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Wedding surprises small town

Mon., May 12, 2008

Last fall, a woman named Lindsey Lineweaver contacted John Grainger Esch to reserve his Silver Spur Theater, in Salado, Texas, for her wedding dinner on May 9. It was a typical booking for the space, which Esch helped convert from an 1800s granary and feed store. Not until about three hours before guests arrived did he detect anything unusual.

That’s when Esch says he heard a police officer outside utter the name “Jenna.” Pretty soon the bomb-sniffing dogs arrived.

While White House-watchers were busy remarking on the highly secretive Saturday night wedding on the closed confines of President Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch, the real cloak-and-dagger came on Friday. That’s when the Hager and Bush families stealthily mounted a large-scale rehearsal dinner and major after-party – virtually out in the open – in an unsuspecting village more than an hour’s drive south.

Dave Hermann, the owner of the Range Restaurant in Salado, suspected that something was up with the rehearsal dinner for 100 he was catering Friday night at an event space called the Old Salado Springs Celebration Center. The mother of the groom seemed to be using aliases – her deposit checks kept arriving in different names.

On Thursday night, he was informed that the hosts were actually John and Margaret Hager of Richmond, the former lieutenant governor and his wife, and the in-laws-to-be of Jenna Bush. (The Lindsey Lineweaver who made reservations at the Silver Spur for the after-party is Laura Bush’s personal aide.)

According to Hermann, Henry Hager gave a charming, funny toast that included stories about his early courtship of Jenna. Stories like … ? Hermann wouldn’t say. John Hager and several bridesmaids also offered toasts; Laura Bush delivered a wedding prayer, but she and the president largely turned the spotlight over to the Hagers.

“They were consciously aware that this was a party hosted by the groom’s family,” Hermann said. “The president was just a guest of the party. I cannot stress to you how humble and gracious everyone at that event was.”

After dinner, the entire party walked about a block down Royal Street, accompanied by a high school marching band, to the Silver Spur, where a party that included every wedding guest was already under way.

A band played country-rock and bluegrass, and people danced until midnight – even Karl Rove did “bust a move a little bit,” Esch said. On Sunday, the White House released 11 photos of the wedding that showed Jenna’s embroidered organza dress, her sister’s “moonstone blue” gown, and the limestone cross and altar her father had erected for the ceremony

Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, who performed the 35-minute ceremony told Houston’s KHOU-TV that the father of the bride “was compassionate and emotional” during the exchange of vows. “He cried a couple of times.”


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