First family arrives on Mount Desert Island
Trenton — President Barack Obama and his family, including their dog, Bo, arrived in Maine on Friday, July 16, a little after noon, having flown into the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton in separate aircraft. The canine Obama flew in one aircraft and the human Obamas in the other.
Bo arrived first, in a gleaming white, unmarked aircraft, accompanied by a handful of support staff, media and dignitaries. The first family's aircraft arrived a few minutes after Bo's flight was near empty of occupants.
The telltale differences between the two aircraft were the words "United States of America" across the fuselage of the second plane and the pair of military personnel, who exited that plane immediately after it landed, and remained standing, ramrod still, at the bottom of the steps until the president and his family had disembarked.
The president emerged from Air Force One with a big smile and saluted as he made his way down the steps and was greeted by Gov. John Baldacci and his wife, Karen. Also with the Baldaccis were U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, and Bar Harbor Town Council Chairwoman Ruth Eveland.
The Maine welcoming party delivered a bounty of gifts in an L.L. Bean tote bag to the first family. The gift bag included balsam pillows, cans of Moxie, bottles of Poland Spring water, organic maple syrup, blueberry jam, Raye's mustard and pretzels, Gladstone's trail mix, Little Lad's herbed popcorn, chocolate-covered blueberries and cranberries, a "Dishing Up Maine" cookbook, an Acadia panorama book, Acadia postcards and Downeast Garden daytime planners. The Obamas were also given handmade baskets from Gov. Nicholas of the Passamaquoddy Tribe.
The governor also presented the president with a Maine Black Bears hockey hat.
For Obama daughters Malia and Sasha, there were Sea Bags tote bags, books about Maine by Greg Currier, lobster, and loon and chickadee stuffed animals, as well as their own water, trail mix and balsam pillows. All the girls might need for their visit to Acadia National Park and wherever else they visit on MDI.
Of the gifts, Baldacci said they represented a taste of what Maine had to offer, and that they were some things that would give the Obamas a "warm spot for Maine."
"The president has been to Maine before, but when he gets the opportunity to get outside to enjoy the air, the water and the people, we know they will want to come back again," said Baldacci. "Acadia is a signature national park, and with this opportunity to get out and enjoy Maine, I am convinced that they [the Obamas] will come back."
When asked why the president chose to visit Maine, Baldacci said he learned that everyone in the Obama family had something good to say about the state, and that during the planning, they were hard-pressed to find enough seats on the aircraft for everyone who wanted to come along.
Baldacci noted the smile on the president's face when he got off the plane, and he said he told Obama that it was his hope he would have the opportunity to enjoy Maine and a great lobster dinner while he was here.
"The president stressed to me that the trip was not considered a family vacation, but rather a Saturday and Sunday with his family in Maine," said Baldacci.
As for what that seemingly simple gesture will mean for the state, Baldacci called it a "great boost" to Maine's economy.
"It will be a shot in the arm for the entire state," said Baldacci. "The weather is agreeable this weekend, the timing is perfect and the fog has even lifted."
When asked what he said to Obama in the brief time they talked before the first family and its entourage departed the airport tarmac, Michaud said he stressed the importance of jobs in Maine, and pointed to the need for strengthening the state's railroad infrastructure.
"I told him we are glad they are here, and that we need help with the North Penobscot-Aroostook County railroad problem. I told him it's important to the economy, and he asked how much money was needed," said Michaud. "I put it on his radar screen."
As for the state's unemployment concerns, Michaud said he told Obama that joblessness is a problem in Maine, as in so many other states.
"That's why the railroad is so important. We have a great opportunity here. And the president is doing all he can to stimulate the economy," said Michaud.
From the White House: an update on the Obamas' visit
After more than an hour of biking around Acadia's Witch Hole Pond, the Obamas headed straight up Cadillac Mountain, which at roughly 1,500 feet is the highest point on the eastern seaboard. At the summit, the first family was given a personal tour by Acadia National Park Superintendent Sheridan Steele and talked with several families who happened to be touring the mountain at the time.
The Obamas then took a leisurely stroll along a lower pathway offering stunning views of Frenchman's Bay. Walking by themselves, as spectators and media watched from a distance, Barack and Michelle Obama held hands for a spell as they strolled along the path, with Sasha and Malia trailing close behind.
The president's unannounced visit was a pleasant surprise to Jeff and Doris Picard, an Exeter, N.H., couple staying in the same hotel as the first family. Doris Picard said Michelle Obama talked with her about their trip and expressed concerns about potentially inconveniencing their stay.
Jeff Picard said he had a "very cordial conversation" with the president, during which he told Obama that he believed the stimulus package was helping his contracting business.
"I don't know if it was because of his doing, but I have a good customer base and good business," Picard said.
Next stop for the motorcade was downtown Bar Harbor, where the family stopped off at Mount Desert Ice Cream at around 3:30 p.m. All four came out holding cones, and the president — who went with coconut ice cream — stopped to talk and pose for pictures with a group of German visitors.
The Obamas then traveled to their hotel, the Bar Harbor Regency.