In Thurmont, all eyes on G-8 summit

Thurmont officials, concerns about possible protests and commotion during the upcoming G-8 summit at Camp David seem to be outweighed by excitement over the event.

“Who cares?” Commissioner Bill Buehrer said Tuesday to the suggestion of demonstrators in town.

The White House announced Monday it would move the May 18-19 economic summit from Chicago to the presidential retreat in the mountains of northern Frederick County.

Commissioner John Kinnaird hopes the U.S. government will plan for the event with the same level of consideration they would have shown Chicago. Inconvenience, he said, will likely be the biggest issue for the town.

It could even get dangerous.

“I pity any fool that strays into the (Camp David) airspace that weekend,” he said with a laugh.

Past Camp David meetings have filled the town with media, federal agents and even presidential children.

“When I was a kid, I saw the Kennedy kids at the ice cream parlor,” Kinnaird said.

The longtime Thurmont resident remembers Russian presidents and “all kinds of heads of state,” he said.

“It is certainly something exciting,” he said. “It puts Thurmont in the forefront of the news.”

Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns is not worried about protesters. Marine forces guard Camp David, he said, and there is nowhere in town that would allow much of an audience for demonstrations, he said.

“I think it will be uneventful, as far as protests,” he said.

Bringing the G-8 summit to Maryland is a huge win for all the communities along U.S. 15, Commissioner Ron Terpko said.

Terpko is excited about the opportunity to showcase his town, as well as the potential economic windfall. But he recognizes the possibility of a negative impact, as does Hooper.

“I don’t anticipate a lot of problems,” Hooper said, though he expects some protesters.

Buehrer is excited about the opportunity for Thurmont, and himself.

“I’m trying to figure out how we can take advantage of it, businesswise,” he said, joking that he might open a hot dog stand where journalists are expected to gather.

Good for business?

Kinnaird expects that local hotels, restaurants, gas stations and stores will see an increase in business during the Friday and Saturday summit.

“It can be really a boon for our local economy,” Kinnaird said. “A short-term boon, but a boon nonetheless.”

About half an hour after Monday’s summit announcement, Thurmont’s Cozy Inn was completely booked by members of the press corps, according to general manager Vickie Grinder. The hotel is turning people away, telling them to look outside of town for lodging.

“Maybe I’ll hurry and finish up my second floor,” joked Virginia LaRoche, owner of the Timeless Trends Boutique. “That will be fantastic for us. We do a lot to get visitors to come to Thurmont, and I’m sure Thurmont will welcome them.”

With more than 10 weeks to go, it’s too early to stock up on inventory, 7-Eleven manager Kamal Shah said.

And having a lot of security personnel in the shopping plaza on Frederick Road doesn’t necessarily benefit his business, he said.

“People are afraid to come here when they see too much security, and when the security are on duty, they don’t buy things.”

With a lot more people coming to the summit, he said he hopes things will be different.

Having so many people in the neighborhood is just what pizza shops need, said Chad Dewees, manager of Fratelli’s pizza shop on Frederick Road.

“I hadn’t heard about it, but we’re looking forward to it,” Dewees said.

Any kind of event is good for business, especially Colorfest, said Nicholas Feeser, an attendant at Liberty gas station and convenience store on Main Street.

Feeser hoped some of the traffic will find its way to the gas station. Occasionally, Secret Service personnel patronize the business, he said.

Beyond Thurmont

The news that May’s G-8 summit would be held at Camp David had Frederick Mayor Randy McClement responding with enthusiasm, even from his sickbed.

The mayor was home with a bug Tuesday, but he said the proximity of world leaders could have a positive impact on the local economy and culture.

“I think this will be a great opportunity to show off Frederick to the world,” he wrote in an email. “We look forward to the potential of giving representatives (and their staff) … a little taste of what Frederick has to offer.”

Connections and introductions could be made between local chapters of international groups, such as the Asian American Center of Frederick and the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation, he said.

Frederick Police Chief Kim Dine said he is ready to work with the Secret Service, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police and other law enforcement agencies as needed. He has almost 37 years of experience working with the Secret Service, he said.

“[T]he FPD has an outstanding relationship with them,” he wrote in an email.

Members of the Frederick police worked at the last two presidential inaugurations in Washington, which “helps provide a wealth of unique experience and training,” Dine said.

The sheriff’s office is prepared to take the lead law enforcement role locally, spokeswoman Cpl. Jennifer Bailey said. The sheriff’s office does not have exact details, but is in contact with officials, she said.

“We haven’t been advised of anything as of yet,” Sgt. Robert Fraley of the Maryland State Police Frederick barrack said Tuesday.

President Barack Obama’s May summit will not be the first time Camp David has hosted a prominent conference.

  • June 18, 1973: Richard Nixon and Soviet Union General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev meet at the presidential retreat to sign the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War.
  • Sept. 6, 1978: For 13 days, Jimmy Carter hosted Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David to discuss peace negotiations in the Middle East.

    Cozy Inn and Restaurant owner Jerry Freeze points to a photo of a towering antenna that was temporarily placed behind the inn during Carter’s 1978 meeting.

    “There were all of these apparatuses around,” Freeze said, discussing how technology has changed over the years.

    Reporters used to broadcast from motel rooms and the Thurmont American Legion post; now they can transmit stories via wireless Internet and smartphone.

    “That was the way they had to send things, not electronically, like now,” Freeze said. Vickie Grinder, Cozy general manager, lamented that May’s event will be the first Camp David summit without Thurmont historian George Wireman, who died in January at age 91.

    “There’s a seat somewhere for you at the summit,” Grinder said Tuesday about Wireman.

  • July 2000: The Middle East peace summit at Camp David was ultimately an unsuccessful attempt at negotiations by Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Staff writer Brian Englar contributed to this report.

This article has been corrected. Marine forces guard Camp David.

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