Gulfport Prepares For Visit By President Bush - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

10/31/03

Gulfport Prepares For Visit By President Bush

Casey Caviness stood in front of his band and barked orders. "We're marching the President of the United States to the stage," he reminded the Long Beach musicians.

Caviness raised his hands. "One, two, from the top," he shouted. As the baton came down, "Hail to the Chief" came out of the Long Beach instruments.

While the band practiced for its presidential moment, roadies staged their own pre-visit performance. They set up bleachers around Jones Park, so invited guests would have good seats to hear George W. Bush campaign for his friend Haley Barbour.

Plans were changing by the second. Cell phones were quickly running out of battery power. "All right, bye bye," officer Alan Weatherford told one caller. He hung up that phone, and started talking on the second phone in his other ear. "Hey, tell Shiffer to call him in 20 minutes. And tell Shiff to get back with me," he said.

Weatherford orchestrated local security for the President's Gulfport appearance. It wasn't easy. "Panic," was the word he used to describe the planning. "You're talking about short notice, manpower intensive, putting personnel in appropriate locations."

Police must be in the right spots. Political banners must hang in the right spots, too.

"We finished eight banners and about 75 signs in about seven hours last night," Wendy Peavy said. Peavy got artistic help with the banners from two dozen Barbour supporters. "It was exciting. It was exhausting. It was really pretty cool," she said.

Pretty cool -- that's how Casey Caviness described his band's reaction to the news that it would perform Hail to the Chief on Saturday night.

If you're going to see President Bush tomorrow, the gates open after 3:30. You can bring a camera and a cell phone with you. But leave your coolers, umbrellas and lawn chairs at home, because they will be confiscated.

by Brad Kessie

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