Good for Parkville. There’s nothing like a president dropping by to perk up a town. President Barack Obama last week stopped into Parkville Coffee, a shop on the city’s Main Street. The president and I came so close to being in waving distance. About the same time Obama was picking up patrons’ tabs for coffee and tea in Parkville on July 30, I had by coincidence ventured to a bank branch on Prairie View Drive. The branch was just north of Northwest 64th Street, the direct route from Interstate 29 to Parkville. I had driven north from south of the river. North of the Briarcliff area, I noticed Kansas City police everywhere and several drivers had been pulled over for a violation or for looking suspicious. Missouri State Highway Patrol cars were parked at various places. They were stacked two by two off NW 64th Street. I figured the president was traveling between Kansas City International Airport and some important place downtown or on the Plaza. We knew he was in Kansas City. Little did I know the chief executive was pressing palms and sipping tea in Parkville. I guess some folks in town had some warning. But for others just counting on a cup of coffee, wow, they sure had something to chat about as the President’s motorcade pulled away. The Kansas City Star described it as a “sizable motorcade.” This certainly adds another colorful bit of history to a town loaded with history. George S. Park, the town’s founder and a liberal anti-slavery advocate, would be proud. The Park University library featured a life-size photo cutout of Park earlier this year for a history display. I suggest they print one of the president in Parkville and place it beside Park in the library. Maybe the White House press office has something print worthy. If you’re Democrat or Republican, a President in Platte County adds some zest. We have a tradition of Presidential visits. For this we can thank the factors of I-29, rural countryside, small towns, big hotels and airports all being handy at a spot in America’s heartland. Political planners have tapped us before. A motorcade and jet planes can stay on schedule in Platte County. Back in the 1980s, we had some major political figures jetting in and going to a farm south of Platte City for some photo ops on straw bales. The names escape me from that far back, but I remember the news clip would give the impression a President or secretary of agriculture was touring farm country. They took advantage of rural living at the city’s doorstep (there you go old Platte BPA fans). President Ronald Reagan once gave a long speech to a packed mass of school children and teachers inside the Wheeler Downtown Airport terminal. Ok, that’s in Clay County but close enough for us to almost claim it. This was about 1986 or so. Security was heavy. But I doubt if an event with so many people randomly milling about in front of a president will be staged again in our time. President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s spoke to a large Republican function at one of the major hotels in Platte County along the I-29 corridor. I heard his voice but did not see his face. The Kansas City Star was prepared for all contingencies, and I was a reporter stationed in a hallway outside the ballroom in case a bomb exploded or something similar. The president was whisked away quickly afterwards and hopped on a jet to Washington. Obama stayed in Parkville an hour when his staff expected a half-hour visit. The Star quoted him as saying, “Trying to delay this as long as possible because I’m having fun.” He might have meant it. Just think, a common everyday place and people that you and I think nothing extra about experiencing: for a President, it’s a novelty. No matter which political party in office, that person is isolated from our daily affairs. Their day usually involves the world and power people. Obama stopped in Cool Vintage Watches and Peddler’s Wagon, too. Parkville hasn’t had such a bright media spotlight since the 1993 flood rose high on Main Street. I was there for that, and I’ll guarantee you this was more fun. Good job Parkville. I’m betting whoever is elected president in a few years makes a stop in Platte County, too. When you’re hopping across the country, we’re convenient.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.