DANVILLE — Company’s comin’ and the people who live in this small, central Kentucky hamlet of 16,000 can hardly wait.
On Thursday evening, the town’s cultural epicenter - private Centre College, enrollment 1,340 - will be host to the only debate between vice presidential candidates Republican Paul Ryan and incumbent Democrat Joe Biden.
“Absolutely! We’re thrilled,” exclaimed Jan Nallinger when asked outside the Maple Tree Gallery on Main Street if the community welcomed the influx of visitors and hordes of media. “Why wouldn’t we be? This is grand and we’re just tickled to death!”
Like any hospitable host, Danville is sprucing up. Behind Nallinger the Maple Tree Gallery’s windows were decked out in red, white and blue bunting, merchandise and an official debate poster – “The Thrill in the ‘Ville.”
Next door at Karamel Kreations Gourmet Caramel and Gifts, owner Beth King and her husband, Jeff, are dipping caramel covered apples in red, then white and finally blue chocolate.
Down the block, Chris Corman and another worker are carefully painting an overhead street sign supporting structure black.
“We’re trying to clean everything up and make it look real pretty for our visitors,” Corman said.
On street corners are pots of mums with small American flags and fire hydrants have been painted red, white and blue. Some sidewalk curbs have been painted and several businesses have new coats of paint.
Maple Tree Gallery owner Julie Nelson happily shows customers “loaves’ of Primal Element Soap in red, white and blue colors. For $8 she’ll slice a bar of soap and customers can choose one with a donkey or one with an elephant.
“It’s our soap poll,” Nelson laughed. “The Republicans are ahead. We’re on our second loaf of Republican soap but we’ve sold just half a loaf of Democratic soap.” The “poll’ supports Kentucky’s recent Republican trend and Barack Obama’s poor showing here in the 2008 primary and general elections. He’s expected to lose the state to Republican Mitt Romney by a large margin.