Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bush Hometown Sees Massive Tourist Slowdown

Presidential Bobbleheads Just Don't Sell In Crawford Like They Used To

When Texas Governor George W. Bush brough his 1600 acre ranch seven miles outside of Crawford, Texas, in 1999, he kicked off a mini-tourism and trinket industry in the town of 700 people.

According to the Associated Press, the Crawford Chamber of Commerce claimed $813,000 worth of t-shirts, coffee mugs, cowboy boots, posters, postcards and other assorted retailia were sold by souvenir shops in that first year that Bush called Crawford home.

His name and presence and campaign to seize the White House generated more than $1 million in 2000. In 2004, the Crawford stores saw sales hitting $2.66 million. That was the boom year.

As Bush's popularity has plunged to Nixonian levels, so to has Bush-related paraphenalia.

Naturally, the locals blame the Cindy Sheehan crowd and other protestors for driving away genuine tourists and Bush pilgrims.

From the Associated Press :

Near the lone stoplight on Main Street, a for-sale sign hangs from a dusty window where a souvenir shop used to sell cufflinks, cowboy boots and denim shirts emblazoned "The Western White House."

Another gift store across the street is shuttered too, though a sign says it will reopen elsewhere. And the biggest souvenir shop in Crawford is reporting a drop in sales.

The Washington professionals have their polls, their focus groups and their newspaper editorials. But Crawford, the 700-person town where President Bush's ranch is located, has its trinket stores, and they have fallen on hard times, in what some say reflects the president's sinking popularity over the war in Iraq and a daunting influx of anti-war protesters.

Norma Nelson Crow closed her Crawford Country Style store three months ago.

"I feel so strongly about the president that I wanted to continue to support him any way I could," she said. "But I'm distressed about the poll numbers and think it was a combination of things: that and the protesters."

Bill Johnson, owner of Crawford's largest gift shop, Yellow Rose, said he plans to continue running his store, which also sells crosses, saddles, guns and Western clothing in addition to coffee mugs, T-shirts and other souvenirs.

"I think the president's ratings will go up, and when that happens, the sales go up," he said. "As far as Crawford's future, I think it looks bright. Is it going to be as hectic as it was a few years ago? No. But Crawford's name is known far and wide, and when he retires, people who are endeared to him will want to come to Crawford."