After months of planning, a week of worrying about bad weather and an afternoon of traffic headaches and security checks, thousands of people finally converged on Tropicana Field to kick off the 2012 Republican National Convention.
The baseball stadium transformed into more of a concert arena as performer after performer took to the stage to entertain the crowd.
Doors opened at 5 p.m. after an afternoon of sound checks and final rehearsals.
For Tampa Bay Host committee Ken Jones, the festivities come as a big relief.
"See my fingernails? They're all shorter," he laughed. "The weather, you can't control it, you gotta wait and see and watch and hope for the best. It's been nerve wracking but we're here and the convention is happening."
A sea of people mixed and mingled on the field while music blared through the stadium.
One of the first performers was American Idol contestant Shannon Magrane, who is from here in the Bay Area. Her voice filled the stadium as she belted out Flo Rida's "Good Feeling" and Journey's "Open Arms."
"I feel like I got their attention and it feels good to be up there," she said.
Magrane said she was glad to be a part of showing off her hometown.
"I'm so glad we get to show the world what Tampa Bay is like," she said.
Other performers included Cirque Dreams, a fire dancer, and performers from Busch Gardens.
The night closed with a performance by country star Rodney Atkins.
Bill Drout is a delegate who flew here from Houston after several days of keeping a close eye on the weather. He said he was determined to make it here.
"We were gonna come unless they shut the airport down," he said.
He has a busy week ahead building and ratifying the party platform, but Sunday night, for him and thousands of others, it was all about the party.
"It's great, this a great field. It's a neat experience for us," he said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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