Pence makes campaign stop at Cafe Chocolate on Wednesday

By on October 12, 2016
Indiana governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence made a surprise visit to Lititz last week, stopping to chat with voters at Cafe Chocolate. Photo by Ron Oettel

Indiana governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence made a surprise visit to Lititz last week, stopping to chat with voters at Cafe Chocolate. Photo by Ron Oettel

Lititz Fire Chief Ron Oettel received a curious call at around 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5, from the Lititz Police Department.

“I have something top secret to say,” the caller started, “and you cannot reveal it to anyone,” Oettel said.

He then learned Donald Trump’s Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence would arrive in Lititz in “two hours.”

Pence, who eventually did a satellite TV interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity from inside Café Chocolate, 40 E. Main St., would also bring an entourage, a second bus and “too many vehicles to count” Oettel said.

But Oettel had no problem responding to the official request to allow the overflow of the Indiana governor’s motorcade to park in the fire company lot at 24 W. Main St.

“I said ‘sure why not?’ I’d give that opportunity to anybody, Democrat, Republican it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Lititz first-responders and local security detail got a break when news broke that Pence’s mega bus and entourage would arrive about two hours late.

But, as Oettel pointed out, the only truly predictable factor in such political events is the unpredictability of how things will unfold.

“At about quarter after five I got an updated text stating (Pence) might be a few minutes early,” Oettel said.

Sure enough, a Secret Service agent had approached Oettel while he spoke with Lititz Police Chief Kerry Nye and other officers on the front steps of the police station.

Oettel, who had brought along his professional Nikon D-750 digital camera, was asked to tag along while agents secured a path along the sidewalk on Main Street.

“I sort of got a free pass (to go along with) the Secret Service, state police and (Pence’s) Indiana State Police detail,” Oettel said. “So, I was able to get up close and personal.”

As coincidence would have it, Oettel had also been in the company of Barrack Obama when he visited Wilbur Chocolate as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008.

“It’s pretty nice to be part of history,” he said. “I really enjoyed getting to say hello and shake the man’s hand.”

Eight years later that opportunity came again for him to meet personally with a presidential candidate in downtown Lititz.

“Another Secret Service agent grabbed me five minutes later and asked ‘Chief, would you mind coming over this way’?” Oettel said.

He was escorted to Café Chocolate and got some “one-on-one time with Pence,” he said.

Despite no advanced notice about the visit, Main Street filled with pedestrians as traffic detoured around.

Pence’s team posted photos on his Facebook page of the VP candidate outside General Sutter Inn and Bull’s Head greeting several people and petting an Airedale Terrier.

“Visit with great folks in Lititz. and I will work every day to revive the American Dream in Pennsylvania and across the nation,” Pence initially posted on Twitter at 5:42 p.m. and then later on Facebook.

Pence stopped in Lititz on his way to a rally at the Grantville Volunteer Fire Company in Dauphin County.

Nye on Tuesday noted Lititz Police received a visit for an advanced Secret Service team about two hours before Pence was to arrive.

He quickly reached out to Lancaster City Police for assistance.

“We had to find a K-9 to check the area for explosives and Lancaster City provided their K-9,” he said.

Nye said Lititz Police met Pence in front of the police station for a few moments and then provided exterior security to the area of the Chocolate Cafe where Pence did a live TV interview.

Janice Dull, owner of Cafe Chocolate said a Pence representative had approached her about the same time Lititz Police contacted Oettel.

Dull said the Pence team had researched Cafe Chocolate and were likely in the restaurant on Monday and Tuesday.

The visit, initially scheduled for about 3 p.m., changed, she said.

“Then I was told 5 o’clock and then we ended up staying open late…I think he arrived at 6:15 but he was coming from Virginia,” she said.

Prior to his arrival, Secret Service agents with explosive-sniffing dogs went through the building, including an upstairs apartment.

Since the restaurant was closed, authorities invited people from the growing crowd to serve as background during Pence’s TV interview.

“All of the people coming in went through metal detectors,” Dull said.

She noted that feedback has been all positive about Pence’s visit which was an “honor” since “there’s probably a lot of other places they could have picked.”

In all, Pence’s visit to Lititz, which lasted approximately one hour, went smoothly, Nye said.

“Pence’s people seemed very impressed with Lititz,” Nye said.

Local response on social media varied typically upon political lines.

Lititz Police posted Oettel’s photos of Pence meeting with officers on its Facebook page which ran a disclaimer: “By posting the photos we’re not “endorsing” any candidate, we’re merely posting the photos to share them because its not every day the the governor of Indiana and a Republican vice presidential nominee stops by.”

Rick Reitz’s clever Facebook post noted “Hope you enjoyed your visit to Lititz, “Pence”-ylvania last night!”

Pete Kauffman’s post encouraged locals to take advantage of such visits and “always go and see when you can witness history in person, no matter your political affiliation.”

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

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