PENDLETON - Vice President Dick Cheney's planned campaign rally at the Pendleton Convention Center Friday has the town abuzz with sign-painting, security preparations and an expected counter-demonstration.
Lines have formed at the Oregon Wheat Growers League office throughout the week as supporters of the Bush administration's re-election seek tickets for the 10:35 a.m. rally. The Secret Service expects 2,000-2,500 people to attend.
Ben Talley, a local coordinator for the John Kerry presidential campaign, expected 50-100 people to attend a counter-rally at 11 a.m. Friday at Roy Raley Park. The Democrats plan to march from the park to the convention center and back, holding signs for an hour outside the Cheney rally. Talley said MoveOn.org, the liberal Internet-based advocacy group, would help spread the word about the protest.
Tickets for the Cheney rally were still available Wednesday, the Oregon Wheat Growers League reported.
It will be a quick stop for the vice president. He plans to fly into the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport at about 10 a.m. Friday and leave town around noon, said Ron Wampole, director of the Secret Service's Portland-based Oregon office.
Wampole said the traffic disruptions surrounding Cheney's visit should be minor and short-lived.
"I don't think it should be much of a disruption to Pendleton, except downtown and near the Convention Center," he said.
Wampole recommended that rally attendees not bring bags, backpacks or anything else to the convention center that might cause a security hassle.
The Secret Service is coordinating security with the Pendleton Police Department, the Oregon State Police, Umatilla County Sheriff's Office and Eastern Oregon Regional Airport, Wampole said.
The Secret Service also visited St. Anthony Hospital earlier this week. Wampole said it is standard procedure to survey the hospital's location and internal layout in case of an emergency. Cheney has suffered four heart attacks, most recently in 2000.
Bush-Cheney supporters met Wednesday night at the convention center to paint signs for the rally. More than 40 people, including several high schoolers, painted signs on the Convention Center floor while Republican National Convention speeches played on a nearby television.
"The biggest response we're getting is that people are excited that the vice president is coming to Eastern Oregon," said Brycen Woodley, Eastern Oregon field director for the campaign. "And what that shows is that the president and vice president are absolutely committed to Eastern Oregonians and the issues that they face."
One of the younger sign painters, however, seemed blissfully unaware of Cheney's politics.
"Is Cheney a Democrat?" asked Whitney Adams while she painted a banner reading, "Yee Haw Bush-Cheney."