Riding with Obama – Halloween – Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!

October 31, 2008

Reuters Washington staff photographer Jason Reed is traveling with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Barack Obama through election day November 4. He and his colleague Brian Snyder traveling with the McCain campaign are posting daily photographers blog entries sharing their experiences and favorite pictures of the day from their campaign coverage.

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere! It’s Halloween on the Obama presidential campaign trail.

One of the quirkiest American traditions I know, which, as a child growing up in Australia I didn’t really experience and therefore still find a little hard to understand what it’s all about, is Halloween. A custom brought over to the United States in some version by Irish immigrants in the 1800’s, Halloween had its origins in a Celtic end-of-harvest festival celebrated by pagans, and in its modern form invokes ghoulish-themed activities such as trick-or-treating, ghost tours and the carving of jack-o’-lanterns from giant pumpkins.
Every four years the paths of Halloween traditions and the U.S. Presidential election collide and so it played out once again in front of the cameras Thursday, during our travels with Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama in Florida. Following a campaign rally in Sarasota, Florida, we passed by the United Methodist Church’s pumpkin patch and stopped by for Obama to buy a couple of pumpkins.

Positioned a few vehicles back in the motorcade behind Obama’s car, gathered in a bus were the ’embedded’ photographers, journalists and cameramen, plus a smattering of local tv news crews and newspaper writers. The bus door flung open and we all spilled out onto the pavement, rushing like a stampeding herd of elephants over garbage cans and roadside curbs, resembling a Japanese game show where the winner is subjected to a series of punishing and humiliating hurdles in order to win the prize. Our prize today was a prime spot in just the right place to cover the five-minute pumpkin circus.

After a short walk around, trying to lift up what must have been the largest and heaviest pumpkin in the patch and feigning a sore back from the experience, Senator Obama narrowed his choice down to two more modest sized offerings and paid cash for them to the Methodist church volunteer. The proceeds of the pumpkin sale went to help the needy.
Once back at the airport, enroute to the next frenzied stop on the campaign tour in Virginia, one of the pumpkins took a flight of its own, thrown up the stairs of the campaign plane by Obama Trip Director Marvin Nicholson to Obama’s Special Assistant Reggie Love.
Hours later and hundreds of miles away, rounding out what became the theme of the day, Senator Obama took to the stage during a late night election rally in Columbia, Missouri, where the stage was decked out with carved jack-o’-lanterns with a distinctly political theme, spelling out Obama’s name and encouraging the American people to vote in the November 4 election.

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