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Going Fourth into history

In what must have been a first in United States history, Martha Washington, Helen Taft, Jackie Kennedy, Barbara Bush and Dolley Madison gathered in the Oval Office for a group picture at the Medford airport.

This gathering of former first ladies kicked off the opening of the airport's newest feature, a replica of the White House Oval Office on the second floor of the terminal.

And what better way to unveil such a feature than a president and first lady look-alike contest?

Claudette Hills of Medford donned late-1880s period dress for her Helen Taft makeover.

The choice of Mrs. Taft was nonpolitical, Hills said.

"It was more about looks," she said. "I look most like Helen Taft, so she's who I chose."

A stream of onlookers filed into the faux Oval Office Wednesday, taking in the carefully crafted details that included exact placement of paintings on the walls and photo recreations of the Rose Garden as a backdrop.

Bern Case, the airport's director, said the Oval Office idea sprouted in 2010. A vacant room on the terminal's second floor was crying out for use, Case said.

"The room had the dimensions of the Oval Office and it turned out perfectly," Case said.

The room is to be rented out for meetings and gatherings to generate revenue for the airport.

"We aren't going to host crazy bachelor parties or anything like that," Case said. "But we think it's something people will be interested in."

The room costs $75 for four hours use, Case said.

Lynn Roberts, a self-proclaimed Democrat, said she was proud to parade around as Barbara Bush for a day. She did research into George Bush Sr.'s wife as she fashioned her costume.

"Barbara was very opinionated and played soccer and swam as a young lady," Roberts said. "Also, she and Abigail Adams were the only ones who were the mother and the wife of a president."

Karen Gordon, who embodied Dolley Madison, said she respected the fourth first lady's bravery in the face of the British invasion and burning of Washington, D.C., in 1814.

"Dolley refused to leave until she rescued George Washington's portrait," Gordon said.

The lone president represented in the contest was fitting on July 4.

Rick Glimpse's George Washington drew raves and chuckles from the crowd as he mugged beside his likeness on the Oval Office wall.

Glimpse said the heavy wool outfit and wig would have been a burden in summertime.

"I have learned that the good ol' days probably weren't so good," Glimpse said.

Thirteen-year-old Cydney Geisinger made her own pillbox hat to complete her transition into Jackie Kennedy.

"I chose Jackie because she's really pretty and iconic," she said.

The winner of the contest will receive a free two-way ticket to Los Angeles. The winner will be judged by the airport board and announced on July 16.

"This is going to be a tough group to judge," Case said. "There's some good competition."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Claudette Hills, left, as Helen Louise Herron 'Nellie' Taft and Lynn Roberts as Barbara Pierce Bush pose for pictures under a portrait of George Washington in the Medford airport's replica Oval Office. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell