Editor’s note: Once a Democratic bastion, Woodstock was selected by Republican George Bush as the place to kick off his 1992 presidential re-election campaign. The rally drew 25,000 people. Here is a story from 1992 about the preparations for the rally. He also campaigned at the train station in Norcross, Ga. Bush lost the November election to Democrat Bill Clinton.
Searching for that down-home atmosphere to help kick off his campaign, President Bush arrives Saturday in downtown Woodstock for a rally being billed as "A Main Street Welcome."
Event organizers hope to fill Main Street with more than 20,000 enthusiastic, banner-waving Republicans, showing the nation that Small- Town America loves its president. But most of that expected throng won't be small-town - it'll be from the suburban subdivisions that rapidly grew around the once rural town.
"But why Woodstock?" asked Nick Summers, a Main Street barber with a Santa Claus beard and a befuddled expression.
"This area reflects the family values the president espouses," said an enthusiastic Mayor David Rogers, who had tried for the past year to get the president to visit. "We're a small town that's growing. People here are religious, conservative and very active. And, of course, being a heavily Republican area doesn't hurt."
In the 1984 presidential preference primary, only 458 Cherokee County voters cast Republican ballots. This year, 8,512 did, two-thirds of them for President Bush. It's the most dramatic turnaround in the state.
Cheap land and the new Interstate 575 have made Cherokee County an attractive setting for transplants to Georgia and white people moving away from Atlanta.
The population grew almost 75 percent during the 1980s, to 90,000 residents. Most new residents were conservative and Republican - or became Republicans during the Reagan era because they said the Democratic Party had moved too far to the left. They moved to south Cherokee, which is now indistinguishable from north Cobb.
"Simply put, a whole lot of people live in that area, a whole lot of people with strong Republican tendencies," said Fred Cooper, chairman of the Bush campaign in Georgia, answering the "Why Woodstock?" question.
He said the small-town setting, coupled with the huge surrounding Republican population nearby and in surrounding counties, made it a good choice. Also, Woodstock is convenient to Dobbins Air Force Base, where the president will arrive.
"It's a county with an enormous shift in voting patterns," he said. "The president needs a big turnout from that area to carry Georgia. It's an important state."
The importance of the new suburbs surrounding Atlanta wasn't lost on the Bush people, said Gary Holcombe, financial chairman of Cherokee's Republican Party. "If he wins the doughnut, he wins Georgia."
Keep it 'small town'
The president will speak from a stage standing in the middle of the relatively sleepy three-block downtown area, across the street from the old railroad depot, which city workers hurriedly washed and painted.
Since learning of the visit last week, merchants have scrubbed windows and painted awnings. City workers trimmed the Bradford pear trees on Main Street and filled potholes.
Shuttle buses have been arranged, tens of thousands of invitations were mailed out to Republican voters, Secret Service agents scouted potential trouble spots and high school bands have been practicing.
"They told us to keep it small town," said City Councilman R.J. Coolidge, who is coordinating the city's effort. "It's funny - you see these things on TV and don't realize what goes into it."
"I guess he sees it as a good grass-roots small town that would make good videotape," said Bud Moore, a retired Methodist minister, as he dug into his black-eyed peas at Crane's Restaurant.
Clinton roof signs
David Croft, the restaurant proprietor and an erstwhile Perot supporter, calls the visit a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." He pauses and envisions the president of the United States standing on a stage directly in front of his cafe. "Having him outside and behind him a sign saying Crane's Family Restaurant, I see it helping my business," he said.
In fact, merchants are using the opportunity to unveil a publicity campaign to combat the consumer drift to the growing Georgia 92 commercial corridor a mile to the south. They will unfurl banners proclaiming "Olde Towne Woodstock." They claim the extra 'E's were not added for Dan Quayle's benefit.
Likewise, the opportunity is not lost on the county's Democrats, whose headquarters is just a few storefronts down the block.
"We're hoping to have Clinton-Gore signs on the roof," said Latrell Anderson, Democratic county chairman. "As big as we can get."
According to a US government site housing George Bush’s comments that day in Woodstock, the president was joined by then-state legisator Johnny Isakson; Fred Cooper, Georgia Bush-Quayle chairman; and Alec Poitevint, Georgia Republican Party chairman.
The original story in the AJC included these photos:
- Preparing for the president, Gene Hacker moves supplies into the stage area in front of Crane's Restaurant in downtown Woodstock.
- Student Anna Stickles helps put up welcoming signs at Rainbow Education, a Woodstock school that helps people prepare for the GED test.
- Woodstock welcome signs abound. Here, Gordon Robinson checks the one at Morgan’s Ace Hardware.
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