KENNEBUNKPORT (AP) — The sight of former President Bush fishing or playing golf is so commonplace it barely raises an eyebrow.

But Thursday’s visit by his son, President George W. Bush, to the family home at Walker’s Point will be hard to overlook.

Residents anticipate helicopters, road blocks, motorcades and endless questions from tourists, a throwback to the days when Kennebunkport served as the elder Bush’s unofficial “summer White House.”

“Last year all you could hear was helicopters,” said Robert Fisher, owner of Mabel’s Lobster Claw restaurant, who recalled three presidential visits last year.

The president is expected to arrive Thursday afternoon. He plans to spend the weekend at the family compound before heading back to Washington on Monday. No public events are scheduled.

Residents had four years of practice dealing with motorcades and the Secret Service during the first Bush presidency. There was an eight-year respite courtesy of Bill Clinton before George W. Bush was elected.

Locals like Fisher aren’t complaining. He’s a big fan of the Bushes, especially George and Barbara Bush, who frequent the small restaurant and often bring along a few special guests. Last year, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas joined the Bushes for dinner.

The elder Bushes are frequently seen around town, eating at Mabel’s, playing a few rounds at the Cape Arundel Golf Club, or shopping at the boutiques that line Dock Square. They’re known as down-to-earth folks.

At Mabel’s, the former president usually orders his favorite dish – “he’s always an onion ring and swordfish lover” – and occasionally pops in for an ice cream cone on a hot summer night, Fisher said.

Others not so closely associated with the family are a bit less forgiving of the traffic problems created when major roads are shut off and the flock of tourists parading through town.

“I hear he’s coming and then I know we’ll have to give directions,” said Kate Hundley, manager of Atlantic Cotton Company, a local T-shirt shop.

Hundley thought a presidential visit was imminent when she noticed what she thought were Secret Service agents.

“They’re the guys who have funny earpieces standing in line at the deli,” Hundley said.

“And they all wear the same shoes – shiny,” added Nancy Poikonen, the store’s assistant manager.

Dock Square Clothiers manager Sharon Parrish said she enjoys the hubbub but not the inconvenience. Last year Secret Service agents booted her and her family off their front porch while the Bush family attended church, which is across from her home.

“I didn’t really see why they had to do that,” she said.

Bush’s father docks his cigarette boat Fidelity II behind the Yachtsmen Lodge, which is booked for the visit. He takes the boat fishing several times a week, said clerk Jack Martinovic.

“Nice fellow. Comes up to say hello a lot,” Martinovic said. “I had my picture taken with him.”

While some maintain an air of nonchalance, others are happy to cash in on the presidential connection.

Saxony Gifts and Imports is rife with Bush memorabilia – for both the 41st and 43rd president – including golf balls, shot glasses, and magnets with Bush-isms such as “I’m not a tree, I’m a Bush!” and the economic anthem “We ought to make the pie higher.”

A life-size cardboard cutout of George W. sells about six times a year for $24.95 a pop. Some people cart the poster out of the store to take a photo with him. Others apparently just want a hug.

“Lots of people come and they put their arms around him,” said cashier Somnamj Rith.

The summer home has been in the family since the turn of the century, and the elder Bush has visited every summer at the home since boyhood except when he served in the Navy in World War II.

The younger Bush visits infrequently, preferring his Texas ranch.

Before Bush’s arrival, tourists were lining the shores of Ocean Avenue to catch a view of the family’s three-story, stone and shingle house overlooking the ocean.

The silence around the compound was broken only by the U.S., Texas and Maine flags flapping in the wind.

on the home’s side grounds. The tourists all knew what that meant – the former president was at home.

Steve and Sue Myhra, vacationing from St. Peter, Minn., made a special trip to catch a glimpse of the president’s summer home.

They weren’t disappointed.

“It looks just like the picture I have in a book!” she said, excitedly snapping photos.

AP-ES-06-11-03 1251EDT



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