How often has a United States VP candidate visited Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Florida? Reportedly never, until this week.
Folks gathered Monday, October 29, 2012 at Main Beach Park on the seaside lawn to watch history in the making on this little barrier island at the Florida-Georgia border. The official announcement came suddenly, just a few days before his arrival. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan was coming to town.
A huge American flag blew in the ocean breeze at Main Beach Park. There were two electronic screens and the backdrop to the stage was a huge banner, “WE NEED A REAL RECOVERY.”
Northeast Florida (and particularly, Nassau County, FL) is considered Republican territory and clearly it was an event attended by many loyal to the party. However, others went to the park to get a glimpse of the political process. For some, it was the first time attending a political rally. In the crowd were kids who missed school for the day or got excused early to witness this very rare event in our little seaside city.
The majority seemed to be seniors, many probably retired and more easily able to attend this event scheduled for 1:30 in the afternoon. (Congressman Ryan’s motorcade, however, arrived late and he didn’t start speaking for about another hour.)
The rally here was also significant, considering the election is so close, just next week. Lots of press were present including national media and Jacksonville’s news stations. It was also the last event of the Romney-Ryan campaign on Monday. Everything else for that day and for Tuesday were cancelled, as a campaign moratorium was announced. Another history maker, “perfect storm” Sandy, was bearing down in the northeast USA, effecting about one-third of the country.
Congressman Ryan received a warm welcome from the crowd of over 2,000 folks, many waving flags that had been distributed to some entering the event. He first spoke of the people in harms way of Sandy. Florida, of course, has seen its share of hurricanes over the years. (Although, we’ve been lucky here in the Amelia Island area, having dodged that bullet for almost half a century). He asked the crowd to give donations to the Red Cross.
“Let’s send our prayers and our thoughts to the people in the Northeast. Look, Floridians, you are no stranger to big storms. You know better than anyone on the need for communities to come together and for neighbors to help one another,” said Republican vice presidential candidate Ryan.
Folks had to pre-register online for a free ticket to enter the event and were required to walk through a security check point similar to airports. It may be a very long time, indeed, before we see secret service, bomb sniffing dogs, bags being searched and people getting “wanded” walking into Fernandina’s Main Beach Park.
Well known in the community, Aaron Bean, a Republican candidate for the Florida Senate, was just one of the preliminary speakers at the Main Beach rally. Just steps away his business, Fernandina’s “Putt-Putt” mini-golf is located oceanfront. Sure to be one for the books, a message “Putt Putt Welcomes Congressman Paul Ryan Go USA!”
We may never again see another sign like this around here, welcoming a VP candidate.