Unlearned Lessons From Elton

By Beacon Staff

In what has become a reoccurring theme preceding major events in Montana, many of those hoping to buy tickets to see both Democratic presidential hopefuls next month were greeted Wednesday morning with a buggy Web site, busy phone lines and few answers.

Demand for tickets to the Mansfield-Metcalf Dinner at the Butte Civic Center featuring New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was extraordinarily high, party spokesman Kevin O’Brien said. So much so, that when tickets went on sale at 9 a.m., the system, which was hosted by a third-party vendor, reportedly crashed at 9:01 a.m. – although O’Brien has disputed that. Have we not learned anything from Elton John?

Last summer, when tickets for Elton’s Missoula concert went on sale, the complex system used by the University of Montana involving wristbands and several vendors quickly crumbled. There were reports of near riots at some vendors where not one ticket was sold.

“That’s not right. Somebody should be fired over this,” one empty-handed Elton fanatic told the Montana Kaimin at the time.

Similar outrage was expressed Wednesday morning. One liberal blogger who tried in vain to score a ticket wrote: “Now I know how the rank-and-file Republican must have felt when they were excluded from the caucuses last month.” Ouch.

I sympathize with the Democratic Party, which has the impossible job of trying to appease several thousand of its faithful when the Civic Center holds just over 4,000. And unlike with the Elton John show, there won’t even be scalpers. For security reasons, the lucky owners of the Clinton-Obama tickets can’t resell them. The outrage over the handling of Elton’s tickets has subsided since the pop star has agreed to return. Since Obama and Clinton are coming April 5, but the Montana Democratic primary isn’t until June 3, maybe the candidates will also return.

After all, they may still be slugging it out by then. And no one thought they would be visiting Montana in the first place.

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