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Tight security, snow mute Obama buzz

OTTAWA - An enthusiastic but slightly reserved vibe amid intense security preparations and blowing snow - call it Obama-mania, Canadian style.

OTTAWA - An enthusiastic but slightly reserved vibe amid intense security preparations and blowing snow - call it Obama-mania, Canadian style.

Obama T-shirts, Obama specialty coffee beans and even an Obama burger heralded the new president's imminent arrival as well-wishers planned rallies and police raised barricades Wednesday in an expectant Ottawa. It wasn't exactly a carnival atmosphere.

A winter storm and a massive police operation for Barack Obama's six-hour visit Thursday, his first foreign stop as the new U.S. president, helped mute the buzz.

That, and the fact that he was not expected to make a public appearance outside of a tightly orchestrated news conference on Parliament Hill.

Police were still expecting thousands of supporters to line the streets along Obama's most likely motorcade route.

Nano Da Silva, 49, of Ottawa, ran her errands Wednesday to pre-empt the logistical nightmare of navigating city-centre detours during the visit.

"I heard about it on the radio and they said nobody's going to see him," she said. "It's going to be tinted windows, so what's the point?"

But University of Ottawa student Rexy Rolle said a little snow and extra security won't keep her away.

"Obama is such an inspiration to people around the world, and for him to come to Canada is exciting for us because we followed his race as if we were Americans."

Obama fever was evident at the BeaverTails hut in the Byward Market near Parliament Hill. News of a special version of the fried-dough dessert - sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar and a chocolate O - inspired a steady stream of requests Wednesday.

The Obama BeaverTail, however, is being offered only for the day of the actual visit.

Ottawa crowds may enjoy theirs with a cup of Presidential Blend No. 44 from Timothy's World Coffee. Named for the 44th U.S. commander-in-chief, the blend is being touted as a tribute to Obama's own mixed heritage: "a medium to strong body of Sumatra, with the distinctiveness of Kenyan and the smoothness of Hawaiian Kona."

T-shirts that were selling well for $10 at a Zeller's store near Parliament featured photos of Martin Luther King and Obama with the words: "From a dream to a reality."

The muted hoopla left some fans of the first African-American U.S. president hoping for more.

"It is really a memorable occasion," said student Morgan Eadie, 20, of Ottawa. "But as of now . . . you're not going to be able to see him, he's not going to address the public and there's not going to be any sort of discourse or anything like that.

"It's almost like you're waiting for nothing, and it's cold and there's no real reason for you to be out there."

Eadie, says she'll take a pass Thursday: "I think they should have made it a little bit more public, because it is exciting and they should play that up."

Rachel Decoste says she'll be out to show her support regardless. She volunteered on Obama's campaign for a year, making long-distance phone calls from Ottawa and door-knocking in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

She attended his inauguration in Washington and said the best part was mingling with people from around the world who gathered to share the joy of history in the making.

"He has given us the philosophy of crossing bridges, of not seeing people as blue state or red state, black or white, Latino, French," she said. "He has gone beyond that.

"He's been able to be bipartisan and include people from the right and left wing in his administration, and include so many women.

"To me, that is the biggest gift he has given us: Hope and that standard of inclusiveness that works."

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