A welcoming ceremony for President Barack Obama at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage drew roughly 2,000 people Monday night, though the president himself didn't show.
Those hoping for a glimpse of the president -- and many were -- did get some consolation. On the arena Jumbotron, organizers of the "Rising Together" event played a prerecorded video of Obama, with the president apologizing that he couldn't be there in person.
"As it turns out, as president, you don't always get to do what you want," Obama said in the video. He went on to discuss the purpose of his trip and his efforts to preserve what he called "the incredible way of life here in Alaska."
The welcoming event was organized by the Alaska Federation of Natives and a broad group of nonprofits, religious institutions and community leaders. In a blog post last week, AFN President Julie Kitka said the president was not expected to attend. But she said the show would go on, calling it "an opportunity to celebrate the great diversity of our state and ensure every Alaskan knows our great president is here in Alaska."
After the president's video played, the crowd thinned out. Those who were leaving said they weren't disappointed, however.
"It was good. It was like he was there," said Alberta Flannery, 67, of Anchorage.
Lance Newman, 47, said he and his 9-year-old son Xavier did come hoping to see the president, but knew it was a long shot. He said he'd listened to the president's earlier address at the GLACIER conference and heard some similar messages in the video.
In Obama's place, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell -- who was applauded for her role in changing the name of Mount McKinley to Denali -- gave a speech that focused on the president's activities in Alaska since his arrival. Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov Byron Mallott also gave speeches, and there were performances from cultural and community groups.