Hobnobbing with political celebrities, watching American history unfold before her eyes and hearing an inspiring speech by Ann Romney were just part of the whirlwind of activities Hazel Dell resident Lisa Ross experienced at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
All the excitement did have a downside, however.
"I'm not going to (the) Journey (concert) tonight, because I have to sleep," said Ross, who was worn out from her first-ever Republican National Convention. "Everyone is really tired."
Ross is one of three delegates who traveled to Tampa from Clark County to participate in the convention. She initially went to the convention as a delegate for Rick Santorum, but ultimately cast her vote for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney after Santorum dropped out of the presidential race and released his delegates. That made Ross a "free agent" who could then vote for Romney.
"I voted for the next president of the United States, Mitt Romney, because it was time," she said. She spoke by phone on Thursday afternoon, prior to Romney's much-anticipated acceptance speech. "I want to hear about the America that he wants to bring us back to. I want to see his vision."
Ross was a newbie to the political process when she decided to partake in the county's Republican precinct caucuses in March, which drew a whopping 4,300 voters. From there, she had her sights set on Tampa, and moved up the ranks through the county and state GOP conventions.
Ross, who works as an accountant while also pursuing a business degree, said she got to geek out at the convention by attending a slide show presentation on polling. She also attended talks led by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and conservative commentator Michael Medved.
She was able to see Kid Rock perform at Tampa's Liberty Plaza earlier in the week as part of the convention's musical lineup. And she even chatted with former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich for a few minutes after running into him on the convention floor.
"The best part is being around all these people that you see who are running the government," Ross said. "They're all here. You have access to so many people."
Ross said that she was particularly moved by Ann Romney's speech. Like Ann Romney, Ross is a mother living with multiple sclerosis.
"The stories she told were very reminiscent of the things that I experienced," she said. "It did impress me. She would be an amazing and formidable first lady."
Ron Paul supporters
Another delegate to the national convention, Katja Delavar of Washougal, called the Tampa event "a coronation of Mitt Romney." Delavar attended the national convention as a delegate for Texas Congressman Ron Paul, and she also was co-chair of Paul's campaign in Washington state.
She and other Paul supporters have said convention officials disenfranchised Paul supporters during the nomination process. Earlier in the week, officials with the Republican National Convention removed 10 Ron Paul delegates from Maine and replaced them on the convention floor with Romney delegates, calling into question some apparent irregularities at Maine's GOP convention.
"I will be supporting our Republican candidates," Delavar said, "but my support for Mitt Romney has suffered because of what happened at the convention."
Delavar was one of five delegates from Washington state who cast a vote for Paul during the nomination roll call. She said she knew going into the convention that Paul would not receive the Republican nomination, but she wanted Paul supporters' voices to be heard loud and clear by their fellow Republicans.
"We knew that we were going in there to help with the platform," Delavar said. "I think it's important that we recognize there's division within our own party. The way to unite the party is for them to want us and not think we're not friendly to their cause."
On a positive note, Delavar said she was happy to see some libertarian concepts adopted in the GOP platform, including a call to audit the Federal Reserve, and to require a congressional declaration of war prior to entering military combat.
Trevor Winton of Hazel Dell also attended the Republican National Convention after getting picked as a Ron Paul delegate at the state convention.