Joe Biden will tower over this decrepit parking lot on the closing night of the convention

The year of the drive-in continues

Joe Biden steps onto the stage at the Democratic National Convention four years ago. This year will be a little different. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images file photo)
Joe Biden steps onto the stage at the Democratic National Convention four years ago. This year will be a little different. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images file photo)
Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:00am

A towering version of Joe Biden will appear Thursday night in the parking lot of a crumbling stadium in Washington, thanks to a high-definition LED movie screen that stands at 45 feet.

As attendees watch from the relative comfort of their cars, the presidential hopeful will virtually accept his party’s nomination, and a political convention like no other will come to an end.  

The drive-in watch party, hosted by the DC Democratic Party and held in the shadow of RFK Stadium, is meant to add some in-person interaction to an election season that has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“If anyone wants to join me in my Kamala bumper stickered Toyota Prius, [hit me up]!!!” tweeted Claire Goldberg, one of the organizers.

While the invitation has some ideas about how to get into the convention spirit (“Decorate your car”), it also lays out rules for social distancing: no tailgating, no buses, no lawn chairs. Those are roughly the same guidelines in place for other nights at this pop-up drive-in theater in Southeast Washington, which has shown movies like “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Jurassic Park” throughout the summer. The movie series is run by Broccoli City and Events DC. 

Drive-ins have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity during the pandemic, so it’s no surprise that Democrats have turned to them during the convention, throwing big-screen watch parties across the country in states like Oklahoma, Massachusetts and Iowa. A parking lot may fall flat next to the pageantry of past conventions, but this year, the mood and expectations are different.

Not everyone has given up on the way things were. The bars of Washington are known for their almost uncanny ability to turn any and every political event into a watch party, complete with drink specials often named exclusively for the occasion. (Last summer, for example, pubs around D.C. opened as early as 8 a.m. for “Mueller time” when the former special counsel testified in hearings on the Hill.) A few places are determined not to break the streak.

Among those forging ahead is Red Derby in Columbia Heights, which has been showing the convention on its roof deck all week. The TVs have been running inside Shaw’s Tavern too, with reservations required. 

Both come with plenty of caveats about what to bring to a watch party nowadays, including face masks. “Stay safe everyone!” reads the Facebook invitation from Shaw’s Tavern.