Abuzz about Obama
CANNON FALLS — The news that President Obama will hold a town-hall meeting in her hometown Monday came as a shock to Kaitlyn Roble, of Cannon Falls .
"Nothing happens to this town. We don't even get a tornado," said Roble, who works at Scofield Drug & Gift, an 1879 vintage drugstore, and Econofoods, which she calls "the biggest place of gossip."
"It blows my mind. I'm going to try to get tickets. I'm going to camp out if I have to Saturday night by City Hall," she said.
Why and how Cannon Falls was selected for the visit was a surprise even to city officials.
"To be honest, we got a phone call that went to the public works director, and we sort of assumed someone pulled a prank," said City Administrator Aaron Reeves. "But we had read in the paper that the president is doing a southern Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois tour, and when we showed up at the park it was really representatives from the White House."
Preparing for people
What brought the White House team to Cannon Falls was serendipitous.
"Basically they had a pre-event team out touring sites, and they stopped for lunch in Cannon Falls and thought there were some great options here," Reeves said.
It wasn't until Wednesday that city officials learned of the plan.
That meant crunch time came quickly for preparations.
"Ideally you'd want to plan these with three or more months. We're doing it in three days," said Police Chief Jeff McCormick.
Everything from facilitating traffic flow and security in and around the event location, to preparing for people camping out for tickets, to setting up portable toilets outside city hall needs to be done, McCormick said.
There will be 500 tickets available for the town-hall meeting. That's about how many people the park can hold, officials said.
How many people show up for tickets on Sunday, however, is just as important, McCormick said. There just isn't any history of a visit like this to Cannon Falls to base a plan on.
"I've talked to several residents that have been here longer than I have and nobody could recall, other than passing through presidential motorcades on Highway 52, the president coming to our city," McCormick said. "And he is not just coming to shake hands, but to actually talk to residents."
President Calvin Coolidge visited Cannon Falls in 1928 to dedicate a statue and monument honoring Col. William Collvill, leader of the 1st Minnesota Volunteers in the Ciivl War. Colville and his wife Elizabeth are buried in the Cannon Falls Cemetery where the statue and monument are.
Businesses get ready
Brittany McCloud, a baker and cake decorator at Hi-Quality Bakery, was busy making wedding cakes Friday — and fielding questions from news reporters.
"I think that's neat that he comes to a town and can show support to a smaller town," she said.
The bakery is normally closed on Mondays, but will be open this Monday, with a case full of cakes, cookies and cupcakes in anticipation of numerous visitors, she said.
Additional business is the only thing that sweetens the presidential visit for Al Boyum, owner of Rapp's Mileage & Pizza.
"I don't know the agenda or why he picked here," he said. "Cannon Falls is 4,000 people, so I guess he could have 4,000 people yelling at him versus 20,000. He could go someplace else and that would be fine. I will be glad when he's gone."
Nevertheless, Boyum is hoping to sell lots of subs, pizzas and hot dogs on Monday.