The sun started to peak out from behind the clouds as residents in Cooperstown walked up and down Main Street in anticipation of President Barack Obama’s visit later this afternoon.
Signs were hung, paintings were made and streets were cleaned in front of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Otsego County. After all, today marks the first time a sitting president is set to visit the museum.
“Since early this morning people have been washing their store windows, putting up banners and just really excited to welcome the President,” said Ainsley McCall, who works at F.R. Woods House of Pro Sports on Main Street.
The store is drawing a number of onlookers today thanks to Elizabeth Kenison and Kristin Karasek, who painted a picture of Obama wearing a baseball jersey on the store’s window.
Several children holding American flags ran up to the painting and asked their mother to snap a photo of them in front of it. They smiled and waved their flags screaming, “The president is coming!”
Down the block from F.R. Woods, employees at Depot Deli have been cooking since early this morning so they can be prepared to feed the State Police, who pre-ordered their food.
“We are busy trying to finish up their order before noon,” said Hay Young Wilkens, who has managed the deli for nine years. “Our slicer actually broke so now we are slicing meat by hand.”
Wilkens said many local residents have been talking about Obama’s visit for the past couple of days. Although attendance has slipped at the museum since 2007, Wilkens said she believes that will turn around.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and the museum plans to induct Joe Torre, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox to the hall this summer.
“I think this year will be a good year for Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame, and not just because of Obama’s visit – although that won’t hurt either,” said Sal Grigoli, owner of Sal’s Pizzeria on Main Street. “I hope we get to see him.”
Local residents and business owners opposed to hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, are preparing to rally across the street from the baseball museum ahead of Obama’s arrival at 3:30 p.m.
Isaac Silberman-Gorn, community organizer at Citizen Action of New York, said “fracking and tourism are not compatible.” He believes it could drive tourists away from the area.
“No one wants to come to a place where water quality is ruined,” he said. “People in this town and this county want to keep their water clean and keep their culture alive.”
Obama is visiting Cooperstown on Thursday to highlight the country’s travel and tourism industries and discuss ways to grow international tourism at destinations like the Baseball Hall of Fame.
During his speech, which is scheduled to start at 3:55 p.m., Obama will announce efforts to encourage more travelers to visit the United States including a plan to decrease the wait time at 15 of the country’s largest airports.
“This is a great day for Cooperstown,” Wilkens said. “Even though he is only here for about an hour, I think Obama will leave a lasting impression.”