Cannon Falls prepares for the presidentThis small town has been buzzing since Thursday as residents and business owners heard rumor after rumor about the possibility of President Barack Obama making a stop in town next week.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
CANNON FALLS, Minn. — This small town has been buzzing since Thursday as residents and business owners heard rumor after rumor about the possibility of President Barack Obama making a stop in town next week.
“Everyone’s very excited. Yesterday, it was probably the best worst-kept secret,” Cannon Falls Chief of Police Jeffrey McCormick said Friday afternoon.
When rumors were finally confirmed Friday morning, the buzz only increased. And phone calls to City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce were endless.
“It’s been ringing off the hook for about three hours. It’s insane,” City Hall administrative assistant Dianne Howard said Friday morning.
In addition to constant calls, City Hall and the chamber also got their fair share of visitors Friday as area residents, television stations, radio reporters and newspaper writers searched for details about the event. But with plans only starting to be made late Thursday and Friday, there wasn’t much to share.
“It’s so all-of-a-sudden,” chamber President Pat Anderson said. “It isn’t like we’ve had months to think, ‘OK, what should we do when the president comes?’”
McCormick has been one of many hustling to get organized for Monday, but he and the police department are receiving lots of local help.
“It’s very short notice and everyone is bending over backwards to help us,” he said.
McCormick has been in contact with White House staff, making plans to be sure the town is as secure as possible before the president’s arrival, but Cannon Falls police and White House security are not tackling the commotion alone.
“We’re certainly looking to agencies within the metro, and to the south, west and east of us as well,” McCormick said.
The Red Wing Police Department is on board and will assist with things like crowd control and standing security before and during Monday’s event, Police Chief Tim Sletten said.
The Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office is also providing support. Sheriff Scott McNurlin said officers will set boundaries around Hannah’s Bend Park — where the president will speak — and members of the public without tickets into the park are asked to respect the boundaries.
“They need to stay outside the bounds of that perimeter that will be noticeable by the presence of law enforcement,” McNurlin explained.
Law enforcement officials aren’t the only ones getting ready for Cannon Falls to be the center of attention. Local businesses are changing their hours for Monday’s crowds.
Hi Quality Bakery is typically closed Mondays, but owner Julie Disch thought it’d be a good idea to have treats available as the masses flock to Cannon Falls. She said the business will most likely be open at its standard weekday time of 5:30 a.m.
Bakery employee Robin Knauer is hoping to get her hands on two tickets to Obama’s speech, so she can take her 10-year-old grandson.
“He likes to follow Obama because he’s half-Kenyan also. So to him, it’s somebody just like him,” Knauer said with a smile.
She may be able to snag two of the 500 available tickets, but probably not without getting comfortable on the concrete outside of City Hall.
“I imagine there’ll be people camping out Saturday night,” Cannon Falls Mayor Robby Robinson said.
White House staff will be in charge of distributing the tickets starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, on a first-come, first-serve basis.
As more details slowly get hammered out, some people are still shocked that the president will be coming to such a small Minnesota town — some 4,000 people live here.
“When I first heard it I didn’t believe it was true,” Anderson said. “It’s not often you get to host a sitting president.”
Not often, but it does happen. In fact, this won’t be the first time Cannon Falls has gotten such a rare opportunity. In 1928, the town played host to President Calvin Coolidge, who came to dedicate a memorial to Civil War hero Col. William Colvill.
Who: President Barack Obama
Where: Hannah’s Bend Park, Cannon Falls
When: 11:45 a.m. Monday
Tickets available: 1 p.m. Sunday, City Hall, 918 River Road