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Traverse City residents reflect on President Biden’s Saturday visit

Andrew Rosenthal
Traverse City Record Eagle

President Biden landed at the Cherry Capital Airport just after twelve-thirty on Saturday afternoon.

On the Northeast side of the airport lifelong Traverse City resident Sarah Hadd and her daughter watched the plane land through a chain link fence surrounding the perimeter.

She says she was excited to share this memory with her daughter - and proud the President made an appearance in her hometown.

"It’s huge. I think it’s a great punch in the arm for Traverse City," Hadd said. "I think it’s a really nice way to put us on the map. I think it’s exciting for our president to come here and see why this area is so important. I think it’s a really big treat."


Later that day, the all-american holiday left many divided in Northern Michigan. Thousands from both sides of the aisle showed up to make their voices heard.


The President went from plane to chopper and flew to nearby Antrim County. While he was away the rest of the afternoon, groups from both sides of the aisle aimed to send the president a message.


On Friday, state republicans Jack Bergman and Lisa McClain held a media call to discuss what they call an economic pandemic. Bergman - of the first congressional district which includes Traverse City - said residents would not be so quick to approve of the president’s visit. 


"Folks in the first district strongly disapprove of what the president and the governor have done since taking office," Bergman said. "They’re not going to be fooled by this visit to Traverse city and the area tomorrow.”


Steve James was with a small entourage of Donald Trump supporters that paraded between tents at the Cherry festival.


“A lot of us still like to show our support for Trump. And obviously, we think he won that election,” James said.

Cars and trucks decked out in patriotic colors and “MAGA” flags drove up and down the busy side streets. 


By midafternoon, Biden was touring King’s Orchards in nearby Antrim County. On reporter asked why he had chosen Michigan for his stop on the "America's Back Together Tour." He answered, simply, "Cherry Pie."


The actual reason is more than that. The president was overheard pitching his immigration plans while chatting with workers from Guatemala. His main goal for the visit, however, was to drum up public support for his $973 billion infrastructure package.


Back downtown in nearby Clinch Park, a group addressing one of Michigan’s most controversial infrastructure issues held picket signs waiting for the president to pass by. Oil and Water Don’t Mix has been pushing for the complete shutdown of the Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline since 2013.


Digital coordinator and co-founder Bill Latka says it’s especially important for his organization to make their voices heard while the president is in town.

“I hope he sees the support for shutting down the Line 5 oil pipeline," Latka said. "I hope he sees support for doing something big to counteract the climate crisis that we're all facing.”

Both the Line 5 and the pro-Trump demonstration were held peacefully. Law enforcement from local agencies, the State Police and the Secret Service assured nothing escalated beyond a few small gatherings. 


If anything, Traverse City’s reaction to the President’s visit signals an ongoing conversation about the political divide in the Northwest.


Grand Traverse County has one of the fastest growing populations since 2000 according to state census data. As the population grows, the area seems to favor democrats more and more. But the counties surrounding the city are redder than ever following last year’s election.