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Inside Politics

When the party's over

Nominees selected, coverage ended, cleanup begins

By Todd Leopold and Bryan Long

Balloons and confetti fill the air as the convention comes to an end in Boston.
Kerry and John kick off a new two-week campaign tour.

CNN's Bill Hemmer talks with two speechwriters about Kerry's address.

• Audio Slide Show: On the line
• Gallery:  The Big Picture
• Analysts:  Still a long way to go
• Kerry:  Key points
America Votes 2004

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- There is so much red, white and blue confetti on the ground you can't see the floor beneath your feet.

Balloons are still exploding like fireworks.

Signs litter seats and aisles and steps. Some are hand-drawn; others are the pre-printed "Kerry" or "Edwards" or "Help Is On the Way" or "Veterans for Kerry" placards and poles.

Though the convention has been officially over for almost an hour, there are still hundreds of people on the floor, some drifting out, others congregating in small groups. (Special Report: America Votes 2004)

DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe gives an interview near the stage; CNN guest analyst Mo Rocca roams among the seats. Members of the West Virginia delegation hold their state sign for a picture: "Everybody say Kerry!" exclaims the photographer.

And Rebeca Aguila, holding a cardboard pole prickled with staples, stabs at balloons.

"The day is unbelievable," says Aguila, her voice tinged with a Latino accent. She's dressed in a gray FleetCenter knit shirt and blue pants, and she makes her way down a row of chairs, searching for balloons. "It's a lot of job today."

Bill Cronin, who works with FleetCenter's operations team, was recruited to join the balloon-popping team.

"This is biggest event since this building opened," he says. "It's going to take some time."

Paul Chambers, who works with Cronin on the operations team, thought it would take until at least 1 a.m. to finish popping the balloons.

Aguila has been at the FleetCenter for two years. Her days during convention week have run 10, 12, 14 hours; she says she'll be working until 5 a.m. Friday morning.

She makes $10 an hour, she says, but overtime could bring her much more: "I don't know what they [will] pay ... it's a lot of hours," she says.

A lot of hours, a lot of balloons, a lot of confetti.

According to statistics supplied to news organizations, there were 100,000 balloons of many sizes, 1,000 pounds of confetti, all of which dropped 85 feet to the floor just after 11 p.m. Eastern time.

It took 75 people using air inflators a week to inflate the balloons, six days to install them in their netting just below the FleetCenter ceiling.

No word on how long it took to load the confetti.

After the balloons were popped, the crew still had to take down the chairs. And then, they had to vacuum the confetti.

Cronin and Chambers both complained that they were being slowed by the hangers-on.

The delegates who were lined up to speak to C-SPAN and the ones crowded behind CNN's floor studios. And there were all those reporters. Hundreds remained, packing up their gear and interviewing the last delegates.

"The problem is the people," Chambers said. "We've got to get them out."

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