Jenna Bush wedding on Saturday

May 9, 2008 6:01:38 PM PDT
So close and yet so far: Tiny Crawford is sort of like a bridesmaid at arm's length from Jenna Bush's wedding Saturday. All of the action is at President Bush's 1,600-acre ranch seven miles outside this one-stoplight town.

Friday night's rehearsal dinner was even farther away - 54 miles from the ranch in a town called Salado, meaning the more than 200 Bush family and friends invited to the nuptials might never even set foot downtown Crawford.

"It's a private ceremony. It's an exciting time for the Bush family," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Friday. "They're all beginning to converge here in Texas and in Crawford and I know the president and Mrs. Bush are really looking forward to this weekend."

The bride, first lady Laura Bush and daughter Barbara weren't even in Crawford most of Friday. Early in the day, the three attended a bridal lunch for family and friends at an inn in Salado, more than an hour's drive south of Crawford. They stayed the day in the small tourist village, founded before the Civil War, getting ready for the evening events. The president made his way solo to Salado.

There the parents of the groom, Henry Hager, hosted the rehearsal dinner for members of the family and the wedding party at the Old Salado Springs Celebration Center in the heart of the town filled with coffee shops, western-style stores, antiques, eateries and clothing shops.

Then later, all of the wedding guests, some just arriving in the area, were invited to what was billed a "Texas-sized celebration" at the Salado Silver Spur Theater in the village, once a stagecoach stop.

With no hotels in Crawford, local residents are more likely to welcome tourists who just want to say they were here when Jenna married her longtime boyfriend.

The locals don't seem to mind playing a supporting role.

"It's amazing how many people just want to be in the area," said Marilyn Judy, president of the Crawford Chamber of Commerce. She recounted a call from a woman in Dallas, a two-hour drive from Crawford.

"I asked `Oh, are you going to be going to the wedding?"' Judy asked. The woman replied: "No, I just want to be in town when it's happening."'

It wasn't until late this week that the downtown began to show signs of the event, which will end up in presidential history books.

A white banner with red wedding bells on either side of "Congratulations Jenna and Henry" now stretches across a local storefront.

A few doors down, a white wedding veil adorns an 18-foot metal sculpture of an angel, a gift to Crawford in 2004. The rusty artwork, a side-view silhouette of an angel, is titled "Freedom's Angel of Steadfast Love." It was created by Lei Hennessy-Owen of Jennerstown, Pa., and given to the city after Bush's re-election.

For July 4, the angel is decorated in red, white and blue. She holds a wreath during the holidays. For the wedding, Judy put a bouquet of white flowers in her hands and sewed her a veil that flutters in the warm breeze.

"We were trying to think of ways to give something for people to look at when they came to town - ways to welcome people to Crawford," she said. "We thought we'd have the angel dressed as a bride."

Some businesses, like The Yellow Rose, are doing a brisk business selling coffee mugs with the couple's photo inside a red heart.

Down the street, a life-size cardboard cutout of a much-younger Bush greets patrons at The Red Bull Gift and Gallery. There you can buy $3 Jenna and Henry key rings, a $10 mouse pad emblazoned with the smiling couple, or a mug with the same photo and date of their marriage.

The wedding display also features cream-colored ceramic trinkets in the shape of Texas painted with "J + H." Jenna's book "Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope" about a single mother in Latin America with AIDS, and "Read All About It!" a book she wrote with the first lady, are peddled near packets of Texas wildflower seeds and license plates imprinted with "Cowgirl."

Jamie Burgess, manager of The Red Bull, says people often stop downtown just to ask how to get to the ranch.

Burgess says she tells them that the road leading to the ranch is barricaded far from the entrance to Bush's property. Those who aren't deterred reply: "We may just try going anyway."

Burgess doesn't argue, even though she knows that if they get too close, they'll find themselves face-to-face with the Secret Service or a Texas state trooper.

Valerie Citrano in nearby McGregor, about six miles from Crawford, also runs a souvenir business selling Western White House gifts. She spent two days making a wedding cake with buttercream frosting to serve Saturday to patrons of her husband's Coffee Shop and Cafe. The three-tiered white cake, with lemony filling and raspberry sauce to drizzle on top, is decorated with two Secret Service agents protecting a White House that adorns the top.

She said local residents aren't upset about not being invited, but she's convinced there are plenty of people interested in the details. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, the hits on her business web site have topped 30,000 a week.

"I got one call from somebody in Britain and this morning, one from Sweden," she said.


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