Friday, November 2, 2007

Stage Set for Bush Barbecue

Finlay has polished mansion for president’s fundrasing visit today

Ronnie Monts rakes the driveway Thursday at Columbia City Councilman Kirkman Finlay’s home in preparation for today’s visit by President Bush.

The State reports:

It has taken a few years to get Columbia’s white house ready — more than 120 years all told — but Kirkman Finlay believes his home is ready for the resident of the most famous White House.

Today, Finlay, his wife, Kathleen, and three children will host President George W. Bush and more than 500 others at a campaign fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham at the Finlay home.

Planning Southern hospitality on a presidential scale has not been easy, Finlay said.

“It’s all about trying to make it as presentable as you can. To have your home look as good as possible for what I consider a historic event.”

Finlay is a Columbia City Council member and the son of former Columbia Mayor Kirkman Finlay Jr. He is also advising former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson’s S.C. presidential campaign.

Thursday morning, workers were adjusting the tents set up in the backyard for the lunchtime visit. Elsewhere, landscapers spruced up the lawn and shrubbery and tidied mulch.

Finlay declined to discuss much of the preparation for security reasons, and did not allow a tour of the property. Likewise, neither the White House nor the Graham campaign would confirm the event’s location, though Finlay’s home is listed on invitations sent out last month.

According to the invitation, the minimum donation to attend was $250, while those giving or raising $10,000 could have a photo taken with Graham and Bush.

Bush has headlined fundraisers in Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Greenville, but Friday’s event is his first fundraiser in Columbia since becoming president in 2001.

Supporters “have been really excited about this event,” said Scott Farmer, Graham’s campaign spokesman. “People from all over the state are coming to attend.”

Farmer said Bush’s visit is a “seminal moment” for the re-election campaign.

Planning has been stressful, but the staffs of the White House and Graham’s campaign have smoothed the logistics.

Finlay admitted he has made a few trips to home improvement stores during the month since he was asked to host.

“We’ve done everything from mulching to putting in rye seed,” Finlay said. The benefit, he said, is that he has knocked out a number of long-needed home improvement projects.

“That ‘to do’ list has been whittled down,” he said.

The home off Garners Ferry Road, known as Millwood Plantation, was formerly the three-bedroom homestead of Finlay’s Hampton family ancestors. The columns of Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton’s burned home still stand on the property.

The house has been expanded “three or four times,” Finlay said According to property records, the 5-bedroom home is 7,100 square feet.

Finlay also has stables on the property, but expected Bush’s schedule would be too tight to ride with the Texas rancher.

Much easier was planning lunch, which will be catered by Doc’s Barbecue and Southern Buffet, of which Finlay is a co-owner. Dessert will be petit fours (small cakes).

“A nice meal with a Southern flair,” Finlay said.