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President stopped by South Side home before speech

Onlookers snap cell phone pictures of President Barack Obama on East Elm Street on Wednesday afternoon.

Submitted photo / Sean Gilroy

SCRANTON – Patrick and Donna Festa had a surprise guest for lunch Wednesday – the President of the United States.

Barack Obamastopped at the Festa home at 950 E. Elm St. in South Scranton on his way to Scranton High School. The presidential motorcade weaved its way past hundreds of people lining the streets leading to the Festa home.

Donna Festa, 49, would later introduce Obama at the school that her two children – Bridget, 16, and Patrick, 15 – attend. Patrick Festa, also 49, has taught third grade in the Scranton School District for 25 years.

Donna Festa works as a graphic artist at Universal Printing. John Rizzo, press secretary for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, said the business is solely owned by the senator’s sister, Margi McGrath.

The Festas said the president sat at their dining room table, ate a little lunch and then chatted with them about their jobs and their children. They said he seemed genuinely interested in how they were doing and asked a lot of questions.

“We were nervous before he arrived,” Patrick Festa said. “But he had a way of just putting us at ease. It was a great visit and we enjoyed talking with him.”

“He told us he wants to put people to work,” Mrs. Festa said. “He shared his concerns about our country. It was a thrill of a lifetime to have him come to our home.”

Outside the Festa house onlookers gathered to catch a glimpse of the 44th president. Rosemary Schirg, 72, lives at 934 Maple St., not far from the Festas.

“I took work off to be here,” she said. “He’s our president – we should stand behind him. I’m more worried about what Congress is doing.”

Amanda Gilroy, 27, of Luzerne Street, Scranton, brought her son, Sean, 8 months old. Obama patted the young boy’s head as he was leaving.

Sean Gilroy got video of his son with Obama.

“To have that moment forever is really cool,” he said. “It’s something I can show Sean when he’s older and say, ‘You were there, and you met a very influential person.’ ”

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