'Rock the Night in CLE' party welcomes RNC guests to Cleveland

Thousands attend rocking RNC welcome party
Preps underway for tonight's 'Rock the Night in CLE' welcome party! (Source: WOIO)
Preps underway for tonight's 'Rock the Night in CLE' welcome party! (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Rock and roll legends Three Dog Night headlined Sunday night's welcome party, Rock the Night in CLE, which kicked off the 2016 Republican National Convention.

"We're thrilled to have this legendary rock band headline a celebration that will give visitors a truly authentic Cleveland experience," said David Gilbert, president and CEO of the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee. "Cleveland's rock and roll roots along with our phenomenal culinary scene will be on display to a national and international audience. It's an unparalleled opportunity to help change the narrative about Cleveland."

Live entertainment was also be provided by several local artists, including Seafair, Honey Bucket, Chris Allen Band, Megan Zurkey and Cats on Holiday.

The invitation-only event welcomed delegates and media to Cleveland and took place from 6:30 - 10 p.m. Sunday at North Coast Harbor, from Great Lakes Science Center's front door through Voinovich Park.

"You can throw a party that doesn't have any personality anywhere anytime, but we are Cleveland and we are going to do it the way Clevelanders do and we're going to eat great food and listen to great music. It's kind of all of it rolled up into one and we are showing them Cleveland," said Destination Cleveland Senior Director of PR and Communications Emily Lauer.

The Cleveland 2016 Host Committee said 12,000 people attended the party, as well as 500 VIPs.

Guests also enjoyed a culinary smorgasbord featuring more than 50 local chefs, restaurants, breweries and food trucks, including many of Cleveland's nationally renowned chefs.

"The support of some of Cleveland's finest food and beverage institutions has been amazing," said Gilbert. "We at the Host Committee are grateful for the restaurant community's participation in this event. We are excited to share with our guests what locals already know - that Cleveland is a proud, collaborative city with an exceptional culinary scene."

James Beard Award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer spearheaded the culinary community's participation to ensure guests were offered a true representation of Cleveland's food scene.

"It's very important people come here and feel like they're welcome. Politics is a conversation and, regardless of how you feel, we have to be able to sit down and talk about our problems. Over food, breaking the proverbial bread and the literal bread, is the best way to do it," said Sawyer.

Sawyer was recently featured on Food Network's Chopped series.

Attendees had access to the world's only Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center and North Coast Harbor, as well as views of the lakefront and Lake Erie. A fireworks show ended the evening.

An opening party is a convention tradition where the host city welcomes guests to kick off the week and enjoy unique aspects of the city.

"I think Ohio, as always, is going to be a battleground state. Whoever wins Ohio will win the presidency. It's really all going to be about Cuyahoga County. Whoever wins Cuyahoga County, if someone wins Cuyahoga County strong, about 250,000 vote margin, that is the White House. That is the difference right there," said Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley.

"We're here to welcome people to Cleveland. We're here to show people what a great city we have and, regardless of who the nominee, is or the vice presidential nominees are, Cleveland is a great city and we just want the world to see that," said Kelley.

The evening was sponsored by many of the Host Committee's significant local donors.

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