COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Attendees were standing shoulder to shoulder for much of the night as they waiting for fish and drinks at Rep. Jim Clyburn “World Famous Fish Fry.”
Organizers anticipated the event featuring over 20 Democratic presidential candidates would draw a crowd, but attendees said they were shocked by the size.
“I assumed the crowd was going to be bigger, but this is the first year I’ve waited in line this long,” said Latonya Green who attended the event. “It’s quadrupled in size since last year.”
She said she waited in line for two hours for food.
Others felt this was inspiring to attend ahead of the election and traveled from across the state to be there.
"It's amazing, I love it. I think it's an excellent idea," said Meredith Talford who came from Chester County to attend the event. "I'm Southern. So, a good fish fry, I don't pass up. I'm really here to hear what the candidates have to say, feel the energy, what's happening in South Carolina. I wanted some fellowship...to hear people with different views."
The Fish Fry is a chance for presidential hopefuls to woo South Carolinians and Rep. Clyburn, one of the state’s most influential politicians.
“It’s a state that represents an important constituency in the convention process, particularly African-American voters,” said University of South Carolina political science department chair Dr. Todd Shaw. “You kind of want to be there.”
The event, which was started 30 years ago by Rep. Clyburn, began in a Columbia parking garage. Now, political experts consider it the can’t-miss event of the political cycle.
“This is the event where ordinary citizens and candidates can rub elbows in a relaxed setting -- a Southern fish fry,” said Dr. Shaw.
Rep. Clyburn told the crowd this event’s main purpose is to say thank you to the organizers and prove “America is already great,” a reference to President Trump’s campaign slogan.
The South Carolina Republican Party responded to the event by saying they believe South Carolinians have “no appetite” for the candidates who attended this evening.
The next major stop for the Democratic candidates is the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention on Saturday morning.