President Barack Obama and the First Family are expected to return to the Vineyard in a little over a week for their third consecutive summer vacation on the Island.
The White House press office yesterday could not officially confirm the dates of the president’s arrival. But it is understood that Mr. Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their two children will visit the Vineyard between August 17 and August 28 this year. The expected arrival date is understood to be August 18.
Mr. Obama and the First Family will again rent Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, the 28-acre estate overlooking Tisbury Great Pond owned by Mississippi businessman William Vandevender. Mr. Vandevender rents the house through the Edgartown real estate concern Wallace and Co. Sotheby’s International Realty.
At various locations around the Island preparations are under way for the President’s arrival. Members of the Secret Service have begun to set up in their customary spots, including at the Oak Bluffs harbor landing near the East Chop Beach Club.
Last week suddenly cell phone service in Chilmark, usually spotty to nonexistent, was crystal clear, another sign that the president is coming.
Peter Martell, owner of the Wesley Hotel in Oak Bluffs which has accommodated Secret Service agents during each presidential stay going back to Bill Clinton’s first visit in 1993, confirmed yesterday that he has once again booked a number of rooms for the agency. Mr. Martell said he looks forward to the presidential bump in business — that is, he said only half-jokingly, unless Washington falls apart in the next two weeks and the president cancels.
“It’s huge for business when he comes,” Mr. Martell said. “The Secret Service is great. They’re just like any other guests to me.”
Susan Goldstein, owner of the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven, said she has already booked three-quarters of her Vineyard Haven hotel for the White House traveling press corps. “They’re wonderful guests and they’re so hard-working,” Mrs. Goldstein said. “They’re so dedicated to their jobs.” She continued:
“We would be booked for that month anyway, but it’s very special to me, especially as a former social studies teacher at the West Tisbury School, to be so close to the center of what is going on in the world. The fact that the President could go anywhere on his vacation and he chooses to come here certainly validates my decision to live here year-round.”
Martha’s Vineyard airport manager Sean Flynn was characteristically coy.
“He’s coming?” he asked in mock disbelief, when reached by telephone yesterday. For Mr. Flynn the president’s arrival isn’t necessarily a boon to business.
“Traditionally we have lost 80 per cent of our traffic here but it doesn’t decrease the amount of work that we have to do,” he said. “I guess it’s just what we have to do but our hope is that they make it easier for people to fly.”
Mr. Flynn said that there will be a temporary flight restriction on Vineyard airspace for the entirety of the president’s stay, and that recreational pilots can get a waiver from the restriction through a complicated application process, made somewhat less onerous this year with changes in the rules.
“It’s supposed to get much easier this year,” Mr. Flynn said. “For the past two years, the stakeholders did listen to our industry’s suggestions and that’s what you’re seeing again. They’re listening to the suggestions of those who fly in the airspace so that it doesn’t compromise security but at the same time allows a more free flow of flights.”
While the inveterate glad-hander Bill Clinton seemed to use his vacations on the Vineyard as an extension of his campaign, Mr. Obama has kept a far lower profile, opting to spend much of his time out of the public eye. His vacation routines include many rounds of golf, mainly at the Vineyard Golf Club but also at Mink Meadows and Farm Neck. In one change of pace last year he went for a workout on the Oak Bluffs School basketball court. There also were dinners out at State Road and the Sweet Life Cafe, and a trip to the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore where he picked up an advance copy of Jonathan Franzen’s much-hyped book of the summer, Freedom. There was also a family bike ride through the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest.
Islanders for the most part say they look forward to welcoming the Obamas back for their summer vacation.
One of the earliest confirmations of the president’s visit this year came at an Oak Bluffs selectmen’s meeting last month, when selectman Walter Vail announced that he would be taking a vacation from August 16 to 28 to accommodate Secret Service members who were renting his house.
“I don’t think you’re supposed to say that,” selectman Gail Barmakian said.