Roughly 3,000 tickets for Obama speech up for grabs today at 9 a.m.
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Update: As of about 1 p.m. all tickets to Obama's speech had been distributed, according to the Michigan Union Ticket Office.
They brought blankets and sleeping bags, sent friends on doughnut runs, did homework and broke out into an impromptu dance party next to the Cube as at least 1,000 people converged into a line at the University of Michigan overnight to get tickets to see President Barack Obama.
The crowd snaked from the Michigan Union ticket office through Regents Plaza, building from about 80 at 10 p.m. Wednesday to much larger early Thursday, prompting one person to say "people in the back of the line have no idea how many people are here because it's so long."
Ticket distribution began at 9 a.m.
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
At around 8:30 a.m. university officials began distributing placeholder tickets to people who were toward the front of the line to prevent others from cutting ahead — much like retailers distribute tickets to shoppers who line up early to buy "doorbuster" items on Black Friday. All placeholder tickets were distributed by about 9:50 a.m. and those remaining in line without them were told their chances of nabbing a ticket were slim.
"We didn't expect so many people," said Jing Jing W, who's from Singapore, reacting to the crowd at about 7 a.m. Thursday as the doors to the union opened, sending a wave of movement across the line.
The opportunity to see the president excited many on campus.
"It's truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Brandon Harnos, who got in line at 11 p.m.
Grace Christensen, a freshman from Ann Arbor, will vote for the first time this fall and said she's excited to see her favorite candidate in person.
"You don't really pass up a change to see the president," said her friend, freshman Matt Weiss of Chicago.
"It's going to be something that I'd regret not going to looking back," added freshman Lauren Fischer. "It might be historic."
Ani Grigorian, a freshman who lives on U-M's North Campus, took her place in line at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, joining several friends.
They made the best of the overnight wait, ordering pizza and dressing for the weather. They joined the dance party after another person in line set up a loudspeaker for music.
"One out of three people we know are trying to go," she said.
The mood stayed light overnight, many said, but people also had to stake their claim to their spaces in line as friends tried to join others and take cuts.
"Everyone is so defensive about our spots," said Brianna Vandervoort.
And with reason, given the experience of Claire Malley, a senior.
She showed up at the Michigan Union at about 6:30 a.m. and headed toward the front of the line. There was "a bit of confusion," she said.
She sat down like the other people around her, "like I'd been there all night."
The strategy worked. She got her ticket. She also let some other people cut in line with her, prompting what she described as "evil eyes" from people who'd been there since before midnight.
Someone who might have given Malley the evil eye was Aly Shea, who showed up at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday to get into line.
"I tried to sleep, but it was a little too cold for that," she said.
Still, she said, it was worth it. She got her ticket at 9:05 a.m.
"It's a great opportunity," she said. "... It's definitely something I'll always remember."
By morning, police had arrested one person for being a minor in possession of alcohol, said Diane Brown, a U-M spokesperson. The person, only described as a non-student at U-M, was released this morning.
Beyond that, Brown said, "I'm not hearing about any disruptions."
The speech will take place Friday at 9:35 a.m. at the Al Glick Field House at 1200 S. State St., just south of Yost Ice Arena.
Obama is expected to discuss higher education costs, based on previous reports.
News editor Paula Gardner and reporter Lee Higgins contributed to this article.
Correction: The original headline for this story implied tickets were for sale. The tickets are free, but limited, which was reflected in the body of the story. We regret the headline error.