Prepared for the president

August 17, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

HEDGESVILLE, W.VA. - When those with GOP Victory 2004, Event Operations, needed answers to electrical questions about Mumaw Stadium at Hedgesville High School, they found the answers in Charlie Porterfield.

For years, Porterfield has voluntarily handled the electrical work at the football stadium where President Bush is to speak this evening.

Porterfield answered the questions about available power, but didn't stop there.

"I'm just doing odd jobs today, running and getting things for the guys," Porterfield, 68, said Monday. Among other things, he bought new flags for the stadium's flagpoles.


Bush is scheduled to speak to a crowd of thousands tonight at 6:25 p.m. at the event sponsored by GOP Victory 2004. Advance tickets, which are no longer available, are required to attend.

Bush is to "present his case to West Virginia voters (on) why he should be re-elected," said Mary Diamond, West Virginia Republican National Committee spokesperson.

On Monday, a small cadre of workers was setting up a stage, running cables, hanging lights and drapery and placing large speakers around the stadium. More than a dozen portable toilets were set up.

Two tractor-trailers were parked nearby while another flatbed trailer was being backed onto the field.

Porterfield, of Martinsburg, W.Va., said he has been a registered Republican for as long as he has been able to vote, but that he has never voted a straight ticket and would help out no matter what the president's party affiliation was.

"Regardless of what my politics are I still honor the president, the office of the president," he said.

Porterfield said he needed to check every light bulb in the stadium scoreboard. Where the time remaining in the game or quarter is normally displayed, bulbs reading "2004" will be lighted. In the space marking the game's quarter will be a "2," for a second term.

And in both end zones, play clocks will read "43," noting the 43rd president.

Elsewhere in the bleachers, Marty Kilmer was painting a handrail he built earlier in the morning.

Kilmer, 58, of Inwood, W.Va., took a paint chip from the bleachers to Lowe's to try to match the blue color. He said he's not sure whether the handrail will stay in place after the rally since he was told to screw, not nail, it in.

"I think it's great," Kilmer said of the president's visit. "I told them I'd help in any way I can."

Kilmer said he hopes the president will say one thing in particular: "That things will get better again," he said.

A Gulf War veteran, Kilmer said he expects the president to broach the topic of the military. "I feel for the boys in Iraq," Kilmer said.

Democrats plan rally

The president's visit is not being ignored by local Democrats. Eastern Panhandle Democratic Coordinated Campaign will hold what organizers say will be a peaceful, nondisruptive counter event in support of Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president.

Nancy Whalen said Kerry supporters will line up on private property near the football field, holding pro-Kerry signs. Banners or signs that are anti-Bush will not be allowed, she said.

"We are asking everyone to bring signs that are not caustic in any way," she said. "We don't want to denigrate in any way."

"We hope to give voice to those residents who are looking for a change in the direction of our government," Whalen said of the event, titled "The Long Wave Goodbye."

Whalen could not predict how many people will attend. Those who wish to take part are asked to arrive by noon and Whalen said the event will conclude before Bush speaks.

Tickets, please

Diamond could not say exactly how many tickets have been handed out, but said the number was in the thousands.

Because the event is to be outdoors with plenty of space, everyone who has a ticket will be allowed in, she said.

Those attending must park at the Parcel Direct distribution facility on GM Access Road, just off W.Va. 9 west of Martinsburg. W.Va. 9, from the Interstate 81 interchange to Butler's Chapel Road, will be shut down from approximately 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. and from 7:15 to 7:45 p.m., said West Virginia State Police Sgt. Ed Boober. Portions of Tabler Station Road also will be closed.

Buses belonging to Berkeley County Schools will shuttle people to and from the high school. Parking is not allowed at the school.

Berkeley County Schools spokeswoman Jaimee Borger said 3,500 people can be transported by bus each hour. She said more than 30 buses will take people to the site from 2 to 5 p.m.

More than 40 buses will be used to take people back to their cars afterward, Borger said.

Still cameras are allowed at the event.

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