CHAPPAQUA, New York – The only danger for the Clintons here Monday was selfies.
“Don’t smother these two lovely people, please,” said Jim McCauley, the marshal of the Memorial Day parade in the Clintons’ adopted hometown.
It was of no use. The former first couple was crushed in a sea of well wishers, hoping to get a picture of the local celebrity politicians during the parade.
It was the first time Hillary and Bill Clinton stepped out together in public since she declared her second presidential run last month.
Leading the head of the parade, the Clintons waved to onlookers and fans lining the streets as they wound their way through this idyllic town about 45 minutes north of New York City, leaving plenty of time for handshakes and pictures.
The Clintons have been warmly welcomed in this solidly Democratic town since moving here in 1999, a little over a year before they left the White House.
“Good luck in ’16!” supporters yelled. Some had homemade signs declaring their support for Clinton. Others wanted her to sign something. Clinton made a bee-line to hug Dawn Greenberg, who organized the “Chappaqua for Hillary” group. Everyone wanted a picture.
Bill Clinton is often spotted in town on walks or while ordering a venti decaf at the Starbucks at the center of town, residents say, while his wife has been much less visible. She’s been splitting her time between here and Washington almost every year since they moved in, first as senator and then as secretary of state.
The Clintons have two homes – one here and one in Washington, D.C. – plus an apartment they use on top of the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. Hillary Clinton grew up outside Chicago, and lived in Little Rock and D.C. before moving here so she could run for Senate.
But Chamber of Commerce President Dawn Dankner-Rosen said Hillary Clinton is a proud member of the community. “She shops local all the time,” Dankner-Rosen said, pointing to shops on the main drag Clinton has visited.
Still, this parade is perhaps Clinton’s highest profile connection to Chappaqua. “I put this on my calendar every year, and I basically tell my staff I really, really, really want to do this,” Mrs. Clinton told The New York Times in 2012.
The Clintons attract attention every year they march, but perhaps more this year now that she’s officially in the race. But neither Clinton wanted to talk politics Monday. “This is a way of demonstrating that they are not forgotten,” she told reporters in brief remarks following the parade.
Bill Clinton called Memorial Day “really one of the most important days of the year for me,” adding that the parade is “what we do every year.”
When asked how his wife’s campaign was going, he demurred, “I don’t know. I’m not – I’m running my foundation. Ask them,” he said, pointing to his wife’s aides.
It was hard to find a dissenting voice in this town that voted 63% for Barack Obama in 2012 and is clearly proud to have Clintons call it home.
“We are a very fortunate community for them to pick us,” said Larry Holland, the pastor at the local Baptist church who did not vote for Bill Clinton. “They really do make the parade special, don’t they?”