As President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden boarded Air Force One on Sunday to leave the island following their annual visit to Nantucket for the Thanksgiving holiday, there wasn't an island politician or civic leader on the tarmac waving goodbye.
But the Bidens couldn’t have made a better choice for the island dignitaries who were chosen to bid goodbye to the first family this year. Waiting just in front of Air Force One’s massive turbine was Bill and Kim Puder, the owners of Faregrounds Restaurant.
The Puders have cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the Bidens and some of the visiting security staff members for many years, and their friendly relationship with the President and First Lady was on full display Sunday as they boarded Air Force One.
The farewell on the tarmac at Nantucket Memorial Airport marked the end of an eventful five days on the island for the Bidens.
On Saturday, President Biden and the First Lady hit the streets of downtown Nantucket for the second day in a row, and decided to do some shopping on Small Business Saturday. They hit a number of spots on Main Street and beyond, including Murray’s Toggery, TownPool, Nantucket Pharmacy, Ralph Lauren, Erin Hielle, Monelle, and the Haulover.
As Biden was walking down Main Street, he passed by the Lemon Press restaurant where a group of children called out to him. In a moment that has since gone viral, President Biden walked up to the glass door and looked inside to say hi, allowing the children and their parents to take pictures. The engagement even made it on CNN.
The shopping outing was followed by the 5 p.m. mass at St. Mary’s Our Lady of the Island Catholic Church which President Biden attended along with a large crowd of island residents and visitors. Parishioners were required to be screened with a metal detector before entering the church, and Federal and Main streets were closed down for a little more than an hour while Biden was inside.
One Secret Service agent remarked on the number of people who weren’t regular churchgoers but were in line to attend mass nonetheless.
“Seems like a lot of people found religion today,” the female agent said outside the church with a laugh.
TownPool owner and island resident Sean Dew once again got to ask President Biden the questions he asks all celebrity visitors: “New England or Manhattan clam chowder?”
Last year, Biden said “I don’t like either. No, no. New England clam chowder.”
This year Dew asked if the choice had changed.
“No it hasn’t, it’s the exact same,” President Biden said.
While Biden had initially indicated that he might discuss his pending decision to run for reelection in 2024 with his family while on vacation on Nantucket last week, he told a reporter on Saturday that “we’re not having any (discussions), we’re celebrating.”
Saturday’s activities followed the Bidens’ attendance at the Nantucket Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, and their visit to the Nantucket firehouse on Thanksgiving day.