With little fanfare, President Obama landed at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport yesterday afternoon to begin a 10-day Vineyard vacation as planned. Like last year, the arrival was completely closed to the public. The President traveled with the family dog, Bo, and a small group that included his close friend and senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and her daughter. First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters, Malia and Sasha, arrived on the Island earlier in the afternoon and were quietly whisked by the Secret Service to Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, where the Obamas will spend the second consecutive summer vacation of Mr. Obama’s young presidency.
Marine One touched down at 2:40 p.m. yesterday carrying the President. The weather was picture-perfect late August: clear and sunny with temperatures in the low 80s and low humidity. A small crowd lined the West Tisbury Road to wave as the Presidential motorcade sped past.
The President’s first partial day on the Island was uneventful and the Obamas were in for the night at Blue Heron Farm by just after 3 p.m.
The President arrived at Andrews Air Force Base shortly after 1 p.m. Pooled press reports noted the first dog took the opportunity to sniff out some snacks in the kitchen of the press cabin before Mr. Obama and his entourage departed for Cape Cod Coast Guard Air Station in Bourne. Also traveling with the President were deputy press secretary Bill Burton and homeland security advisor John Brennan.
Air Force One touched down at the Cape Cod air station at about 2:10 p.m., where Mr. Obama was greeted by Massachusetts Cong. William Delahunt. Mr. Obama gave him a big smile and put his arm around his shoulder.
Mr. Obama landed on the Vineyard 30 minutes later. The President wore navy blue slacks, a light-colored shirt and no tie.
In the hour leading up to the President’s arrival, excitement mounted in a tucked-away corner of the airport that fronted the tarmac. A string of yellow school buses were lined up in the distance to shield Mr. Obama from public view upon arrival; a small crowd gathered to catch a glimpse of Marine One as it landed. A lone West Tisbury police cruiser patrolled the area.
Summer visitor Dee Marshall of Hamden, Conn., said the reason for the sparse crowd was that people had been told the airport would be closed for the arrival. Driving into the airport business park in the early afternoon, she noticed it was still open. “I said, ‘Charlotte, keep going,’” she said of her friend and driver, Charlotte Boulding, also of Hamden. Both Ms. Marhsall and Ms. Boulding stood waiting for the President’s arrival for well over an hour.
Ms. Marshall said she had seen a red helicopter land at the airport shortly after she arrived, and a large sport utility vehicle sped away with the passengers. She speculated that it was Mrs. Obama and the first daughters, a fact later confirmed.
Travel plans for Island visitors Ameila Ames and Andy Gold were delayed slightly by the arrival of Mr. Obama. Their US Airways flight landed just before the President was scheduled to arrive, and Ms. Ames and Mr. Gold were unable to collect their luggage until after he had landed. Instead, they opted to join the spectators lining the fence hoping to catch a glimpse of Mr. Obama.
“At least we got to land,” said Ms. Gold. “It’s better than being stuck on the plane,” agreed Ms. Ames.
When a lone helicopter entered the airport airspace, most of the people gathered forgot the poison ivy growing around the fence and stepped in to get a closer look. The act proved fruitless when the helicopter continued to circle the tarmac. A short time later, two military helicopters neared the tarmac, landed and pulled up behind the row of schoolbuses, blocking all views of the passengers disembarking. Even the travel press pool, the only press allowed at the arrival, was too far back seeing the President.
Shortly after the President touched down on the Vineyard, traffic was stopped in the westbound lane of the West Tisbury Road to make way for the Presidential motorcade as it headed up-Island, to Mr. Obama’s vacation rental estate at Blue Heron Farm.
The President sat in the backseat of one of the black sport utility vehicles, easily visible from the roadside.
Clusters of spectators lining the road were mostly gracious, waving American flags and straining to catch a glimpse of the President. “One woman in a floppy yellow hat flashed a double thumbs-down,” the pool report noted.
By 3:15 p.m. the traveling press were sent home, with the Obamas in for the night.
The Obamas will stay on the Island until August 29, when he is scheduled to travel to New Orleans to speak on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
No public events are planned for the Vineyard visit. Mr. Obama is expected to play golf, as he did last year. Beyond that, no activities have been announced. Even the President’s summer reading list has not been disclosed.
Security this year is tighter than ever surrounding the Obamas’ vacation. In addition to the carloads of Secret Service, sharpshooters and other security personnel that accompany the President, Blue Heron Farm has been heavily armed with high-technology surveillance and other equipment.
During an informal briefing on a short list of domestic and international matters aboard Air Force One en route to Cape Cod, Mr. Burton told the traveling press corps about the attraction of the Vineyard for the President.
“It’s a comfortable place where he can rest and recharge the batteries a little bit,” Mr. Burton said. “It’s a beautiful part of the country. It has nice beaches and the folks are really great. The food is terrific. And it’s someplace that the President went before he was President, and likes to go back.”
Asked about the President’s work load during his vacation, Mr. Burton said that Mr. Obama will continue to get daily briefings about the economy and other issues as they arise.
“There’s other things that come up, and he’ll obviously attend to those as necessary,” Mr. Burton said.