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Edwards fans at airport get a smile and a wave

Supporters who had gathered on the perimeter of the Medford airport to see Sen. John Edwards depart said they were disappointed he didn't stop to shake their hands. But that won't change their vote in the Nov. 2 election, they said.

Edwards gave the crowd a quick smile and a wave before disappearing into a large red, white and blue airplane at the Medford Air Service terminal at about 12:15 p.m. Wednesday.

We were all hoping he would come out here and shake our hands, but oh well, said David Burns of Medford, who snapped several photos of Edwards and his plane before they took off en route to a rally in Eugene later in the afternoon.

I barely was able to get a shot of him, Burns said. My wife is on the East Coast with the grandkids, and I knew she would want to at least have a picture of the plane.

Other than campaign staffers, airport officials and Secret Service agents, a few members of the local media were the only people allowed inside a gate at the terminal before Edwards left town. Jackson County sheriff's deputies made sure Burns and about 20 others hoping to catch a glimpse of the candidate stepped no closer than about 100 feet from the airplane, behind a chain-link fence.

— Apparently, I missed him, said a disappointed Summer Nault of Phoenix. Nault said she gave up a ticket to Edwards' town hall meeting Wednesday at the Medford Armory in exchange for an opportunity to baby-sit the candidate's luggage. She said staffers told her and others who watched the luggage during the morning event that they might get a chance to meet Edwards, but that never happened.

It's actually OK, said Nault, a volunteer with the Carry Oregon campaign. It's not going to hurt ' he's still going to get my vote.

Edwards flew into Medford just before 11 p.m. Tuesday aboard a large Cessna bearing the campaign slogans A Stronger America and The Real Deal. A pair of Medford police cars led Edwards' motorcade to the Rogue Regency Inn, where the entourage accessed the hotel through its freight entrance.

Jack Martin of Medford drove a car in the motorcade back to the airport on Wednesday. He said Edwards' visit highlighted an exciting year in politics for local Democrats.

This has been a fine year for Jackson County ... with both (Sen. John) Kerry and Edwards coming here, Martin said.

Kerry spoke at a Central Point rally in August, two weeks after Vice President Dick Cheney appeared at a similar event. President George W. Bush flies into town this afternoon.

Patricia Parish Kuhn of Medford supports the Kerry-Edwards campaign, but says she is also thrilled to know the president is on his way to the Rogue Valley.

Wednesday, Parish Kuhn parked her car along Milligan Way and watched from a distance as Edwards boarded his plane.

I didn't get a ticket (to the town hall meeting) so I came out here to see him off, she said. I could see him wave to everybody before he left.

Airport spokeswoman Kim Stearns said no flights were delayed because of Edwards' visit.

Reach reporter Jack Moran at 776-4459, or e-mail .