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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The massive welcome party planned for St. Pete Sunday night is still on despite the quickly approaching Tropical Storm Isaac.

Crews began the process to transform Tropicana Field around 4:00 p.m., immediately after the Ray's Saturday game.

"The crews are working around the clock, sweeping and cleaning to make sure we're ready to welcome our guests," said Amanda Whitelaw, director of events for the RNC Host Committee.

An estimated 15,000 guests, delegates, and media from around the country are scheduled to arrive in St. Petersburg for the first official party around 5:00 p.m. Sunday evening.

"The welcome event will be the largest in the history of a Republican National Convention," said Whitelaw.

The event's creative director said the evening will be "outrageously cool," with three stages, hundreds of performers, and even the USF marching band.

Most events similar in size would take three or four days to set up, but crews are working to finish up in just 20 hours to be ready in time for the doors to open.

"That's something that's rarely done, but we're taking on the challenge and we plan to open the doors on 5 p.m. Sunday," said Whitelaw.

City leaders say they're squeezing in the event right before Isaac's arrival. "We don't expect severe weather deterioration until late Sunday, early Monday, and that's when you're going to start getting the outer bands," said St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster.

As quickly as everything goes up, there will be a rush to tear everythingdown, especially outside.

"There is a sense of urgency. We want to make sure nothing goes airborne. And we do expect winds 30 to 40 miles an hour, with guests exceeding 50," said Mayor Foster.

Despite the rough weather, organizers are confident visitors will have an amazing time.

"The safe arrival of all the visitors is paramount," said Foster. "The safe exodus and getting them back to their hotels is also paramount. And we're 100 percent confident that we can do that."


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