Biden, Ryan lock horns in Danville

People gathered at the MSNBC booth at Centre College in Danville, KY. before the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 Photo by Latara Appleby

By Morgan Eads, Judah Taylor and Courtney Kincaid

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On Thursday night, the focus of people across the country fell on a small city in the middle of Kentucky.

For the second time, Danville, Ky., played host to the vice presidential debate, this time between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Paul Ryan.

The action was not limited to inside the debate hall. People from around the U.S. congregated around a large screen that broadcast the debate on Centre College’s campus, as well as in their own homes across the country.

The Protests

Thousands who couldn’t get a ticket to the debate at Centre gathered in an outdoor festival on Centre’s campus to view the debate and a concert.

As Biden and Ryan took the stage, the focus shifted not to the massive screen, but to a small birch tree where a protester was screaming.

“Like Zachariah, I am in a tree,” the protester said. “The Bible says to raise your voice like a trumpet.”

And that’s what he did, as hundreds stopped watching the debate and instead watching him.

“Stop Obama, support Romney,” he screamed. “Abortion is America’s holocaust, and Obama is killing 3,000 babies a day. Stop Obama, he wants to kill the babies. Support Romney, he wants to save the babies.”

The protester went on to blame natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes on the president and his policies, claiming they were “acts of God in response to his sins and the nations.”

The crowd replied by making some noise of their own: “shake that tree,” they chanted, followed by chants of “four more years” and “C-A-T-S, CATS CATS CATS.”

Tyler Daniels, a freshman at Centre said that the man was “absolutely crazy.”

Detective Robert Ladd of the Kentucky State Police, said that the night had been peaceful up until the event and that no protesters caused any other problems.

Kentucky State Police, Lexington police, Danville police, the Boyle Country Sheriffs Department, the Secret Service and other agencies were involved in crowd control at the debate.

Centre officials declined to comment.

The Business

The vice presidential debate had a substantial effect on Danville and the surrounding areas.

In the weeks leading up to the debate and during the debate itself, several businesses had a boom in customers and revenue.

One such business is the frozen-yogurt chain Orange Leaf.

The shop gave out coupons leading up to the day so that they could get the maximum jump from the debate.

“I’d say the debate has brought in more business, this is more busy than your typical Thursday night,” Orange Leaf employee Shawn Ramos said.

He said there had been a steady flow of people on what usually is a slower day of the week.

Another business that felt a significant effect from the debate was the local Papa John’s.

The pizza shop, which was also selling pizza at the festival where the debate was shown on a big screen, couldn’t seem to make pizzas fast enough.

“This is a big event for our store and for Danville, it is very nice,” franchise business director of Papa John’s Tony Podboy said.

Melton’s Deli, a local business, also got quite a bit of business from the crowds that came with the debate.

“It has been really great, we have a good working relationship with Centre College, without whom none of this would have been possible,” Melton’s Deli owner Ron Melton said.

Not everyone felt this jump in patronage.

The local Baskin Robbins, which is situated right next to Papa John’s had less business than usual.

“It has been way slower,” Baskin Robbins employee Amanda Roberts said.

She also said other than a few groups, the shop had been empty most of the night.

Danville Locals

The crowd consisted of individuals with equal fan support for Biden and Ryan.

Rhodes Johnson, a retired nurse from Winchester, attended the debate in support of Biden.

Likewise, local resident of Danville, Sunae Daugherty, brought her family and children with her to attend the debate in support of Biden.

Daugherty wanted to participate in the action and provide her family with the liveliness excitement the debate should bring.

Keith Gilbertson, who wore a signed blue Bill Clinton baseball cap, said, “I hope Biden takes it to Ryan and gets him on the issues. Although most people know who they will be voting for, I still think the vice presidential debate is important.”

Biden supporters came out in full force, but Ryan supporters weren’t far behind.

UK marketing junior Tyler Lewis came to the debate in support of Ryan with friends to take in the environment and excitement.

“I think the Vice Presidential debate is important and an opportunity for parties to further communicate with each other. The debate doesn’t get as much exposure as the presidential debate, but it will be important for Biden and Paul find a focus in the debate to make better arguments,” Lewis said.

Mike Brutsky and sisters Inna Savchuk and Zoya Brutsky attended the debate in support of the Republicans.

“I came out to the debate tonight because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity … it’s a historic moment,” Brutsky said.

“I think the Vice Presidential debate is important but won’t necessarily influence voters. I think the debate will confirm what voters already know,” said Savchuk, of Louisville.

All were excited to see how Biden and Ryan interacted with each other and see how the debate played out.

“Both are great candidates. Biden has had previous experience, energetic and passionate but he needs to stick to the issues tonight. Ryan is bright and aggressive, and I hope to see Ryan come out on top tonight,” Brutsky said.

The excitement surrounding the debate seemed to transcend any candidate or party rivalries.

“I thought in 2000 it was a lifetime opportunity,” Danville resident Carmen Hampton said, “but now it’s even better.”