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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Crowd has many reasons for seeing Bush

President Bush supporters hold up W signs during the president's re-election speech at Kell Corporation Wednesday in Chippewa Falls.


Gary Wilfong came to Chippewa Falls Wednesday to hear President George W. Bush talk about people. Orlin Larson made the trip because Bush is "his man." And Bruce Dressel traveled across town because it was an opportunity to see a sitting president.

Thousands of people converged on Kell Container to see the president. Their reasons for making the trip to the grounds of the manufacturing company were as different as the people themselves.
Wilfong, of Bloomer, ran across the parking lot towards a group of friends waving his arms.

"I was about five feet from him," Wilfong said of the president. "He was signing autographs -- lots of them."

As Bush walked by, Wilfong reached out his hand hoping to receive a handshake, a handshake that never came.

"But that's all right. I'm just excited to get to hear his speech," he said. "He nailed what America is all about. America's about people, not government, and I think his message hit home with everyone."

Bob Crosby called the president's visit incredible. And Crosby means the whole visit, not just the speech.

Crosby works for Kell Container and had spent a better part of the week moving semi-trailers around the perimeter of the Kell plant.

"It was a lot of work for all of us, but well worth it," he said. He also said he was moved by Bush's message.

"I'd like to think we're all better off with him, and time will tell," he said.

Michael and Dana Barone of Chippewa Falls brought their entire family to see the president. That was no easy chore, considering that meant he and his wife were keeping track of six children, ranging in age from 8 1/2 years to 2 1/2 months.

"Unless they become president, this is probably going to be a lifetime thing for them," said Dana.

"We're coming to see what he talks about," Michael said. "If he talks pro-life, we're probably going to vote for him. I think he's been superb in everything he's done so far."

Like the Barones, Dressel also brought young members of his family to see the president.

"I brought my two grandsons so they could see a sitting president," the Chippewa Falls man said.

"It was pretty cool," said Tyler Dressel, 16. "The excitement was more than I thought it would be."

"It was very good. He gave a good speech," said Tyler's grandfather, who also saw Bush's father when the 41st president made a train ride through town on Halloween night of 1992.

"Every time a president is here speaking I want to see him," Dressel said.

Ursula Brown of Chippewa Falls is a lifelong Republican who won't be changing her stance for this election. But for her this was more than about party politics.

"It's an honor to see the president," said Brown, who also saw the first President Bush.

"This will mean he's interested in small towns," Brown said of the current president's visit to Chippewa Falls. "The fact that he is a religious man is important to me."

She did believe that this election might be more partisan than previous elections.

"There's a lot more negative campaigning going on, especially by the opposition party. Republicans are a little more honest," Brown said.

Larson, of Osseo, intends to cast a vote for Bush for the fourth time in November.

"Fourth time?" Larson was asked.

"I voted for Bush in 2000 and twice for governor," said Larson, who moved to the Chippewa Valley from Texas. "I voted for his father, too."

When asked what brought him to Chippewa Falls, Larson responded with a simple answer.

"George, George, George. George Bush is my man," said the retired postman.

Larson said the Chippewa Valley needs Bush to remain its president.

"This is a good labor area with lots of unions and I'd say it's about 99 percent Democrat. The Democrats say they're for the people, but then they tax the (expletive) out of you," he said.

"That John Kerry, he's probably a nice guy, but he ain't my kind of politics. Now George Bush, I think his tax breaks have helped. No, I know they have," Larson said.

Kay McGill of New Auburn wasn't judging the Bush/Cheney ticket by campaign issues Wednesday. She had some concerns about what she considered a lack of organization concerning the event.

"I love George Bush, but if organization were a deciding factor in the election, Bush better pack his bags," McGill said.

Ross Evavold contributed to this story.

Reach Jeffrey Hage at

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