“Hello, everybody,” President Barack Obama greeted the town hall audience at Country Corner Farm Market near Alpha. “Oh, it is good to be back home,” the former Illinois senator said. “Everybody have a seat, relax and take a load off.” Obama spoke to about 300 people at Bruce Curry and Charles Curry’s farm market and pumpkin patch, which hosted the town hall on a hot Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 17.


“Hello, everybody,” President Barack Obama greeted the town hall audience at Country Corner Farm Market near Alpha.

“Oh, it is good to be back home,” the former Illinois senator said. “Everybody have a seat, relax and take a load off.”

Obama spoke to about 300 people at Bruce Curry and Charles Curry’s farm market and pumpkin patch, which hosted the town hall on a hot Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 17.

Country Corner is the 2011 Agritourism Business of the Year in Illinois.
Wednesday is believed to be the first time the sitting President of the United States stopped to speak in Henry County.

Obama started the morning with an unscheduled stop at the Whiteside County Fair in Morrison, then spoke at Wyffels Hybrids in Atkinson.

After another unscheduled stop at Galesburg High School’s football practice, Obama arrived at Country Corner at 4:40 p.m. and began speaking about 10 minutes later.

While the crowd waited for the president, military veteran Dan Swanson of Woodhull led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Taking the podium after Swanson, Woodhull Village President Dave Holmes gave the invocation.

“We look to you for Your blessing,” he prayed. “We’ve made such a mess of things. We thank You for sending Your son, Jesus Christ, to take our sins upon Him on the cross. Help all of our human governments realize any power and authority they have come only from You.”

The first sign of the president’s approach was a helicopter that circled the area a few minutes before he arrived.

After speaking, Obama took questions until 5:40 p.m.

Questioners included:

• Karen Urick of Prophetstown, a Republican member of the Henry County Board. She asked about estate taxes.

• Philip Nelson, president of the Illinois Farm Bureau. He asked about clean air and water regulations that affect farmers.

• Judy Guenseth, director of tourism for Galesburg and Knox County. Like the president, she just turned 50. “How come you look so much better than I do?” the president asked. “I live in Galesburg,” she replied. “That’s why. Okay. All right.
That makes sense, that makes sense,” Obama said.

Guenseth asked about ways to encourage healthy eating and healthy living, especially in children.

• Alfred Ramirez, president of the Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He asked about changes in entitlement programs.

• Allie Hand asked about support for county fairs.

“The county fair tradition is so important, not only because it’s an economic attraction for the community, but also because it brings the community together,” Obama said. “It’s a focal point for a county and it reminds people of what holds America together and the heartland together. And so, working with the state of Illinois, working with tourism bureaus, we want to continue to promote county fairs all across Illinois.”

• Eric Palmer, a student at Augustana College, Rock Island, who asked about Social Security.

• Jordan VanMelkebeke of Kewanee, stepdaughter of Henry County Sheriff Jim Padilla. She asked about efforts to help law enforcement officers stay safe on the job.

The president noted she is the same age, 13, as his daughter Malia. Both are going into eighth grade this fall.

“Did you already start?” the president asked.

“Yes,” VanMelkebeke replied.

“How’s school going so far?” Obama asked.

“Good. Today was my first day,” she replied.

“No wonder you look so cheerful,” the president said. “Well, thank you for the question, Jordan, and tell your stepdad we’re proud of him for his service.”

Obama’s final remarks were, “There’s a difference between politics and government. And what’s really broken is a politics that doesn’t reflect the core values and the decency and the neighborliness of the American people. And that’s what I’m fighting for, and that’s what I need you fighting for. Thank you very much, Alpha. Love you. Appreciate you.”

After the president walked into the Country Corner store, he met privately with the Curry family and others.

Spectators were told to remain on the site until the president departed, which happened about an hour after he finished speaking.