Romney visit to FHS brings chaos and opportunities

Romney visit to FHS brings chaos and opportunities

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to the public at the hurricane relief rally at Fairmont’s Trent Arena on Oct. 30.

Whenever a celebrity comes to town, chaos is bound to break out, and it is no exception for a presidential candidate.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney was scheduled to come to Trent Arena for a political rally on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, at 3 p.m. Naturally, Fairmont administrators and staff tried to prepare for the inevitable onslaught of Romney’s campaign staff, Secret Service agents, members of the national and local media and, of course, those who wanted to attend the rally to see Romney in person.

“We met all day Monday with the press corps and spent 10 hours planning it out,” said Fairmont Principal Dan VonHandorf.  “We discussed what parking lots could be open and what parking lots could be closed and what we had to do as a school to work with them.”

The district decided the best option was to dismiss Fairmont classes early on Tuesday. A 1:45 p.m. dismissal would lessen the congestion in the parking lots and allow students who had a ticket to attend to get over to Trent when the doors opened.  Even though the day would be shortened, administrators felt this plan would cause the least amount of disruption in the school.  The early dismissal was announced to the school and the media on Monday afternoon.

Later that day, however, the Romney campaign’s plans started to change. Hurricane Sandy was raging at the East Coast, and politicians don’t like to be seen campaigning when lives are at stake.  Some media began reporting that Romney had canceled his rally in Kettering, but that’s not what VonHandorf was hearing from those close to the campaign.

Around 8 p.m. Monday, VonHandorf received word that the rally had been moved up to 11 a.m. and was now a food drive relief rally for the hurricane victims. So much for Fairmont’s efforts at planning.

It was too late to alter the planned early dismissal, so school still ended early. Students with tickets to the Romney event were allowed to check out through their attendance offices to attend.

Despite the craziness of the day, Senior Class Council member Leslie Mamula, who helped with the food drive, said the event went well.  “It was really successful; lots of people brought food.  It was disorganized, but in the end it all went to a good cause,” she said.

United Student Body President Caroline Grogan even had the opportunity to meet Romney. “Meeting him was really interesting and exciting at the same time,” Grogan said.  “I didn’t even know what to say to him at times because I was so excited and caught up in the experience.”

Senior Cameron Neiheisel attended the rally and added that it was “nothing like a normal school day.”

And it certainly wasn’t one for VonHandorf, either. Despite the disruption, VonHandorf said the event was a “great thing for our school and community to experience having one of the two finalists for the leader of our nation.  We couldn’t pass that up.”

(Staff writers Jilly Hall, Nikki Kelley and Dakota Miller contributed to this story.)