An hour before Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton began their latest and perhaps last debate inside the National Constitution Center, the scene out on the mall was vintage Americana: passionate supporters seeking to sway voters to their side, protesters looking to make a point, and opportunists looking to make a buck.
And it resembled a giant block party, with hundreds of people of every stripe amid a sea of competing banners, buttons, chants and bullhorns in the energy-charged street.
Some had been there for hours, and they were not letting up.
"Yes, she will!" chanted Clinton supporters.
"No, she won't!" Obama supporters responded.
The loudest and busiest spot was at Arch and Sixth Streets, less than a hundred yards from the center, and the place where more than a dozen TV trucks had parked.
There, a 30-year-old graduate student from Los Angeles hawked Obama T-shirts, $12 for one or two for $20, while entertaining the crowd with a hip-hop and rap ode to his candidate, delivered through a bullhorn.
He called himself "Tony B. Conscious" and his rap "Obama-beat."
"Every revolution has to have a sound," said B. Conscious, whose real name is Tony Brown, as he gyrated and selected passers-by and made them part of his rap.
Then he explained his business:
"I'm not out here to make money," Brown said. "This will barely pay for the hotel and air fare.
"I'm not a bootlegger, like the others. I am a real volunteer."
Directly across the street from Brown was Damian Wargo, who was there to make a statement with a 5-by-3-feet sign with a gruesome image of an aborted fetus.
Calling himself "a witness to the truth," he had been toting the heavy sign on his shoulders for an hour and half, and his back was starting to hurt.
"It's very sad, but I have to hold it up," said Wargo, who lives in Mount Airy and teaches math at Roman Catholic High School.
"I'm here to remind people that you have two candidates who are radically for abortion," he said. "I'm hoping to change a few minds and start a dialogue."
Aaron Wilson and John Reardon were just trying to maintain their balance as the wind almost toppled their 8-by-6-feet "Hillary for President" sign.
"It's like a sail," said Wilson, 36, a registered Democrat from Drexel Hill. "We might blow away with it."
Wilson, who sported a Clinton sticker on each cheek, said he had been putting in at least 10 hours a week on the phone banks in the Delaware County Clinton Campaign in Media.
"It's worth it. It's fun," he said.
Unlike Wilson or Wargo, all Tim Dowlin had was flyers that advertised a "community speak out" Saturday in North Philadelphia on poverty.
"Neither candidate cares for the poor," he said. "Economic human rights should be at the forefront of the presidential debate."
Among the activists were plenty of entrepreneurs there to take advantage of a good business opportunity.
"Get your campaign button here!" urged Mike Shanoley, of Columbus, Ohio, as he occupied a sliver near Arch and Fifth.
"It's been pretty good," Shanoley said. He sold Clinton buttons on one board, Obama buttons an another.
"We will afford a hotel room tonight," he added.
When the night began, said Shanoley, 31, buttons were going for $5 each, or three for $10. But then the competition - in the form of Ron Phillips, a 42-year-old truck driver from Springfield, Ill. - set up shop nearby, and Shanoley had to drop his prices: $3 for one, or two for $5.
"That's what competition does," Phillips observed. "It's a good thing."