Gray Chapel filled with cheers and impassioned speeches. Gavel bangs thundered amid shouts of a rigged convention. Security removed a delegate from the floor.
Finally, a nominee emerged to joyous applause as red, white and blue balloons rained down from above.
For a simulated event, Ohio Wesleyan University's mock convention packed a lot of real-world action.
More than 300 people filled the chapel at OWU's University Hall on Feb. 21 and 22 for the event, held every four years at the Delaware campus. Patriotic signs and banners filled the hall, with some spirited delegates assigned to represent Wisconsin donning cheese-head hats, whereas others in the Illinois contingent dressed as Abraham Lincoln.
The mock convention at OWU dates back to 1884. It has been held every four years since 1920, with the exception of 1960 and 1968, according to OWU records and research. The event is open to members of the Ohio Wesleyan and Delaware communities, and it always represents the party not currently in the White House.
On Feb. 21, convention-goers debated and amended the party platform. Feb. 22 was decision day as delegates nominated presidential and vice-presidential candidates and made their case for the hopefuls in brief speeches throughout the morning.
"This guy is fighting for the people," said Fatima Iqbal as she urged her fellow delegates to "feel the Bern" and support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
An international student from Pakistan, the 22-year-old can't vote in U.S. elections but became intrigued in American politics when President Donald J. Trump was elected in 2016.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren models Ohio Wesleyan's community values, said Ellen Arnold, a history professor heading up the Georgia delegation.
"Most particularly, the ability to not only hold conversation and hold her own in an argument, but to listen to others, reflect and change policy and change ideas based on argumentation," she said.
In the end, the mock convention nominated Warren for president and former Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams for vice president.
Sanders earned the second-highest number of delegates and ultimately lost to Warren in a runoff.
Also nominated were former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; and -- yes -- former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
A smile spread across Valorie Schwarzmann's face as she summed up the convention results.
"In case you didn't notice, we just nominated two women," said Schwarzmann, honorary chairwoman of the convention and a 1981 alumna of OWU.
Students of all political leanings are encouraged to participate in the convention, even though this event focused on the Democratic Party.
"It's a great way to get students involved in the political process," said OWU President Rock Jones, who made up the Arkansas delegation along with his wife, Melissa Lollar Jones. "When you see a room full of college students at 9 o'clock on a Saturday morning, they're really engaged, they're understanding the process."
Though the convention focused largely on current political issues and candidates, it was clear there was room for some silliness, too. At one point, Mallorie Watts, co-executive director of the mock convention and an OWU social justice major, took the mic in response to a submitted candidate petition.
"Pinocchio is not eligible for vice president because he is a fictional Italian character!" she shouted as delegates gathered signatures Feb. 22.
There have been nine instances in which the OWU mock convention has selected a presidential nominee who went on to become the actual choice of the political party it emulated. Most recently, it was then-senator Barack Obama in 2008.