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Inside Politics

Election Express: What else is going on in Boston?

Arts come alive during convention

By Catherine Poley

The Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra
The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra will perform a free concert for the public on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.
Election Express
Boston (Massachusetts)
Acts of terror

CHARLESTOWN, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Pick up a newspaper, turn on the TV, listen to the radio and all you will hear about in the metropolitan Boston area is the Democratic National Convention.

It's easy to come to the conclusion the rest of the city will be shutting down next week, but Boston's cultural world is still alive and thriving, and there will be many events for those not convention bound.

The city's theatrical side boasts everything from Broadway shows such as "The Lion King" and "Mama Mia" to Shakespeare on the Common and a stage adaptation of "Clockwork Orange."

At the local museums, you can see an in-depth exhibit on the science of the human body or view 18th century Chinese robes. There is even a French film festival.

According to the Boston Foundation, Boston has 640 arts organizations, more per capita than any other U.S. metropolitan area.

Celeste Wilson, executive director of the Arts and Business council of Greater Boston, said she believes that the artistic side of Boston will not be overlooked during the Democratic Convention.

"We believe the convention will serve as a wonderful showcase for arts in Boston," Wilson said.

In fact, some groups will be giving performances in conjunction with the convention.

The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra will be giving a free concert at City Hall Plaza on the eve of the convention as part of Celebrate Boston 2004, a monthlong celebration of community and cultural activities leading up to the convention.

Wilson also sees the convention as an opportunity to showcase the cultural aspects of the city and for smaller arts organizations to be featured.

"Throughout the city, events are being planned from parties to award ceremonies," Wilson said. "We hope that event planners will utilize smaller organizations as entertainment."

"We view this as a nice opportunity for the world to know what Boston has to offer."

Inside 'Old Ironsides'

By CNN anchor Judy Woodruff:

Posted: 12:25 p.m. ET

CNN anchor Judy Woodruff on the deck of the USS Constitution.

As we count down to the Democratic convention -- and cover all the intense back and forth between the Kerry and Bush forces -- we are spending a little time getting to know the convention city of Boston. We know it for its role in the earliest days of the United States, when it was the hub for the British colonies -- well before there was talk of a revolution, or of independence.

This morning, in between calls to my political sources who are helping me understand what the Kerry/Edwards camp wants to accomplish with next week's national convention and what the Bush/Cheney camp wants to do to undermine, or at least distract from that -- I was treated to a tour of another of Beantown's most famous attractions: "Old Ironsides." The U.S.S. Constitution, the oldest warship in America's navy, sits in Boston Harbor -- still seaworthy, over two centuries after it was christened, in 1797.

With the convention arena -- the FleetCenter -- in the background, across the harbor, I saw the inside and outside of a ship where up to 500 sailors used to spend six months at sea.

Its gleaming black cannons and its maze of thick black and white rigging set it apart from the hundreds of other modern sail boats in the harbor. I learned from First Petty Officer Matthew Chabe that the black rigging doesn't move; but the white lines do -- so sailors, 30 or so of whom still "man" the ship -- learn to climb only the black lines, lest they end up crashing to the deck!

Over 2,000 visitors see "Old Ironsides" on an average day, hearing about its remarkable history and how it fought battles for well over a half century, even seeing some duty during the Civil War. But its heyday was the War of 1812, and throughout its life, in some 30 battles, it never lost a single one!

That may be some inspiration for the Democrats, who pour into town this weekend, wanting to persuade American voters that they are the party that will keep America stronger and safer than the other party. What would the Republicans say to counter that? We'll find out.

Security checks and street construction

Dale Fountain, CNN Election Express bus driver

From Dale Fountain, CNN Election Express bus driver

Posted: 10:33 a.m. ET

Crew Call: 7 a.m. ET. Temperature: 75 degrees and rising as I write this. It's partly cloudy, but seems to be clearing up.

We drove the bus to the Boston National Historical Park last night. The bus was thoroughly checked over by security.

The officers at the gate came aboard the bus to do a sweep, and checked inside the engine cover and performed other safety checks. But nothing can stop the Election Express, and we were waved on through the gate having passed with flying colors.

Security checks like this are not all that uncommon. Security has become a big issue at all of the major events I drive to. Some sites go as far as to have bomb-sniffing dogs check out the buses. This trend is a sign of the troubling times we live in.

We have had some difficulty navigating the bus through Boston. There is a lack of signs and there's been a lot of construction. One large construction site, or a "Big Dig" as we call them, looks like it served as a battlefield. As we say in the business: "Big Dig" + "Big Bus" = "Big Trouble."

Luckily, we will not have to move the bus much during next week's convention, when you "Big Traffic" will be added to the equation. I am a little surprised that Boston was even able to get the Democratic Convention with the streets in this condition.

It is a good thing that many of our crew members are battle-tested because it's like a war zone out here.

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