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Part of History

Waynesburg resident volunteers during RNC

By WALTER DOERSCHUK The Press-News Published: August 5, 2016 10:00 AM
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Sarah Nelson spent four days with a combined total of 12 hours of sleep working in the center of the political universe.

"It was extremely busy. It was extremely tiring. it was extremely stressful," the Waynesburg resident said. "But it was all worth it. It was 100 percent worth it.

Nelson was one of thousands of volunteers who helped at the Republican National Convention from July 18-21. The events held at the convention center and the Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland were highlighted by Donald Trump accepting the Republican presidential nomination on July 21.

It was a five-month process for Nelson to even be approved as a volunteer. She even almost backed out at the last minute.

"Everything was so hyped up and I was scared," said Nelson, who also serves as chairperson of the Sandy Valley Drug Awareness Initiative. "I was really scared. I almost didn't go."

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What helped Nelson make her decision to go was an orientation held for volunteers prior to the convention.

"I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity," Nelson added. "I knew that I would never be able to do this again. It was part of history and I needed to be there regardless of what would have happened because of the stories that i would be able to tell and keep telling."

After working her regular job, Nelson left around 12:30 or 1 p.m. each day and drove to the IX Center to park. She was then shuttled into downtown from there. She wasn't back home each night until around 3 a.m.

Nelson's duties were split evenly with two days at the convention center and two days at Quicken Loans Arena. On her second day of work, she was assigned to the convention center where media were stationed.

At the convention center, Nelson was stationed at a tent where no one could get past without the proper credentials. That eventually led to another tent with medal detectors.

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Nelson shared a humorous anecdote while working at the arena. Workers and volunteers were asked to report anything suspicious. In one instance, she did not recognize a man who was walking with a character known as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. She eventually received assurance of who it was from a delegate.

Nelson noted she sensed little tension. She said people in Cleveland were friendly and laid back. Authorities also handled the week well, she added.

"They all did a fantastic job," Nelson said. "There wasn't one time I didn't feel 100 percent safe."

Nelson, during one of her days at the Quicken Loans Arena, had a chance to go on the arena floor. She said it was her "wow" moment of the week as she saw the stage, teleprompter and a CNN broadcasting booth.

On Thursday, Nelson said she saw the first 20 minutes of Trump's acceptance speech while working from the fifth floor. She walked over to the Progressive Field area, but she made it back in time for the conclusion of the speech.

She was there as the mass of confetti and balloons fell upon the thousands in attendance and the Trump family waved to the crowd.

"It was electrifying," Nelson said. "Everyone was cheering. Everyone was dancing. Everyone was thrilled. You could see the joy. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen."

Nearly a week after the convention was over, Nelson reiterated the history surrounding her experience.

"I would literally sit down and go minute by minute with people just because it was that amazing and that inspiring," she said.

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