After three consecutive summer vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama and his family apparently will not be relaxing on the island this year as a heated presidential campaign gathers momentum toward what is expected to be a close election.
The State Police detachment on the island has been told that the president will not be coming; extensive bookings to house the president’s staff and security have been canceled by the White House travel office; and the 28-acre waterfront estate in Chilmark where the Obamas stayed the last three years has been sold to a British couple.
“The word I have is that they are not coming this year,” said State Police Sergeant Thomas Medeiros, who said that notice came from the Secret Service.
As a result, tee times in mid-to-late August might be easier to book on the Vineyard’s golf courses; meals at Nancy’s in Oak Bluffs and the Beach Plum Inn in Menemsha might be uninterrupted by a presidential visit complete with the Secret Service; and traffic might be slowed only by the normal congestion that makes summer driving on the Vineyard a stop-and-go endurance test.
Still, “I think the fun and the curiosity and the buzz that comes with this will be missed, quite frankly,” said Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce.
Dave Gaffey, general manager of Nancy’s, said the Obamas have been repeat customers who usually arrive with 10 minutes notice to eat in the dining room or pick up a takeout meal.
“They are just a great group of people,” Gaffey said of Obama, his family, and their entourage. “He usually comes in with a large group, and they order a wide variety off the menu and kind of share that — lobster rolls, fried clams, practically one of everything.”
The White House declined to comment Monday on the Obama family vacation plans.
Last summer, Obama was criticized for vacationing at a time when Republicans said he should have been concentrating on the economy. With the election only four months away, any time spent bicycling or golfing on Martha’s Vineyard will be time the president can spend making a case for reelection.
Although players at the Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown, Farm Neck in Oak Bluffs, or Mink Meadows in Vineyard Haven might differ, Gaffey said Obama’s visits have not interfered with the summer routine.
“They’ve had to hold some traffic to let him get in and out, but they’re pretty professional about it,” Gaffey said of the Secret Service. “They’ve got it down to a science.”
Gardella said the White House had booked accommodations for August and canceled those plans in May. The Blue Heron Farm, used by the Obamas, was purchased in November by a renowned British architect and his wife for $21.9 million. The farm had offered rentals at $50,000 a week.
Gardella said the president’s absence will add a little flexibility to the island’s end-of-
summer economy, from the number of rooms available to the income they can generate.
“They’re not like the typical consumer,’’ Gardella said of the president’s large contingent. “They’re not asking for deals or negotiating rates. They ask for no favors; they cause no trouble; they pay on time. They’re the ideal customer.”
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