TAMPA, Fla. — It was raining and breezy here Sunday, but a much-discussed hurricane wasn’t within 300 miles of the Republican National Convention. Still, organizers delayed official proceedings until Tuesday, citing safety of delegates.
Entertainers, it appears, are a hardier bunch. Of the myriad concerts and film screenings scheduled, only a few — an outdoor appearance by Lynyrd Skynyrd set for Sunday at Liberty Plaza and a Willie Nelson benefit concert scheduled for Wednesday being the most notable — have been canceled thus far due to the threat of Hurricane Isaac.
Liberty Plaza is a party zone a few blocks from where all the pomp and circumstance takes place at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Would-be partiers beware, though: Many of the activities at Liberty Plaza are for VIP guests only.
Liberty Plaza includes a temporary concert hall, a cigar tent and hospitality lounges. It’s sponsored by Citizens Helping Heroes, a charitable organization that supports U.S. military personnel and their families.
Lynyrd Skynyrd had been scheduled to launch a series of concerts there that includes country crooner Trace Adkins on Tuesday and Kid Rock on Wednesday. A VIP-only show starring vintage rock band Journey caps the week off on Thursday. So far, the Tuesday-Thursday acts are still a go, but organizers decided to shut down all of Liberty Plaza on Sunday when it was decided Lynyrd Skynyrd wouldn’t perform.
Skynyrd also was supposed to be part of the official convention proceedings Monday, though the day’s entire program is being postponed and piecemealed out Tuesday-Thursday. A spokesman for Lynyrd Skynyrd didn’t know if the band would be rescheduled or not.
Nelson, who usually associates himself with left-wing causes and candidates, canceled an invitation-only performance set for Wednesday at Dallas Bull, a country-music club in Tampa. The show was to benefit Got Your 6, an entertainment-industry initiative that helps veterans re-enter civilian life. The Got Your 6 benefit now will be held Wednesday at Glazer Museum in Tampa and feature singer Sara Evans. John, Cindy and Meghan are set to attend along with celebrity guests. Lifetime Television will co-host the event.
The Oak Ridge Boys had promised to sing the National Anthem at the convention Monday, so their appearance is up in the air, as well. Lee Greenwood, known best for his patriotic anthem “God Bless the USA,” is still set to perform two shows – one private, one public — at the Hard Rock Cafe about six miles from the Forum and Liberty Plaza.
The convention kicked off as planned Sunday at Tropicana Field — where baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays play — with what it calls The Welcome Event, a show starring country artist Rodney Atkins with performances by the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders as well as Shannon Magrane from the 11th season of American Idol and Karla Davis from the second season of The Voice.
The Republican convention also boasts two sort of mini film festivals. At Liberty Plaza is the Citizens United Theater, where several documentaries produced by Citizens United are introduced by past Republican presidential hopefuls. On Tuesday is Rendezvous With Destiny, introduced by Speaker and Mrs. Newt Gingrich; Wednesday is Our Sacred Honor, introduced by Sen. Rick Santorum; also Wednesday is The Gift of Life, introduced by Gov. Mike Huckabee. Occupy Unmasked, which had been scheduled for Monday, was moved to Thursday. It’s now unclear if Rep. Michele Bachmann, who had been scheduled to introduce the film, will participate.
There’s also what’s dubbed the Troublemaker Fest, held at the Channelside Cinemas 10 Imax Theater, a block from Liberty Plaza. It starts with a Tea Party vs. Occupy Debate produced by Christine O’Donnell on the right and The Young Turks on the left.
Gerald Molen, producer of Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park, will join author Dinesh D’Souza to present their film, 2016: Obama’s America at the Troublemaker Fest, and other movies screened there include Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and Last Ounce of Courage.
And finally, convention-goers also are invited to the CNN Grill, which the cable network bills as “a mix of good food, good company and lively political conversation.” CNN will set up its event just steps from the Republican convention and, similarly, at the Democratic National Convention.
Also attending both conventions is actor Jeff Bridges, who will be meeting with notables in both political parties on behalf of No Kid Hungry, a charitable organization he supports.
Late last week, Mitt Romney took a page from President Barack Obama’s campaign handbook and offered supporters who donated $3 or more automatic entry into a contest where two winners each get a $1,300 trip here for a behind-the-scenes look at the Republican National Convention.
The announcement promised a good time and, Hurricane Isaac notwithstanding, most of the pieces are still in place for Republicans to deliver on that pledge. It will take a little initiative to figure out the events that have rescheduled as opposed to the ones that have been scrapped entirely, though, and there’s still lots of last-minute shuffling going on.