mason Adams told me this morning the source was Carey Harveycutter, director of Salem’s civic facilities.
WSET television out of Lynchburg gave a count of 16,000, but attributed it to “Republican officials.”
Roanoke’s WSLS NewsChannel 10 said Palin spoke to “a roaring crowd of more than 14,000.”
WDBJ7 reported two numbers, at one point saying “about 12,000,” and at another time saying “some put the estimates at 16,000.”
And the highest estimate came from a Roanoke Valley community news site, called ourvalley.org, which put the number at “more than 20,000.”
Salem stadium has been only rarely used for events like the Palin rally in the past, I suspect because until last year it had a natural grass field which wouldn’t hold up well under all that foot traffic.
Salem officials sent out a list of the biggest crowds in the venue. Three were football games, with the biggest crowd reaching 10,000-pus in 1989. But the biggest event by far was the Franklin Graham Festival, an evangelistic gathering over several days.
Salem officials said 53,000 attended over three days, with more than 15,000 on one day. But The Roanoke Times put the number on day much higher than that: “an estimated 21,000.”
The audience “filled the bleachers and field seats, overflowing onto the grassy berm at one end of the football field,” Cody Lowe wrote. “Still, it was Saturday’s attendance – estimated at more than 15,000 despite driving rain and thunder – that continued to impress the folks who staged the event.”