Mid-Mo. delegates find NYC safe, fun

Tuesday, August 31, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:23 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

Stephanie Huett said her first impression of New York is that it’s like Fort Knox.

The 14-year-old is in the Big Apple this week to attend the Republican National Convention with her mother, Denna, a Columbia resident and Missouri delegate to the convention.

“All the police officers in New York City, I salute them,” Stephanie said by telephone Sunday. “They have been wonderful. I have not been in one area where I have not seen a policeman.”

Brad Barondeau of Ashland, another delegate at the convention, said “the place is crawling with police.”

“They’re everywhere,” Barondeau said. “The way I see it, if you see them everywhere, along with there being plainclothes police, everyone’s safe.”

Security is definitely tight in New York, where Denna Huett and Barondeau are serving as two of Missouri’s 57 official delegates to the 38th Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. Sherri Shumard and Ron Sprouse, both of Columbia, are among the Show-Me State’s 54 alternate delegates.

The Boone County participants are staying at Times Square’s Westin New York Hotel, where they must have their bags and belongings searched each time they enter the building. The guests must also show photo identification and their room key to a hotel attendant before they are allowed access to their rooms.

“It’s a very secure situation,” said Barondeau, who brought his wife and 4-year-old daughter. Denna Huett said delegates are also trying to keep things peaceful as thousands of protesters flood the city.

“We don’t want to stir any animosity,” said Denna Huett, who has raised money for Ninth District U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Columbia, for 10 years. “We don’t want to cause a riot. We’re here for a peaceful reason: We’re here to nominate our candidate.”

The crew from Boone County will ride a shuttle bus from the Westin Hotel to Madison Square Garden. Members of the New York police force will be present on each shuttle, Barondeau said.

The delegates managed to fit in some playtime before the convention started. Barondeau, whose lost luggage arrived at his hotel at midnight Saturday, spent that evening at Toys “R” Us in Times Square to appease his daughter.

“This place is hoppin’,” he said. “It’s New York.”

Missouri delegates joined Ohio and Indiana delegates Sunday for a performance of the Broadway musical “Wonderful Town.” Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani greeted them before the play.

Stephanie Huett, a freshman at Columbia Independent School, will offer a presentation on the GOP convention to her classmates when she returns to school next week.

Her mother said she was aware of the protesters gathered in New York to demonstrate their opposition to the re-election of President George W. Bush.While she wore plain clothes to blend into the crowds this weekend, she said she planned to wear more Republican regalia starting Monday. “After being out and seeing some of the protesters, I just know I’m very proud of what we’re doing,” Denna Huett said. “I want to wear the G.W. T-shirt. I want people to know I’m very proud of what we are here to do.”

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