CRAWFORD, Texas – It may have been the greatest wedding those in Crawford never saw.
Just seven miles outside town past the Secret Service, the roadblocks and the gates, first daughter Jenna Bush and fiance 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.
While most Texans weren’t among the approximately 200 invited to the private ceremony, many wanted to get as close as possible to it.
“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 originally 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 be carrying 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.