If you were in downtown Roanoke a few minutes ago, you might have gotten a glimpse of Vice President Joe Biden, who made an announced visit to Roanoke — ostensibly to get some pizza on the City Market, but surely to get some last-minute media attention in this end of the state.
Police on just about every corner in downtown alerted people that something was up — and the presence of some dark-suited men outside Benny Marconi’s on Campbell Avenue was the final tip-off as to exactly where.
Many in the crowd cheered for Biden when he appeared; one woman shouted “four more years!” Others seemed merely curiosity-seekers. After going inside the restaurant, Biden came out and worked the crowd, shaking hands.
Afterwards, I spoke with one of the restaurant patrons, Steve Glassbrenner, who is active in the local theatre scene. “”I was just in there getting some pizza and writing a sketch,” Steve told me. “This one gentleman came up to me and said the Secret Service wanted to search me and wanted to wand me. I asked who was coming in and they said the Vice President. I got to shake his hand and told him, ‘Vice President Biden, it’s truly quite an honor to meet you.’ He told me it was an honor to hear that. He was really nice.”
One interesting thing I spotted from out on the street: After Biden went into the restaurant, a Secret Service agent came over to the crowd on the sidewalk and said the vice president might or might not stop by to shake hands. If anyone wanted to be in the front of the line, they should get “magged” with the metal detector. Most of the people in the group stepped forward to volunteer. One poor fellow, though, had a pocket knife with him. One agent told him it was OK, just keep his hands out of his pocket; another, though, told him he had to get rid of it — so the guy laid it on a nearby car. The agent didn’t like that, so the man went off in search of a friend to give his knife to.
UPDATE: After the pizza stop, Biden played pizza delivery man and dropped them off at the Obama headquarters on Salem Avenue.
UPDATE 2: 6:14 p.m.: Food writer Lindsey Nair has a post about the pizzeria’s reaction on her Fridge Magnet food blog.
Accompanying Biden were Sen. Mark Warner and Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine. Mason Adams was in the press pool, along with photojournalist Kyle Green. They’ll have a full report later. Until then, here are a few photos shot from the sidewalk — another reminder of what it’s like to live in a swing state: