Try 1 month for 99¢

Kris Francis and her 10-year-old son, Jordan, came to Davenport from Woodhull, Ill., on Tuesday with one goal in mind - to see the president of the United States.

"It's unbelievable," Francis said of Barack Obama's visit to the Quad-City area.

Jordan said if given the chance, he would tell Obama "thank you for being the president."

They were among a small crowd that gathered on the sidewalk along 3rd Street, across from the Hotel Blackhawk, to wait for the motorcade to arrive.

When the $1.1 million armored tour bus and other vehicles finally rolled into the Blackhawk parking lot, Obama quietly entered the hotel, out of sight of the onlookers.

The anticipation of the excited crowd slowly let down as it became apparent that Obama's stay in Davenport would be shared by a select few.

Mayor Bill Gluba told the Quad-City Times earlier in the day that he planned to have dinner at the Blackhawk with "friends," adding that if the president wished to stop by to chat, he would welcome the visit.

Despite the armed guards and dogs around the hotel, Gluba said the visit was an "historic occasion for Davenport" and a great opportunity for the Blackhawk just months after reopening.

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, now U.S. secretary of agriculture, arrived at the hotel just before the president's motorcade pulled in.

As the 30-vehicle motorcade made its way from Peosta to Davenport, people in several towns along the way were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to share a presidential moment. Among them was Karen Wendel of DeWitt, who watched Obama's motorcade pull up to DeWitt's Dairy Delight.

Wendel climbed onto a picnic bench and began snapping pictures with her camera.

She said Obama came over to her, helped her off the bench and shook her hand.

"I told him that it was such an honor to have the president of the United States come to small-town USA," she said.

Then Obama bought a round of ice cream cones, she added.

Earlier, Obama surprised a girls varsity volleyball team practicing at the Maquoketa High School gymnasium.

He also stopped in LeClaire before finally heading into Davenport for the night.

Extraordinary security precautions were taken at the Blackhawk.

Secret Service agents were at the hotel for several days in advance of the visit. City crews closed off several streets in the vicinity of the hotel.

A dozen city of Davenport vehicles surrounded the hotel Tuesday afternoon. At one point, a city vehicle on East 4th Street delivered concrete barricades, which were placed curbside near the hotel, along with a row of bright orange shipping containers that had been put into position Monday afternoon.

Davenport Police Capt. David Struckman took part in the motorcade patrol and said law enforcement agencies from multiple counties, towns and the Iowa State Patrol assisted.

Gluba said while it was an honor for Davenport to host the president for a night, it was unfortunate that the level of security made the Blackhawk into a "fortress."

"It's such a beautiful area, especially the Hotel Blackhawk renovation," Gluba said. "It's sad it has to be surrounded by shipping containers."

Gluba said times have changed, recalling how he drove presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy into Davenport in an open convertible in 1968.

"We've had other presidents who didn't have this much security," he said.

Meanwhile, the village Obama will visit first today in his swing through rural Henry County, Ill., is preparing for the occasion.

Gordo's Barn has been asked to cater Obama's town hall meeting at Wyffels Hybrids Inc. on U.S. 6 in Atkinson.

"We're making a whole variety of pizzas," waitress and bartender Blayne Johnson said. "We're popular for our pizzas."

They baked 16 pizzas Tuesday for the crew of Secret Service agents and White House staff who were at Wyffels to make last day preparations, Johnson said.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.