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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004


Kerry’s vacation
nears end

Local volunteers treated to Monday fiesta

Express Staff Writer

The days of Sen. John Kerry’s inconspicuous vacations to the Wood River Valley are, for the moment, over.

As the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Kerry, 60, traveled the past week through Ketchum and its environs with an entourage of staff members and U.S. Secret Service agents. Most places he went, the media wasn’t far behind.

Saturday afternoon was an opportunity for John Kerry to meet with skiers and snowboarders at the Warm Springs base of Bald Mountain. Among those he greeted were a group of young ski racers. Express photo by Willy Cook

The relative media and security circus was a far cry from the Massachusetts senator’s previous visits when he played low-key games of broom ball hockey at the Sun Valley Ice Arena and skied unnoticed down Bald Mountain’s expert slopes.

Kerry arrived at his family’s Ketchum vacation home Wednesday, March 17, for a one-week respite from the presidential campaign trail. Following a week of skiing and snowboarding, he was scheduled to return to the campaign today.

Local police officers have helped with security concerns, but the Secret Service has handled the brunt of the job, said Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling. Secret Service agents have been using an RV owned by the sheriff’s office as a command center, Femling added. The RV is parked in the driveway at the Kerry.

According to local volunteers who helped drive or run errands for Kerry and his staff, the Sun Valley area is an ideal setting for the senator to find renewed vigor for the long road to the November general election.

"I think he needed a break. He’s been on 150 percent for a long time," said Idaho House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum. Jaquet and her husband, Jim, used their home in Hulen Meadows as a staging area for the roughly 50 Blaine County volunteers.

"It was lots of food, lots of volunteers, lots of energy," she said. "When you do something like that, you’re on call."

Monday night the volunteers were treated to a party at The Roosevelt Tavern in Ketchum. Though Kerry was only a block away at The Cellar Pub, he did not make an appearance at the volunteers’ party. That, however, didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of his local supporters.

Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, gave up her Hulen Meadows home for a week so it could be used as a staging area for local residents who volunteered to help with John Kerry’s Sun Valley vacation. "I think he needed a break. He’s been on 150 percent for a long time," Jaquet said. Express photo by Willy Cook

Responding to newspaper articles that questioned whether Kerry’s vacation was warranted or well timed, Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael said she is excited that the potential president seems to know how to recharge.

"I want my president to go skiing, to go boarding, to be a normal human being," she said. "The fact that John Kerry loves beautiful places means he will work hard to protect them."

Jeff Winmill, a field organizer for the Kerry campaign, said the local volunteers’ effort was "marvelous."

"There is a spirit of volunteerism in the Wood River Valley," Winmill observed.

Kerry and his wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry, stirred the interest of residents and visitors alike wherever they went throughout the week. At The Cellar on Monday, curious patrons peeked into the back room, which was cordoned off by Secret Service agents. On Baldy, nearby skiers and snowboarders generally gave Kerry a polite round of applause as he passed. Occasional hecklers offered him boos or asked him to reveal the names of foreign leaders who were allegedly supporting his candidacy.

Friday morning, as Kerry donned snowshoes and strapped a snowboard to his back at the base of Durance, a popular backcountry ski run north of Ketchum, a dozen reporters and photographers watched. Some, poorly equipped for snow travel, fell in the soft, spring snow.

"It was a hard, hard day," said Kerry’s personal assistant Marvin Nicholson, who hiked the mountain with his boss. Nicholson is a native of British Columbia who has lived in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., for the last five years. Nearly everywhere Kerry goes, Nicholson goes, too.

"It’s weird, but we have a lot of similar interests," he said. "We just get along. He’s such an active guy. He’s not your regular 60-year-old."

Nicholson met the senator while working at a surf and snowboard shop in Cambridge, Mass.

"The senator would come in every few weeks. He’d come in looking for a part for kite boarding, surfing or wind surfing," he said. On Baldy, Nicholson offered his boss occasional snowboarding tips.

Local volunteers helped to make John Kerry’s Sun Valley vacation a success. Blaine County Democrats Chair Betty Murphy and Democratic volunteer Richard Stephenson were among the roughly 50 local residents who helped run errands and drive for the presidential hopeful. Express photo by Willy Cook

Kerry’s trip was not a pure vacation, however.

On Saturday, he found time to fire back at the strongest criticism he’s gotten to date from President George W. Bush.

"Today, George Bush proved to the American people that he is incapable of solving our economic problems from the simple reason that he doesn’t see them," Kerry said in a statement issued here.

But as the day dawned, the biggest decision Kerry was faced with was whether to ski or snowboard.

"It’s a ski day, part of the day," he said. He shook hands with skiers and signed some autographs before boarding a lift at the Warm Springs base of the Baldy.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.