President George W. Bush landed in Park City in Marine One around 5 p.m. this evening, where a small crowd of both supporters and protestors greeted him.
The landing by Bush on ball fields adjacent to Park City Middle School drew the attention of local residents, who were gathering throughout the afternoon. What they saw was the landing of the iconic helicopter, as well as four other identical green U.S. Marine Corp. helicopters.
They also got a wave from Bush before he climbed into a waiting SUV. The motorcade then quickly left, bound for the second fundraiser at Mitt Romney's Deer Valley vacation home for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Earlier in the day, Bush went to a private fundraiser at a private home located on A Street and overlooking City Creek Canyon in the Avenues. He was joined at that fundraiser by Romney and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
The Avenues fundraiser was originally scheduled for the Grand America, but moved because of reportedly slow ticket sales. Prices at the Grand America were $10,000 for a luncheon and $500 for a reception, but the revamped fundraiser was only a reception, most likely with a lower price tag.
On their way to the Avenues fundraiser, the more than a dozen vehicles in the presidential motorcade sped along a freeway and streets cleared of traffic, past clusters of people gathered throughout downtown hoping to capture a glimpse of the Commander-in-Chief. A few held protest signs or offered hand gestures signaling their opinion of Bush. Others waved flags, including a man on State Street near 300 South dressed in Revolutionary War gear with a sign that read, "Terrorist Circa 1776."
The coming and going of the motorcade did cause some traffic headaches, especially when State St., 500 South, and I-80 westbound were closed for his trip back to the base around 4 p.m. The closures lasted approximately 20 minutes, enough to back-up traffic on downtown surface streets for multiple blocks and delay evening commuters even more than normal.
Across the street from the Avenues fundraiser, Sheyda Samie, 18, a West High School senior who cut her photo class to try to take a picture of Bush, had decorated her front yard for the occassion with a giant Barack Obama campaign sign plus several others, including one with a peace sign captioned "Back By Popular Demand." She said her family "decided that would be a great thing for everyone to see" and that she hoped Bush noticed.
Samie said she wasn't sure he did because she only "kind of" saw the president. But she still expected to have photographs worthy of turning in for her assignment, titled "My Life, My Salt Lake," at the end of the week.
"I think my photo teacher will appreciate the photos I've taken," she said.
Standing next to Samie was a Bush supporter, retired Chicago dentist John Sonneberg, who recalled meeting Mitt Rommey as a child. Romney's father, the late George Romney, a former governor of Michigan, visited Sonneberg's Chicago home as an official of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Another Bush supporter outside the fundraiser was Kim Harrington, a server at Lamb's. She hoped to be able to tell her customers Thursday she saw the president.
When Bush arrived in Salt Lake just before 3 p.m. he was delayed almost an hour because of a commencement address at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. he took only a few minutes at the Utah Air National Guard Base to present the President's Volunteer Service Award to Rick Pehrson of South Jordan. The award is one which Bush gives out at many of his stops around the country, and itt was presented to him in the shadow of Air Force One, next to the presidential limousine.
Pehrson, 24, has logged more than 900 hours serving as a team leader with Americorps Youth Service Corp. Pehrson received the award with his mother beside him.
He recruited, trained and managed more than 1,300 volunteers during the Utah State Capitol's rededication and eight-day open house. In addition, he helped organize and facilitate an annual youth conference that emphasizes youth-led service projects.
Pehrson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, served an LDS mission in Ecuador.
"It was incredible," Pehrson said after receiving the award from Bush. "He told me I was a soldier in the army of compassion."
Bush was greeted by Huntsman, former Utah governor and current U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, LDS Relief Society President Julie Beck, and Utah National Guard leaders.
Beck said she was asked by the White House to be a member of the welcoming committee. When she met President Bush, she thanked him for his family's sacrifices for the country and had a comical exchange about who she "relieves" in her role with the church.
"I was excited about the opportunity," she said.
During his two-day visit, Bush is expected to raise several million dollars for McCain. The Deer Valley event at Mitt Romney's vacation home carries a price tag of $70,100 per couple, meaning that if 100 couples attend and pay the full price, the event will reap over $7 million.
The event is reportedly drawing several hundred people from Utah, as well as other states, including Texas and California.
The president will spend the night at a Deer Valley hotel after traveling by helicopter from Salt Lake City this afternoon. The only Thursday item he has scheduled is a morning meeting with the First Presidency of the LDS Church, and he will depart just before 10 a.m.
Romney, the leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, easily beat McCain in Utah's GOP presidential primary last February with 90 percent of the vote.
And Romney collected an unprecedented $6 million-plus from Utahns during his bid for the White House. Now, as one of just 10 people said to be on McCain's shortlist of potential running mates, Romney is tapping his extensive network of supporters again.
In March, Romney and Huntsman teamed up with McCain at a fundraiser held at the Grand America Hotel that was expected to raise some $375,000. The McCain campaign has not announced a financial goal for the latest events.
Paired with Bush's visit are multiple protests. There will be an hour-long "Peace and Human Rights Rally" set to start at 5:30 p.m. at the Salt Lake City-County Building led by former Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson. At around the same time, a rally is scheduled in Park City.There is also an event sponsored by Moveon.org, which challenges people to differentiate between McCain and Bush quotes, scheduled for the Salt Lake City Main Library at 6 p.m. It is actually one of more than 300 identical events being held nationally tonight, so its pairing with the Bush visit is mostly coincidental.