"We weren't able to shake as many delegates to come up for the event as we had hoped," he says.
However, Sarver adds: "We're excited about how many people from Asheville are planning to attend President Obama's speech in Charlotte."
The Buncombe County party has chartered two buses that will carry 110 people to the city for the president's Sept. 6 convention speech.
The original Aug. 2 post:
Buncombe County Democrats are partnering with the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau to try to lure political tourists to the area before and during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, which takes place Sept. 3-6.
The "Big Tent Event" begins Labor Day weekend and extends through Sept. 6, encompassing a variety of tours geared toward Democratic delegates traveling from around the country to the convention. The "Weekend Getaway" package encourages delegates to stop in the area on the way to Charlotte. It culminates in a public Sept. 2 fundraiser at the Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview. That brunch will feature addresses from WNC congressional candidates Patsy Keever (NC-10) and Hayden Rogers (NC-11). Other speakers as well as a national headliner is yet to be announced.
Once the convention gets going in Charlotte, organizers will shuttle delegates up the mountain and take them on tours of the town, including sites such as 12 Bones Smokehouse that have been visited by the Obamas.
The activities are an innovative way to try to benefit from the convention — both politically and economically, organizer Jonathan Robert says.
"The whole idea is to show off Asheville to a national audience," he says. "It's the area's first attempt at political tourism.The idea is to get the delegates here and get them talking about how great Asheville is when they go back home."
Robert adds that Asheville will be presented to participants as a progressive bastion, highlighting things such as the Just Economic's living wage campaign and the city's equality policies, as well as more homespun draws such as the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.
"There's a reason why the Obamas love this city," states a narrator in a promotional video, adding: "Asheville is not only a wonderful place to visit; you'll also be welcomed by a solidly Democrat community, boasting elected officials at the local, state and national levels who are committed to our party's principles."
Most proceeds from the Big Tent Event will go to the Buncombe County Democratic Party, in order to help "put wind in the sails of candidates in the fall," says Robert.
"This is an opportunity to present WNC party unity," he adds. "The goal is to get everyone fired up."
Robert says he's hoping 100 people will sign up for the weekend getaway and that 500 people will attend the Sept. 2 public fundraiser.
That's a tiny fraction of the 35,000 people who are expected to visit Charlotte for the convention. Organizers estimate the convention will have a total economic impact of $150 million to $200 million, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Watch the video organizers are using to market the "Big Tent Event":