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President's supporters call for 'four more years'

August 18, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

HEDGESVILLE, W.VA. - Like fans waiting for their favorite rock band to take the stage, a boisterous crowd of thousands gathered Tuesday at Hedgesville High School's Mumaw Stadium to cheer on the man they want in the White House for another four years.

Some adorned themselves with stickers and T-shirts bearing President Bush's name. Others wore hats with small American flags stuck in them.

"W Stands for Women," "Veterans for Bush," "Sportsmen for Bush," "Farmers for Bush." No matter your interest, there were signs stating it waving in the air throughout the crowd. Even one "Teachers for Bush" sign was spotted.

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Before Bush arrived at the stadium, intermittent chants of "four more years" echoed from parts of the football field where the campaign rally was about to take place. Fans of the 43rd president danced and shook their red, white and blue pompoms to mostly country music blaring over speakers and to a live concert by The Bellamy Brothers.

Shortly after 6 p.m., the chants turned into nearly deafening cheers as Bush appeared at the top of a set of bleachers, stopped and waved to those cheering for him.

As he made his way to the podium, chants of "four more years" again filled the football field.

Bush sparked a response from the crowd every time he mentioned Hedgesville or West Virginia throughout his roughly 45-minute speech, which touched on a variety of issues, including the war on terrorism, the economy and health care.

"I think he's awesome, and we need him," Beverly Stickel of Bunker Hill, W.Va., said after the rally. "We can't let Kerry in the next four years or we're in big trouble."

Stickel and her niece, BilleJean Malatt of Hedgesville, said they waited in line at Parcel Direct for about two hours for a shuttle to take them to the stadium.

Spectators attending the rally were bused to the school, where they were searched and scanned by security workers.

Malatt said she supports Bush because she thinks he'll make health care more affordable for her.

"I work for a small company, and we have to pay a lot out of our pockets to get insurance," Malatt said.

Resident Debbie Bell, who attended the campaign rally with her husband, Daniel, gave several reasons for supporting the president.

"He's Christian. He tells the truth. He stands behind our military," Bell said before Bush took to the field.

The Bells said their 20-year-old son, Daniel, is serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq.

Not all supported the president on Tuesday. About two hours before Bush spoke, a small crowd of protesters gathered across the street from the high school. Some held signs bearing the name of Sen. John Kerry, Bush's Democratic opponent, and others carried signs voicing their opposition to the war in Iraq.

Youngster Alex DeMarco's concerns weren't political.

"There are so many people, I can hardly take pictures," said Alex, who attended the rally with his parents, Bill and Karla DeMarco of Shepherdstown, W.Va.

"I thought it was pretty exciting," Karla DeMarco said. "I thought he talked a lot longer than I thought he would."

Bill DeMarco said he thought it was nice the president made his way around part of the crowd after his speech, shaking hands and signing autographs.

"He's a way better president than Kerry would ever be," said John Davis of Summit Point, W.Va., in Jefferson County. "He's not afraid to defend the country."

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