Senior Ross Robinson had the privilege of serving as a page at the Republican National Convention Aug. 27-30 in Tampa, Fla.
His experience began this summer with Minnesota Republican National Committeeman, Jeff Johnson, collecting applications and resumes from people ages 16-25 who were interested in being pages. The applications were reviewed by the National Republican Party and 100 were selected from across the country with 94 of them actually showing up for the convention.
Ross and his oldest sister, Brenna, were the only siblings among the group. This was the first time attending a political convention in any capacity for many of the pages. Ross was an official Minnesota Delegation Guest at both the 2004 (Manhattan, NY) and 2008 (St. Paul) National Republican Conventions.
Ross was notified of his acceptance by mail with quite a bit of paperwork to fill out, dress and conduct codes, hotel costs, etc. Transportation to and from Tampa, hotel costs, convention clothing, and some meals were paid for by each page. Ross' hotel roommate was from Rhode Island.
Pages started their duties on Aug. 25 with meetings and dinner at their hotel in Tampa. Since a hurricane was predicted, Mara and John Robinson, Ross' parents, got extra food and water for Ross and Brenna to keep in their hotel rooms and were able to stay in the same hotel as the kids the first two nights until they were certain the kids were safe and the convention would go on--or be ready to evacuate.
Sunday they made signs on poster board which were used at the convention, took a tour of the Tampa Bay Times Forum where the convention was held, and were trained in on their duties. The pages traveled in motor coach buses where ever they went.
At the convention, they wore specific clothing, hats, and ties (guys) or waist sashes (girls) which distinguished them as pages so they were easily identifiable. Pages wore "credentials" around their neck on a lanyard which gave them clearance to be in most all areas of the Times Forum unlike most convention attendees (media, guests, delegates, dignitaries, etc) who were allowed to only be in their designated area. Ross was able add to his National Republican Convention sign collection each evening.
Tropical Storm Issac put the convention on hold Monday since most of the convention Delegates and Alternates stayed on the St. Petersburg side which involved driving over bridges and causeways that were easily subject to become dangerous to cross due to wind and waves.
The pages were to work at a charity golf event one morning and visit Busch Gardens another morning but both were canceled shortly after they started because it began to rain. Tuesday they were at the convention site from 7:30 am until 12:30 am (Wednesday morning) and handed out signs, literature, rules, etc to the delegates and did whatever else popped up--like hurry to surround a protester in the audience to block it from the media's attention. Outings to Big Cat Rescue and to the Tampa Aquarium other mornings were canceled, not because of rain, but because the pages were way too tired. Wednesday and Thursday were conventions days.
The pages returned to the Times Forum about 3:30 pm and didn't leave until midnight both nights. It was hot and very humid outside and inside the Times Forum it wasn't cool enough for the pages who were constantly running all over the arena--up and down numerous flights of stairs.
John Voight (Angelina Jolie's father) came up to Ross and another page and chatted a bit about the convention one day. Ross talked to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for a few minutes, the Governor of Arizona asked Ross to take his picture in front of the Arizona delegation sign on the convention floor, a key campaign staffer for the Romney campaign spoke to Ross about how Romney was to be portrayed like Ronald Reagan and cast President Obama like former President Jimmy Carter, someone from the Alaska Delegation gave Ross a lapel pin of the Alaska flag, and one person offered him $150 for his tie (specially designed by exclusive tie maker Vineyard Vines) which he declined. Ross worked hard, enjoyed listening to the speeches, met many interesting people, and had a great experience.