Crowd catches glimpse of president as he passes through Preston
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 7:11 AM
Patriotism - and a chance to witness what is thought to be the first presidential trip ever through Preston - trumped politics Monday afternoon as President Barack Obama made his way down Highway 52 on his midwestern bus tour.
Although many political opinions were expressed privately among the more than 100 people waiting to watch his bus go through, there were no demonstrations or even visible expressions for or against his policies.
American flags were the most popular display among the crowd gathered along Highway 52 near the entrance to downtown. The only visible sign, a hand-lettered one that stated "Free Bowling Mr. President," was held by Nancy Corson, waving a flag in front of B & B Olympic Bowl.
"We're excited to see the president. He's our commander in chief," said Sandy Amundson in explaining why she waited more than two hours with a couple friends to catch a glimpse of the president as he passed by on his bus.
"For him to be in Preston is pretty awesome," added Muriel Hanson.
The other member of the trio, Gerrie Daley, said she has emailed friends and family all over the country and they are amazed that she was getting the chance to see him in Preston. A lifelong resident of Preston, she was the only one of the group to see a president and that was George H. W. Bush at her son's graduation from West Point when the elder Bush was still vice president.
People of all ages started forming groups along Highway 52 early in the afternoon. Obama, on a three-day bus tour in the Midwest, spoke in Cannon Falls over the noon hour and had an engagement in Decorah at 5:15 p.m. There were rumors he might stop in Preston, perhaps at the ethanol plant, but he had made a stop previously in Chatfield and didn't make it to Preston until well after 4 p.m., giving him little time to make his next appointment.
Highway 52 was blocked off to all traffic, but spectators were allowed to view the procession from the sides of the highway. First, a fleet of law enforcement vehicles swept through Preston. Later, two large buses came through, flanked by more security. Obama never got out, but he was visibly waving through the front window of the bus.
Spectators waved back to the president and many held up flags as he passed by. Several children were present with parents who wanted them to experience a bit of history.
The significance of the event may not sink in until they are older. Abby Gastfield, for example, was more impressed with the spectacle.
"Did you see all the security. That was awesome," she yelled to a friend as she got into the car to go back home.