COLLEGE PARK – Jessica Davies’ 4-year- old son, Drew, wants President Clinton to take a time-out.
That’s because planning for the president’s visit to the University of Maryland College Park on Wednesday has monopolized his mother’s calendar for the past week.
“Mommy, the president is in `time out’ tell him to stay there,” recalled Jessica Davies, who is special events coordinator for the College Park campus.
Davies has been coming in early and staying late to coordinate caterers, the press, transportation, groundskeepers and musical entertainment. She worked Saturday and packed a bag to stay overnight Tuesday.
And she knew she would have to be on hand Wednesday — forcing her to miss a field trip with Drew.
“It’s a lot of work, but it is fun,” she said.
The workload has involved Davies as well as White House officials, several police departments, caterers, a band, groundskeepers, and private and campus production crews, among others.
Details include everything from presidential security to auditioning the band. White House officials screened the Maryland Pep Band before Saturday’s basketball game against the University of Virginia “to check the tempo and make sure they were not doing anything artsy,” Davies said.
The band will be playing an official government version of “Hail to the Chief,” said Noah Lazar, a clarinetist and pep band librarian.
“We spent an extra half hour going over our arrangements” Saturday with the White House staff, Lazar said.
He will miss classes and work Wednesday, but he said he jumped at the chance to play for the president. He and some other band members planned to load the band vans with six tubas, binders with more than 200 songs and 35 “really heavy” music stands Tuesday night in preparation for the visit.
The band expects to start setting up by 9 a.m. Wednesday, Lazar said.
Campus television crews will be setting up even earlier — 7 a.m. — and have had to call in reinforcements from the private sector. But Serena Mann, manager of the campus’ Flagship Channel and Television Services, said she was happy to contribute.
“Any time the president comes, you drop everything,” said Mann, who canceled two Wednesday studio shoots to make room for the president’s visit.
The Flagship Channel, a cable channel normally available to 400,000 homes in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, was asked by the White House to provide a nationwide satellite feed of the event.
Mann, who needs 10 people for a normal studio shoot, boosted her Wednesday workforce to 17 by hiring Skehan Televideo and its satellite van for the event.
“I wouldn’t want to do it once a week, but every six months or so would be great,” Mann said of the workload surrounding the president’s visit. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the university.”
Campus spokesman George Cathcart told his staff Friday to find Maryland alumni in the AmeriCorps program, about which the president is scheduled to speak.
“We want to make sure the university gets recognition out of this in a very positive way,” he said.
Police have also been involved since last week. Depending on the president’s driving plans, his visit could involve campus, county and state police agencies, among others, all of whom must be coordinated with the Secret Service.
University of Maryland Campus Police will be out in numbers “beyond the normal contingent,” said Sgt. Steven Kowa, but he would not give specifics for security reasons.
Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin was also tight-lipped.
“There will be security measures in place, but we don’t comment on the methods,” Mackin said. “We try to make every area we go to as safe as the White House.”
At Ritchie Coliseum, a fresh coat of white paint was drying on the doors to Ritchie Coliseum Tuesday as ground crews put new mulch around trees in front.
Signs went up last week announcing that the parking lot will be closed for the president’s visit and a marquee welcoming Clinton was scheduled to go up Wednesday.
Inside, a five-man team from Hargrove Inc. — a local production crew that the White House specially requested — readied three wooden stages Tuesday.
“We work 80-90 hours a week, sometimes,” said Hargrove foreman Dean Sparks.
At a university dairy store across the road, staff has been added for the expected crowds of people Wednesday — or in case the president himself decides to pop in for an ice cream.
“We haven’t got any information about his visit, yet,” said university food services manager Shirlene Chase said with a laugh Tuesday. “But we have 25 different flavors readily available — he’s gotta like one of them.”