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Gearing up for Bush

When the president comes to town, moving mountains becomes the order of the day for local businesses ' at least figuratively.

Builders were given overnight construction deadlines and nursery owners had only a few more hours to transform Compton Arena at Jackson County Expo Center into a forest-like setting for today's 12:45 p.m. appearance by President Bush.

Bush is expected to make a major policy speech at the Expo, announcing plans to ease restrictions on logging in national forests to make it easier for timber companies to get approval to remove fire-prone dead trees and undergrowth.

As part of Wednesday's preparations, Adroit Construction got a call from the local Bureau of Land Management office late Monday asking the Ashland construction company to confer on a project.

Adroit's Bob Mayers, Steve Lawrence and Jason Stranberg met with White House advance team members, including Ron Fox, who handled many of today's preparations. The advance team wanted a proposal first thing Tuesday morning.

We got (an &

36;11,700 proposal) to them at 8 o'clock Tuesday and at 10 we got a message: Proposal accepted, said Mayers, Adroit chief executive officer. They needed it to be done by Wednesday morning.

Many hands make light work and Adroit's eight-man carpenter crew worked lightning-fast.

Using a digital photo of an aging, mock-up fire lookout at the Expo's BLM park, the carpenters hammered and sawed from 1:30 p.m. Tuesday until — a.m. Wednesday. An Apex Painting crew took center stage at 6 a.m.

We made the deadline and they were quite pleased, said Mayers, who called on Ashland Lumber, Lowe's, Safway Scaffolding, and United Rentals for help.

The completed structure stands 20 feet high, 15 feet square and weighs 4,000 pounds.

It's carriage- and leg-bolted so it can be transported, Mayers said. We're going to donate it to BLM for one of the parks ' it's not going to be taken to the dump.

It was perhaps Adroit's quickest ' and most unusual ' turnaround in more than two decades. Another odd job was in 1981; Adroit crews spent the night taking a jackhammer to the Western Bank vault in Ashland when the door was shut prematurely.

Staff at Oregon Stage Lighting and Sound Inc. in Medford have been scrambling since Monday, when they got the request from the White House to provide technical support.

To be able to pull something together in three days is a lot of stuff, said Joe Edwards, sales manager for the firm.

Along with standard lighting and sound equipment for Bush's appearance in Central Point, the firm had to figure out how to provide follow spots ' moving spotlights ' in the forest for the press crews covering the wildfire.

This isn't the first time firm owner Bob Peterson has tackled presidential duties.

Bob said he had lit George's dad a few years back, Edwards said.

Like Adroit, Valley View Nursery has done bigger jobs, but never one for a higher-profile customer.

We're used to shipping truckloads of stuff and we've had landscape jobs bigger than this, Valley View general manager John Stranberg said. It's just we only had one day to put it together.

Stranberg's charge was to deck out the 48-by-32 stage on the west end of the arena in Northwest flora.

This is one of those things where no one was specific other than they wanted native pine and the like, Stranberg said. Basically, I have to dress up the stage area as well as behind upper decks where the press will be. I'm taking hundreds of plants.

Southern Oregon Nursery is pitching in with about a dozen larger trees.

Valley View employs 32 people this time of the year. On Wednesday it assigned eight workers to assemble plants, load and deck out the stage.

Simple food with an Oregon flair will distinguish the Jacksonville Inn's menu for President Bush and an entourage of about 80 expected for breakfast and lunch today, said executive chef Wendy Little.

The presidential palate will be tempted with stuffed hazelnut chicken with pear sauce, a cold poached Oregon salmon platter and a lemon mousse with marionberry sauce, among other dishes.

It's exciting, said Little. I just put my head down and go.

Owner Jerry Evans wasn't quite sure how his restaurant was chosen to cater two presidential meals at the Compton Arena at the Jackson County Exposition Park in Central Point.

We did feed his father, Evans mused. And Newt Gingrich was in three weeks ago. Maybe we have a reputation that goes beyond the Rogue Valley, and people just don't realize that.

JoNel Aleccia contributed to this report

Brandon Downey, left, and Matt O'Connell, both of Valley View Nursery, load a tree onto a truck Wednesday for delivery to the Jackson County Expo Center in preparation for President George Bush's speech today. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven