President Barack Obama brought an old-fashioned street festival to the Village of East Davenport on Wednesday.
The smell of bratwurst and hot dogs filtered along East 11th Street as rock and country music hits wailed from speakers under a warm summer sky until Ground Force One arrived, and then the party truly started as the president and first lady Michelle Obama took the stage.
The president’s wife spoke fondly of Iowa and with disappointment at missing the Iowa State Fair. The president visited the state fair Monday night, but she had not yet joined the campaign trip.
“You have shown us so much love,” she said.
The crowd, estimated by the Obama campaign at 3,000, filled risers in front of Lagomarcino’s at the intersection of East 11th and Christie streets, the basketball court in Lindsay Park and on part of East 11th Street. It offered an enthusiastic welcome. He responded in kind with “Hello, Davenport!”
“It is good to be back in the Quads,” he said.
And off he went with a speech that praised his wife and daughters, attacked Republicans and promoted the accomplishments of his first term. He even reclaimed a term the GOP has embraced.
“I’ve become kind of fond of the term ‘Obamacare,’ he said, “because I do care.”
The president praised retired Rep. Lane Evans of Rock Island, who was at the event despite his battle with Parkinson’s disease. Obama gives his early endorsement from the longtime congressman significant credit for his election to the U.S. Senate from Illinois that ultimately propelled him to the White House.
Evans emerged from Lagomarcino’s in his wheelchair with a big grin on his face, the appreciation of Obama’s comments obvious.
“He loved that,” said Cher Erickson, Evans’ former caregiver.
Away from the stage, children ran and played while some rode bicycles. People without tickets listened and tried to get a glance from the south side of River Drive or the security perimeter at Mound Street. Faces lined the windows of Grumpy’s Saloon and the McClellan Stockade.
Navah Davis, 8, of Davenport, heard the president speak in person for the first time. She showed off a photo she will share with her third-grade class at Garfield Elementary School.
“I think it was pretty cool,” she said, saying that the best part of the president’s speech was about paying for college. She is catching up with her grandfather, Robert Overton, who has seen the president speak in person six times.
“Every chance I get, really,” he said.
The party wasn’t without its hiccups. A large crowd in close quarters caused a few heat-related illnesses. Medic EMS treated eight people, transporting to hospitals four people who were stable and not in serious condition, said Jerry Williams, Medic’s community relations manager. Genesis Health System spokesman Craig Cooper said at least six people were treated in the emergency room at Genesis Medical Center-East Rusholme Street and at least one at Genesis Medical Center-West Central Park Avenue.
“It was busier than we expected,” Williams said.
Maria M. Aguilera of Davenport came ready for the heat, with some light fabric to protect the back of her neck. Pins featuring the president and the first lady adorned her Obama shirt. She left motivated.
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“I went out and got a lot of people to vote,” she said of the 2008 election. “I’ll work again.”
While Aguilera was energized, Amanda Irish of Coralville was exhausted. Irish, who served in the U.S. Marines from 2002-06, met the president at breakfast in Cedar Rapids before traveling to Davenport to introduce him at the East Village event. She declined an offer to ride on the president’s Ground Force One bus.
“I was pretty nauseous at breakfast from nerves,” she said.
Irish, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public health, called her introduction of the Obamas “the most terrifying thing in the world.” She shook off her nerves, though, and enjoyed the speech, she said.
“I gave my hoots and hollers and clapped and got rid of the nerves,” she added.
Also stepping on the presidential stage was Judy Voss of Davenport, who led the Pledge of Allegiance. A Scott County team leader for the Obama campaign, she had met the president before, but she said this was better than a Christmas greeting that was “nano-seconds” in length.
“I got to see the president and first lady speak,” she said. “I got some wonderful pictures.
“Everyone is so thrilled with Michelle,” she said. “She is so darn popular.”