Hyde Park prepares for Obama arrival

February 13, 2009 6:55:57 AM PST
President Barack Obama will spend Valentine's weekend in Hyde Park. Obama took part in an Abraham Lincoln celebration in the nation's capitol before returning to Illinois for the first time as the nation's commander-in-chief Thursday.

President Obama's first stop Thursday was a Caterpillar plant in Peoria. He was also in Springfield Thursday evening. And he planned to spend the weekend in Chicago. That means a lot of changes for residents in the Hyde Park community.

A lot of Hyde Parkers are thrilled that Obama is making his first trip home. The city will be hosting a sitting president.

"It is a good thing. I'm excited. Hopefully I will catch a glimpse," said Kymon Odukoya.

Chicago police say security is already at a heightened level, and some of Obama's neighbors were already noticing even tighter security than the last time Obama was in town it January. Intersections and streets were replete with barricades and police.

"We have police on every corner, you see how many there are here. We have police and they do ask for your I.D. very often," said resident Diane Thompson.

The president's weekend in Chicago begins following the participation in a celebration at the Capitol in Washington.

"It is fitting that we are holding the celebration here at the capitol, for the life of this building is bound closely to the times of this immortal president," Obama said Thursday morning.

From there, he boarded Air Force One to downstate Illinois to visit a Caterpillar plant hard hit by the economic crisis. He then headed to Springfield for another Lincoln tribute. He then returned to Washington, D.C. before arriving on the South Side for the weekend.

"To have our first African American president home is a wonderful thing," said Hyde Park resident Yvonne Orr.

Hyde Park residents most likely will see Obama's motorcade as he heads to a morning work out or on Valentine's Day if he and the first lady decide to go out.

Obama spoke during a meeting Thursday afternoon with Caterpillar workers facing the prospect of layoffs.

Caterpillar is cutting more than 20,000 jobs. The Peoria-based company says demand for its heavy construction equipment and other machinery has been severely hurt by the global economic crisis.

Obama said Wednesday Caterpillar will rehire some of its laid-off workers if the president's nearly $800 billion stimulus bill is approved.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.