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Cokato woman shakes the President’s hand
AUG, 29, 2011

Couple gets once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear a president speak

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

COKATO, MN – It’s not every day when a person has the opportunity to shake the hand of the President of the United States of America.

When Dawn Fitzer, Cokato, heard President Barack Obama was coming to Cannon Falls Aug. 15, she had to at least try to get tickets.

“I didn’t think, ever in my lifetime, I would meet a president,” Fitzer said.

It was the Friday before Obama’s scheduled Monday town hall meeting that Fitzer began making arrangements for lodging in Cannon Falls, a rural town located 35 miles south of the Twin Cities on Highway 52. Cannon Falls was the first stop of a three-day bus tour around the Midwest.

Dawn, a personal aide for Life Works, arrived in Cannon Falls early Saturday morning to get familiar with the town and get more details about the event. Her husband, John, a Delano High School Spanish teacher, arrived later that afternoon.

Tickets were distributed at the city hall Sunday at 1 p.m., however, people weren’t allowed to camp out and wait in line, Dawn said, adding that an official line wasn’t allowed to start until 6 a.m. that day. They were told there were 500 tickets available.

Dawn estimated that there were about 900 people in line for tickets, but there was only 500 tickets distributed, with a two-ticket limit per person. She was about 28th in line.

This was undoubtedly the longest Dawn has ever stood in line for anything.

“It was exhausting,” she said, of the entire process, adding that it was all worth it. “It’s the president.”

At 1 p.m., the line started to move and 15 people at a time were let into the city hall to get their tickets for the President’s visit the following day.

Doors opened for the event at 9 a.m. The President began speaking to the crowd around noon in Hannah’s Bend Park, with the backdrop of the Big and Little Cannon rivers.

The Fitzers were able to get as close as three rows back from where Obama spoke.

“It’s a beautiful city and the people were very nice down there,” Fitzer said.

The bowl-shaped park was secured with more than 200 Secret Service agents, and school buses were used as barriers at the top of the park for added security.

The President spoke for about 20 minutes, focusing on the economy, and allowed the remaining 40 minutes for questions to be asked by the audience.

He wanted to let people know he is as frustrated as the people are about the economic conditions, and encouraged them to contact their representatives, Dawn explained, noting that Obama said he had proposals for job creation, but they are hung up in Congress.

John described the President’s talk as “inspiring.”

“Seeing him in person just fills you with a lot of hope,” John said. “It seemed like he was one of us.”

When the talk ended, Dawn maneuvered her way to the front, where she was able to shake the President’s hand.

Dawn remembers it all happening very quickly. “I reached out my hand like everyone else and said, ‘Thank you, Mr. President.’”

“It was an honor to have him come to Minnesota – I’m just thankful to have had the opportunity,” she said.

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