Inside the Bernie Sanders festival in Washington Square Park

Political event or festival?

At the mass rally for Bernie Sanders in Washington Square Park Wednesday, the Vermont senator spoke for an hour with his usual fervor on his usual topics. NAFTA; the Walton family; Hillary Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speeches, with local references to the New York minimum wage and Stonewall sprinkled in.
But the event felt more like a festival — the New York Marathon or a concentrated ticker tape parade — than a strict political gathering.
The smell of marijuana wafted familiarly over the famous park from time to time. Signs both home-made and official filled the air. Many attendees seemed to come from afar: the West 4th Street subway station was swamped with Bernie Bros and Gals waiting patiently for their turn at the MetroCard dispenser when it was all over. Perhaps they, like Sanders, were surprised not to receive tokens.
Some stumbled in last-minute, stuck in the back, unable to see the senator. Others were there hours early. Mike Kurse, a 67-year-old Vietnam veteran, said he’d passed the time talking to people, swapping experiences. “It made me feel young again.”
Some weren’t even supporting Sanders, just there for the show. Julian Snyder, 17, said he would vote for Hillary Clinton in the general — he is too young to make the primary. But he wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
His friend, Solomon Bergwerk, 18, was all in for Bernie. “I’ve been told anything is possible,” he said.
They’d been on their feet since 3, waiting for Sanders to speak.
“After a few hours it didn’t hurt anymore,” said Bergwerk.
As Sanders took the podium, the crowd surged against the police boundaries. Bergwerk cheered. From his vantage point it was difficult to see the main attraction, but he listened attentively all the same.

Mark Chiusano