CRAWFORD, Texas — It may have been the greatest wedding those in Crawford never saw.
Just seven miles outside of town — past the Secret Service, the roadblocks and the gates — first daughter Jenna Bush and fiancé Henry Hager stood by a lake, in front of a Texas limestone cross and altar, and took their vows.
A historic moment, as Jenna Bush became the 22nd daughter of a president to take vows while her father was in office.
Approximately 200 guests were invited, but for the rest of us, Crawford was as close as we could get.
“Even though you can’t see it, you can breathe the same air they are breathing,” said Mary Wood, who drove from San Antonio to spend the day in this small town. “I just had to be here to say I was here for it.”
Hundreds of others felt the same way, crowding into this one-traffic light town that boasts a population of about 700.
On a typical Saturday, one vehicle might pass through the main intersection every few hours. This Saturday saw a constant stream of traffic, visitors pouring into the two souvenir shops and filling up the coffee shop.
“It’s like our royalty in Texas is getting married,” said Stacy Wallace, a Temple woman who originally hails from Fort Worth . “I’ve been wanting to come by for some time and I thought (Saturday) was the perfect day to do it.”
The First Family’s wedding festivities began Friday, with a lunch and rehearsal dinner in Salado . By Saturday evening, buses believed to carry wedding guests took the back route to the ranch through nearby McGregor, avoiding Crawford completely.
But those in town wished the newlyweds well.
A banner celebrating their wedding was stretched in front of the Red Bull souvenir shop; a marquee down the street offered congratulations as well.
Souvenir shops were running out of mugs, key chains, mouse pads and other wedding memorabilia, with many having to take special orders for the merchandise.
“We sold out Friday,” said Jaime Burgess, manager of Red Bull, who served wedding cake and cookies made from First Lady Laura Bush’s own recipe to shoppers. “It’s great. It shows how much people do support Jenna and Henry.”
And Jenna’s dad, President George W. Bush.
Many visitors said they are big Bush supporters and wanted to be there for him.
“President Bush is a good person and he loves his country,” said Deborah Miller, of Grand Prairie . “We don’t like all his ideas, but we’d do anything for him.”
Details about the wedding were closely guarded.
White House officials have said it’s a private event and didn’t allow media in or release any details, but they said they might release a photo or two today.
Despite the privacy surrounding the wedding, some visitors wanted to try to make it as far as they could toward the president’s ranch.
At an information tent set up to help visitors, locals drew out a map to show the way to the ranch, even pointing out where a roadblock manned by law enforcers and Secret Service turns sight-seers around.
“They’ll go anyway, even though they know they can’t get through,” said Marilyn Judy, president of the Crawford Chamber of Commerce.
Count Sherry Pennington of nearby Woodway among the offenders.
“We’ll drive to the roadblock just to say we did,” she said. “It’s fun to feel like you’re a part of Jenna’s wedding day.”
In nearby McGregor, Valerie Citrano made a special wedding cake to celebrate the occasion – complete with a White House and two Secret Service officers guarding it on top.
She made an event of cutting the cake at the Coffee Shop Cafe shortly after 6 p.m., even though she said she hated to cut it before Jenna and Henry exchanged vows around 7:30 p.m.
“I just thought it would be something fun to do,” said Citrano, who also is receiving orders for wedding memorabilia from as far away France and Sweden . “I just thought it would be a nice way to celebrate Jenna’s wedding, even if we didn’t get an invitation.
“How better to do it than with a cake?”