Man remembers exhilarating experience of '76 National Convention - KCTV5

Man remembers exhilarating experience of '76 GOP National Convention

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Wednesday, the city has a big deadline looming.

If they miss it, the city loses out on an opportunity to put Kansas City in the national spotlight while generating millions of dollars.

They are bidding for the 2016 GOP National Convention.

The last time the convention was in Kansas City, MO, was nearly 40 years ago, in 1976.

Jim Bagby remembers the 1976 GOP National Convention like no one else because he had his back turned to the audience.

"We lined up in the American Royal building and warmed up in there. Then we filed into Kemper, which was filled of course with red white and blue balloons everywhere," said Bagby, the director emeritus for the KC Heart of America Chorus.

Their barber shop chorus had a special place in the program and on stage.

"We were trying to look around and see, ‘can we see Reagan, can we see Ford?'" Bagby said.

After 20 minutes the musical group heard their cue.

"They finally said ‘Go' and we sang the national anthem," Bagby said.

The 100-man chorus harmonized their signature barber shop style.

"I thought it was so appropriate because barber shop harmony is such an intricate part of the American art history. It's just part of our fabric," Bagby said.

Shortly after the GOP nominated Gerald Ford as its official presidential candidate, his challenger, Ronald Reagan, stepped aside.

Bagby has countless photos of other performances, but security was so tight the night of the convention that he and other members of the chorus couldn't bring a camera in. While they don't have a single photo from that night, he says it's a night he'll never forget.

"We belted it out and people whooped and hollered and immediately filed us out and we were just on cloud nine, but it was a marvelous experience regardless of what party you were affiliated with. We were tickled to death to be able to do that," Bagby said.

The choir's director has another interesting perspective on the night. At the time his full-time job was broadcast editor for the Associated Press. Bagby said he remembers the media frenzy and all the excitement surrounding the convention and he said the whole city was buzzing.

Bagby said he hopes to see the GOP National Convention in Kansas City again and, if it does, he hopes to be a part of the celebration.

Click here to watch a video from the 1976 National Convention.

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