Consternation briefly clouded Anna Adams-Sarthou's features as she sized up the cluster of television crews that cluttered the path to the podium.

With the day's stars, former Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., waiting in the wings, the once-aspiring ballerina turned political-communications specialist firmly cleared a runway in advance of Wednesday's news conference to promote a "youth engagement" program in conjunction with the coming Democratic National Convention.

In the background paced Kevin Washo, the executive director of the convention's local host committee and Adams-Sarthou's boss.

A lean, angular man who trains in Thai boxing when he has free time, Washo has a taste for sartorial elegance. In a wheat-colored, azure-veined blazer, he stood as a canary among crows as he chatted with Rendell and the other dark-suited dignitaries, all decades older than his 35 years.

It is almost showtime.

Since February 2015, when Philadelphia was formally named host to this month's Democratic convention, Washo has led a small band of young party loyalists in putting together what they hope will be a stellar gathering for Democrats and a national advertisement for what has become of William Penn's charter.

"It's pretty simple," Washo said in summing up his team's mission. "People are coming to your home. You want to be a good host. You want to make sure they are comfortable. You want the conversation to go well. You want them to enjoy the food and the company. And when they leave, you want them to say they'd like to do it again."

In this instance, that means feting 6,000 delegates and 20,000 members of the national and international media. And building out the Wells Fargo Center to the Democratic National Committee's specifications for its quadrennial event.

The host committee is chaired by Rendell and has a long list of distinguished honorary and cochairs, including Gov. Wolf, Mayor Kenney, and Sen. Bob Casey. But the day-to-day trench work falls to the likes of Washo and Adams-Sarthou, who work out of rather spartan quarters on the third floor of 1900 Market St.

Just over a week before the July 25-28 convention, Adams-Sarthou described a frenetic schedule with ever-lengthening days.

The 28-year-old is a native of Philadelphia who spent part of high school training to be a ballet dancer. Politics ultimately won out, with her first adult job being preparing daily audio news summaries for former New York Gov. David Paterson, who is visually impaired.

As communications director for the host committee, she handles the media duties and puts together the near-daily news conferences.

She is the keeper of the facts and figures. For instance - amid some controversy over its tax status and its insistence on keeping donor names private until after the convention - the host committee is now less than $3 million short of the $60 million it needed to raise to pay for the event.

The host committee has a paid staff of 13, supported by 26 volunteers - who are all but full time at the moment, in part preparing for three big parties the committee is throwing for volunteers, the media, and, finally, the delegates.

For the coming convention week, the committee has lined up 18,000 volunteers - that's right, 18,000 - to serve as greeters, clappers, and all-round Sherpas for delegates, Adams-Sarthou said.

Clappers? Just as it sounds - volunteers to provide the appropriate sound track for events and convention dignitaries.

As Adams-Sarthou prepped for Wednesday's news conference, Annie Heckenberger, the committee's director of digital and social media, was running a meeting down the hall in an office strewn with volunteers' backpacks and empty coffee cups. The wall behind her desk was bare - but for a line of 13 yellow sticky notes.

"My daily to-do list," she said.

On loan from her full-time job at the local ad agency Digitas Health LifeBrands, Heckenberger has been with the host team from day one, at first "quietly working this job before and after my other job each day."

"When you start something like this, you think it is so far away, and now, here it is, we are days out," she said. "It is moving so quickly."

Among her tasks for the moment: coordinating with a local running club planning a dash from donkey sculpture to donkey sculpture around the city.

It was part of the committee's larger goal of making the convention more than a spectator event for Philadelphians.

Helping in that effort are Jordan Schwartz, a former aide to then-Mayor Michael Nutter, and Angela Val, formerly of Visit Philadelphia.

Schwartz, 37, director of external affairs, serves as a liaison between the committee and local officeholders, neighborhood groups, and businesses. "What we are trying to do is engage Philadelphians, make them feel as much a part of this as we can," he said.

Much of the engagement planning falls to Val, as deputy executive director.

"We really want people to want to stay in town for this," she said. "We don't want this to feel like the pope's visit. That went off beautifully, but Philadelphia was too quiet. We want the energy to be here in town."

Part of that will be encouraging local bars to have extended happy hours and "watch parties" on July 28, when Hillary Clinton gives her acceptance speech as the Democratic nominee.

That, of course, will be the Big Night, the denouement of all the host committee's work.

In the meantime, there are multiple sticky notes to address, endless to-do lists yet to do.

"It is an exciting and intense experience," Heckenberger said. "You want it to be as perfect as it can be, but we are producing a live event. And just like Saturday Night Live, when 11:30 hits, the show is going to happen, whether there is a funny line in every skit or not. The show is going to happen."

chepp@phillynews.com

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