By Claire Prentice
Like an audience at a concert, the crowds cheer the investment advisers.
By the time registration opened at 7am the queue snaked all the way up Sixth Avenue and around the block.
With an advert promising to "give you the scoop on insider secrets for making money in these tough economic times", the organisers of the inaugural Moneyfest were guaranteed to hit a nerve in an America reeling from recession.
In the end, some 7,000 people crammed into a hotel in midtown Manhattan for a one-day expo, hoping to learn how to unlock their earning potential, release their inner entrepreneur and channel the power of Donald Trump.
They flocked from Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia. They were students, the unemployed, seniors whose pensions have been wiped out, stay-at-home-moms, people of all ages and races united by one desire: to make money.
"A lot of people out there are hurting financially," says Bill Zanker, founder and president of the Learning Annex, which organised the event.
"We are giving them the tools to take control of their financial situation."
Even Mr Zanker admits he is surprised by the turnout.
"We knew this would be popular, but we initially built this event for 1,000 people," he says.
"We had no idea we'd end up with seven times that."
Social worker Patricia Jenkins travelled four hours by public transport from upstate New York to be here and arrived at 6am.
"I was so excited about this I didn't sleep a wink last night," she says.
"I didn't even eat breakfast this morning."
She and friend Peter Rogers had come to hear CNBC personal finance expert and Oprah regular Suze Orman, one the keynote speakers.
"I love her practical advice," Mr Rogers enthuses. "She really helps you save money."
In the afternoon, self-styled Croesus of Manhattan, Donald Trump, addresses the masses.
And between the high-profile speeches, attendees were able to choose from a mind-boggling array of talks, panels and interactive sessions delivered by more than 60 business and financial experts.
The most popular included sessions on making money buying and selling foreclosed - or repossessed - properties, kick-starting your career after 40, raising capital to start a business, trading stocks and shares in a recession and "How to Get Hired" with a panel of recruitment consultants.
Some have products to sell - DVDs, CDs, books and software packages. Others are on the lookout for potential employees.
In the hallways and corridors of the Hilton Hotel, attendees and experts swap business cards and talk in hushed tones. Some are armed with piles of resumes.
Self-employed printer Tony Feran came with one goal. "I brought 500 business cards with me and I am going to have none left by the end of the day," he says.
One lucky entrepreneur pockets $10,000 (£6,800) after impressing a panel of venture capitalists with her new business idea in a Dragon's Den-style session.
Thirty minutes before Ms Orman takes the stage, the stampede has already begun towards the 5,500-capacity Grand Ballroom.
Attendants were told how to pitch to investors.
When she appears, the crowd whoops and hollers as if she were a rock star.
With only one hour to turn her audience's financial situations around, Ms Orman gets straight down to it, asking what help they want.
The answers were depressingly predictable. "My pension fund has been wiped out, what should I do?" "I've lost my job, how do I get another?" "How can I get on top of my credit card debt?" "What is the safest way to save?"
Ms Orman addresses all of these questions and more with her trademark folksy, no-nonsense advice.
The audience laps it up, cheering, taking photos and scribbling in their notebooks.
"One thing you must all promise me now is that you will not spend a cent today or any other day from now on without asking yourself whether you can afford it," says Ms Orman.
"Do you promise me that?" she asks. "Yes," screams the crowd.
Whether their resolve would hold up past nearby Fifth Avenue, Manhattan's thoroughfare of conspicuous consumption, is anyone's guess.
By the time a group of girls come on dancing to announce the imminent arrival of Mr Trump, the audience is tired but pumped.
What they get is 60 minutes of the world according to "The Donald".
Cynics might have seen it as a blatant pitch to sell his new book, not help the truly desperate, but there did not seem to be many cynics in the hall.
When he finished speaking, the adoring crowd descended. They wanted autographs, photos or simply to touch him. Some waved their resumes and business cards. Mr Trump beamed and left the stage.
In the lobby afterwards, friends, families and strangers compared notes.
"It might not happen overnight," says Gail Green, "but I am going to make back more than the $20 I paid for today with what I learned."
Some were disappointed.
"I came to learn something from Donald Trump and I didn't get a thing," grumbles one.
Others were inspired.
"I feel like I can take on the world," says Patricia Jenkins. "I can take on the banks and the big finance companies. I can do anything I want."
It was the American dream in action. And it could soon be coming to a town near you. According to the organisers, they have already had requests to stage similar events across America, in Europe and Australia.