Island prepares for President Obama's family vacation

The President is scheduled to arrive Friday evening. In many respects, preparations for the Obamas’ vacation have become routine.

In this file photo, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive on Martha's Vineyard in 2015. —Michael Cummo

Updated 10:15 pm, Thursday

Just like clockwork, President Barack Obama and his family will return to Martha’s Vineyard this week, along with the annual hubbub and media attention that a presidential visit entails. The Obamas are scheduled to arrive on Air Force One at Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod at 6 pm, Friday, then fly by helicopter to Martha’s Vineyard Airport for a private arrival at 6:20 pm before heading to their vacation rental in Chilmark.

Mr. Obama and his family have vacationed on the Island, renting a house in Chilmark, every year since his 2008 election, with the exception of 2012 when he was campaigning for re-election. At this point his presence has become routine for many on the Island.

Mr. Obama has his regular spots. These include Island golf courses and restaurants.

“He didn’t come last year, but he’s been every other year,” said Bonnie Barrow of Nancy’s Restaurant on Oak Bluffs Harbor. “We have some pictures of him out on the deck with no gray hair. We’ve watched the little girls grow up from adorable little kids to beautiful young women.”

She said it’s business as usual until they get a phone call informing them of his dining plans.

“If they call us in advance and have a special request, then we will prepare,” Ms. Barrow said. “I think the first year he came, they blocked off along the harbor and along the street, and Secret Service came in with wands and wanded all the staff. They walked around the place, they walked around the kitchen, just checked it all out. That was the first year. I think they probably still wand or metal-detect or whatever that is, they do that. Otherwise it’s just a normal day.”

She said every year the Obamas’ dining choice has been different.

“Sometimes they come upstairs and have dinner with guests, sometimes they get takeout, and sometimes they sit downstairs and sit out on the snack bar deck,” she said.

Although he didn’t dine at Nancy’s last year, Ms. Barrow said they would look forward to having Mr. Obama back.

“We certainly hope he will be stopping by, but we haven’t gotten any heads-up,” she said. “It’s always a privilege to serve him.”

Ken Bielski, assistant P.G.A. professional at the Mink Meadows Golf Club in Vineyard Haven, doesn’t know if they will be setting up a presidential tee time this year.

“We don’t know if he’s going to play here or not, so we’re not real sure yet,” he said. “What I understand is that seven out of the past eight years, excluding last year, he’s been here.”

He said that if Mr. Obama decides to play a round at their club, they are given notice “inside of two days,” and receive “the full Secret Service treatment” for 24 hours or so.

Mr. Bielski said that operations may be disrupted slightly, but in general play continues normally, with the acknowledgment that the green is being shared with the President.

“The community here has been here a long time; most of the members have been here a long time, so they deal with it the best they can,” he said. “And it’s a bit of a status symbol; they like it, I’m sure.”

Rachel Vanderhoop, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital director of development and community relations, said that the screening process for the presidential visit has become customary. She said they meet with the same medical team every year.

“We usually have a telephone call with the Secret Service; that took place about three weeks ago,” she said. “The next step is that the White House medical team comes, and we’ll do a tour with them.”

She said the tour will happen this week.

“I think they’re touring the organization to see if anything has changed from the previous year,” she said. “They’re pretty familiar with us now.”

Martha’s Vineyard Airport manager Sean Flynn said even after years of presidential vacations, there’s still a lot to do to prepare for Mr. Obama.

“There will be a temporary flight restriction that gets put over the entire Island, so we have to prepare for that,” he said. “For the staff, we have to prepare for his arrival and his being on the Island, and all the preparation work for that.”

He said they’ve been preparing in detail since last Wednesday, and things are continuously changing, but each year it’s become easier to deal with the changes.

“Things are always changing, it’s always fluid, but we’re used to responding and working with the various agencies, so that part has become much easier,” he said. “So while the specifics and some of the other finite details may change, it’s still easier each time.”

Barack and Michelle Obama depart Sunday, August 23, for Washington, D.C. Official confirmation followed preparations that began months ago when the White House began making reservations to accommodate the large entourage of Secret Service agents, White House staffers, and support personnel that are responsible for the safety and success of the President’s vacation.

The Obamas will once again stay at the home of Joanne Hubschman on Gosnold’s Way off Prospect Hill Road. The house overlooks the north shore and Vineyard Sound. The seven-bedroom, nine-bath, 8,100-square-foot house, sits on a 10-acre lot and features 17 rooms in total, expansive water views of Vineyard Sound, an infinity pool and hot tub, and a dual tennis-basketball court. Past presidential vacation activities have included golf, bike trips with the family, hikes, and dinner with friends.

An earlier version of this story reported that the President would arrive on Martha’s Vineyard at 7 pm. The arrival time has been changed to 6:20 pm.