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Obamas in Chicago Memorial Day weekend

Thursday, July 22, 2010

President Barack Obama and his family are spending the Memorial Day weekend at their Hyde Park home.

The holiday weekend trip is the first visit to Chicago in more than a year.

Police say that some streets in President Obama's neighborhood were already closed by 6:30 a.m. Thursday. And travelers may expect some traffic nightmares on this busy Memorial Day weekend.

President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, Obama's mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, and family dog Bo arrived in Chicago Thursday evening.

The Obamas last came home for Valentine's weekend in 2009. There will be logistical challenges in getting the president in and out of the city four different times during the stay, including a day trip Friday for the president to Louisiana concerning the Gulf oil spill.

The president is scheduled to go to a southwest suburban ceremony on Memorial Day at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.

"You will notice around town this weekend there will be a big giant black van in that motorcade. That is affectionately known as The Roadrunner. It is run by the White House communications agency so anywhere the president is he can get secure communications back from the situation room in the White House," said Laura Schwartz, former Clinton White House staffer.

"He is the president; he has got to live somewhere. He has got a home. I'm happy for him and his kids," said Joanne Scott, Hyde Park resident.

Traffic is closed on 51st Street between Woodlawn and Ellis.

Just the site of the presidential motorcade, sent the Kenwood community into a frenzy.

"I'm so excited. I feel like it's a birthday," said Imani Jones, Obama fan.

The first family stepped on to Marine One. After a short helicopter ride, the motorcade was on the ground in Kenwood. It was a warm welcome home.

"He's come home to his neighborhood to the people who love him," said Deidra Whitaker, Hyde Park resident.

"He's our first African American president. Very historical," said Max Lloyd, Hyde Park resident.

This is the first family's second trip back to Chicago.

"We thought he would come back more often but he's busy. He has a lot of stuff on his plate right now," said Andrew Whitaker, Hyde Park resident.

Until Monday, security will remain tight in Kenwood.

"Whatever it takes to keep the resident safe, that's what's most important. I think that's what everyone thinks," said Josephine Kamper, neighbor.

Neighbors used the visit to teach their kids something.

"You guys, you are one day going to tell your own children that you got to witness this. I love it. It's great," said Jessica Solomon, Obama's new neighbor.

Signs near the Obama family home in the Kenwood neighborhood say welcome "BO." No, not Barack Obama; it's a welcome home for his dog, "BO."

"These signs are in honor of the president and the first family coming with their Portuguese water dog, Bo," said Dr. James Wortman, a neighbor who added the welcome was really from his own two dogs. "Maybe we'll see see him. I don't know. We don't have any plans to. Maybe he'll stop by and look at the signs."

After he was elected, the president envisioned frequent visits to Chicago but the job and kids' activities kept the Obama family in D.C. Many in Hyde Park are not surprised that this weekend's visit is only the second for the Obama family.

"He doesn't really have the time because he has other things that he has to do that is more important that affects our country," said Randle.

Others say President Obama should skip the visit home and concentrate on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"First things first. The people should come first. All this other stuff is fine, but do what needs to be done first," said Earl Williams.

Obama will take a one-day trip to the Gulf of Mexico Friday. He will spend the rest of the weekend at home. The Hyde Park hair salon that his home to his barber hopes for a surprise, presidential visit.

"That's a long shot. I don't think so. But you never know," said Ishmel Coye, Hyde Park hair salon owner.

What exactly the Obamas will be doing remains a secret. The family is expected to spend the majority of their time at home. There are rumors the president may go to the Blackhawks game and the Goodman Theater.

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