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Biden to spend Thanksgiving on Nantucket, reviving a family tradition

From left, Finnegan, Natalie, Joe, and Maisy Biden returned ashore after plunging into cool waters at Nantucket's Children's Beach on Nov. 22, 2012.Kris Kinsley Hancock

WASHINGTON — President Biden will spend Thanksgiving on Nantucket, according to a source familiar with his plans, reviving a family tradition of gathering his family for the holiday on the island.

The exact timing and location of the visit is being determined, the source said.

Biden has celebrated Thanksgiving on Nantucket nearly every year since 1975. He does not own a home there and has stayed in different rental properties over the years as he hosted a large family gathering and participated in events like the polar plunge.

Stephanie Correia, owner of Stephanie’s Nantucket, a women’s clothing boutique on Main Street, said she’ll be curious to see if Biden will be as conspicuous as he was in previous visits. If so, she said, that could be good for merchants.


“He was very present as vice president, but these are uncharted waters,” Correia said Monday. “When he’s been around in the past, people were downtown trying to get a handshake. Hopefully, people will be encouraged to come to town to get a glimpse of him and we’ll benefit from the onlookers and the extra people.”

Biden did not celebrate the holiday on Nantucket last year after his election as president because of the pandemic, choosing instead to follow the advice of public health experts to avoid large gatherings that could spread the virus. He and his wife spent Thanksgiving at their home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., with their daughter Ashely Biden and her husband, Dr. Howard Krein.

But vaccinations have made large gatherings safer this year. Speaking at the White House this month after the federal government authorized vaccines for children ages 5 to 11, Biden said he looked forward, like many Americans, to a more traditional holiday this year.

“Last Thanksgiving, for the first time, it was just four of us — my wife and I, our daughter, and ... and my son-in-law,” he said at the White House on Nov. 3. “Later this month, our tables and our hearts are going to be filled, thanks to the vaccines.”


Although a Nantucket visit hadn’t been confirmed last week, locals were expecting — indeed, hoping — the Bidens would return to the island for Thanksgiving. As folks on Martha’s Vineyard know well from frequent visits by Barack Obama, there’s a cachet that comes with a presidential visit. But more than that, it can be good for business, say hoteliers and others on the island.

“Nantucket’s off-season appeal is gaining more traction among travelers, and a visit by President Biden would only confirm that there is so much to do in the fall on Nantucket,” said Garison Beale, general manager of Greydon Hotel Group, which operates the upscale Greydon House on Nantucket.

Biden first traveled to Nantucket for Thanksgiving as a young senator in 1975 on the recommendation of his then-chief of staff, Wes Barthelmes, who grew up in Winchester. Biden was looking for a quiet place to spend his first holiday with his soon-to-be second wife, Jill, and his two young sons, Beau, 5, and Hunter, 6, after the 1972 car crash that killed his first wife, Neilia, and their one-year-old daughter, Naomi.

The trip turned into a family tradition through his long career in the Senate and then as vice president under Obama. Over the years, Biden was frequently spotted at annual island holiday events, including the Turkey Trot road race, the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, and the Cold Turkey Plunge, including a 2012 dip in the icy waters by Biden and three of his grandchildren.


One of the few years Biden broke his family tradition was 2015, after the death of his son Beau from brain cancer. Seeking to avoid the memories that would come with a Thanksgiving on the island, where Beau married his wife, Hallie, the then-vice president and Jill spent the holiday on a diplomatic trip to Europe, according to The New York Times.

This year’s trip to Nantucket will be a much bigger event than Biden’s previous visits because it will involve all the logistics that go with presidential travel. Nantucket police Lieutenant Angus MacVicar said on Friday that the White House had finally apprised the department of Biden’s Thanksgiving plans, but couldn’t confirm if they involved a trip to the island. The information was marked “for law-enforcement purposes only,” MacVicar said.

Nantucket is no stranger to high-profile visitors, and most islanders have grown used to seeing a celebrity now and then. A few years ago, Kourtney Kardashian was photographed on the island, toting her children around the cobblestone streets and lunching at Cru Oyster Bar on Straight Wharf.

“At the end of the day, these are just people looking for some downtime, and people here treat them respectfully,” said an employee at the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce. “I mean, we have the Drew Barrymores and the Gwyneth Paltrows who come every summer and walk down the street, and no one bothers them.”


Hanna Krueger of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Jim Puzzanghera can be reached at jim.puzzanghera@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @JimPuzzanghera. Mark Shanahan can be reached at mark.shanahan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarkAShanahan.