Preparation for presidential visit to Utah a ‘big, big, big production’

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SALT LAKE CITY -- It was hard to miss the plane landing at Hill Air Force Base Thursday night, or all that went into making sure its passenger was taken care of during his stay.

“Big, big, big production,” said Captain Jess Anderson of the Utah Highway Patrol.

More than 80 officers with UHP worked President Obama’s motorcade, ensuring no traffic interrupted his trip from HAFB to downtown Salt Lake City.

The agency was one of several in the state that coordinated with the Secret Service to prepare for the visit.

“It’s not an every day thing that the President comes to the state,” Anderson said. “So, for us to be involved, it’s an honor to do that and to protect that office of our nation.”

The protections included a barricade around the Sheraton Hotel along 500 south, where the president spent the night. Surrounding the property were empty UTA buses and dump trucks, which allowed officers to conduct security checks for guests entering the premises.

However, once inside, it was easy to catch a glimpse of the president passing through the lobby. According to posts on social media, guests lounging in a nearby restaurant were able to shake hands and snap photos.

On Twitter, one employee wrote, “I don’t have to keep quiet anymore! Obama stayed in the hotel I work at and gifted us these cute treats.”

The post, as well as others, included a photo of some chocolates left by the president and his team.

According to Jason Ford, general manager of the hotel, the president was “extremely gracious” with all guests in the lobby.

While the hotel would not release how many rooms the president’s detail required, there were only a few vacancies Thursday evening.