Hundreds of UF students and local residents lined up all over Gainesville on Thursday to get tickets to see first lady Michelle Obama when she visits campus next week.
Obama is scheduled to speak to grassroots supporters at 3:30 p.m. Monday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, according to a press release. Doors open at noon, and the event is free and open to the public.
Ticket distribution started at 6 p.m. Thursday at five locations. Psychology senior Alyssa Freeman wanted to be first, so she got to the O’Connell Center at 10:23 a.m. and stayed all day.
“I didn’t want to risk the chance of not getting to see the first lady speak,” the 21-year-old said.
Christian Klepper, a 21-year-old psychology and history senior, joined Freeman to keep their spot at the front of the line.
“I think [Obama] has a great personality and is a very powerful speaker,” Klepper said. “She is a prime example of women balancing family and work.”
Klepper and other UF students learned of Obama’s visit when the news leaked on Facebook Wednesday night. By Thursday night, the line for tickets wrapped around the O’Connell Center and trailed along Gale Lemerand Drive.
“Michelle Obama is a class act,” said business freshman Ramsey Hamed, 17.
Obama is expected to get local supporters “fired up,” said Duane Gildea, events and services chair for the Alachua County Democrats.
According to the press release, the first lady will discuss the election’s potential impact on Floridians and encourage them to help organize their communities for the campaign.
“We want to explode the democratic base with excitement here in Alachua County,” Gildea said.
Thursday, students in line felt that enthusiasm. Some studied, some talked politics — but they all waited.
It was time well-spent, said English freshman Yareliz Mendez-Zamora.
“People stand in line for days just to be one of the first to get the new iPad or Xbox, so I can wait in line for a few hours to see the first lady,” the 18-year-old said.
Remaining tickets will be distributed starting at 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
After speaking at UF on Monday, Obama will head to Tallahassee, where she’s scheduled to make remarks at 6:55 p.m.
Many students waiting in line said they’ll be skipping classes Monday to attend the event at UF.
“Regardless of party affiliation, I think it’s a great opportunity to be civically engaged,” said Matt Davidson, a 21-year-old family, youth and community sciences senior. “It’s an opportunity to gain knowledge about the campaign.”
Chemical engineering freshman Chehade Boulos, 18, said he’s thrilled to see Obama address the Student Body.
“I’d like to see her do the Gator Chomp,” he said.