Cooperstown residents and visitors said they were disappointed they could not see President Barack Obama in Cooperstown on Thursday, but agreed it was an honor just to be there for the historic event.
After the president’s speech concluded at about 4 p.m., rumors began to swirl on the street that he would be making an appearance outside The Hall of Fame after exiting the facility.
Speculation skyrocketed when news teams and police officers gathered at the entrance to the building and set up metal barriers, which seemed to confirm a possible meet-and-greet.
George and Leola Streeter traveled from Ilion to see the president, they said. George said he collects a special line of presidential baseball cards produced by Topps.
“I’m hoping to get this one signed by him,” Streeter said, before Obama’s arrival.
Leola said this would not be her first time meeting a president. In 1960, she met President John F. Kennedy while in high school at Ilion.
“He was so handsome,” Leola said. “It was really something to see him in person. You don’t usually see a president.”
Nadine Wood, of Cortland, said her friends warned her she would not get to see President Barack Obama.
“They rained on my parade,” Cortland said. “But I was going to come anyways. Maybe I’ll see him, maybe I won’t. But I came to support him, either way.”
Kristin Karasek, an art teacher at Cooperstown High School, and her former student, Elizabeth Kenison, supported Obama in a creative way.
The two women spent more than four hours painting a caricature of Obama on a storefront window of F. R. Woods Memorabilia Shop on Main Street.
“Even if we don’t get to see him, it was still fun to do and be part of,” Kenison said.
Karasek said she was surprised more people were not lining up to see President Obama.
“Maybe people heard the media coverage that they probably wouldn’t be able to see him,” Karasek said. “But this is great. How much more American can you get?”
Eager fans who packed close to the barrier and waited patiently were let down when word spread that the president had already left Cooperstown and was on his way to Chicago.
“I wish he had at least shown his face,” said Florence Disotelle, of Ilion. “We’re big Obama supporters. It wouldn’t have taken much time. It would have been considerate for them to tell us he wasn’t coming out.”
Kathy and Ed Taylor, who traveled from Binghamton for the event, agreed.
“It’s a shame he couldn’t just pop out and say hi,” Kathy said. “Everyone worked so hard for that little bitty time that he was here. There was an 82-year-old lady down the street waiting to see him. She would have been thrilled.”
Kelly Steele, of Cooperstown, was looking forward to shaking hands with the president, or at least taking a picture of him.
“I met and talked with George W. Bush and Laura at a party in Cooperstown when Bush was still governor of Texas,” Steele said. “They were great, but to meet an actual president — that would have been wonderful.”
Although the mood was brought down after Obama’s silent exit, one Oneonta resident at the scene, Jacqueline Schaaf, remained positive.
Schaaf said she would have liked to tell the president that he and his family are an inspiration to her and many other families.
“But it’s still exciting that we were all here together,” Schaaf said, “and so close and able to be part of this day.”