As Biden moves to D.C., Wilmington relishes its time in the spotlight

Biden arrives at The Queen last month. (AP Photo)

Biden arrives at The Queen last month. (AP Photo)

Never before in the history of broadcasting have cable news anchors uttered the phrase, “We go live to Wilmington, Delaware,” than they have over the past 2 ½ months.

Since the start of November, when hundreds of reporters camped out along the Wilmington Riverfront waiting for the results of the election to finally be determined, until this week’s inauguration, Wilmington has been in the spotlight.

Now, as Biden moves into the White House and the national media focus shifts to Washington, D.C., folks in Wilmington are happy to have had their moment in the sun, and are looking forward to more brief stints in the limelight in the years to come.

“It’s been very exciting, and particularly exciting during these COVID times,” said Sarah Willoughby, executive director of the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau.

One woman arrived at the bureau’s visitor center after driving all the way from Ohio in hopes of seeing some sites related to the newly elected president. “It’s been great for us from that standpoint,” Willoughby said.

The attention via Biden is a marked improvement for tourism in Delaware, which has often been ignored by travelers heading through the state to get to bigger destinations like Philadelphia, Baltimore or even New York. In the past, the bureau frequently has had to tell callers, “No, we’re not Wilmington, North Carolina,” Willoughby said.

And while there have been some inconveniences, including blocked streets in downtown Wilmington when Biden’s motorcade makes its almost daily trip to the historic Queen Theatre, the national and international attention have been good for business.

“I think all this is like a really positive thing for the city,” said David Sanchez, who runs a custom shirt-printing shop in downtown Wilmington. “I see some really bright things ahead for us.”

“This has been a source of great community and local pride,” said Mike Hare, executive vice president with the Buccini/Pollin Group, a major developer in downtown Wilmington. “It’s provided some life for Market Street, some impact for the businesses along Market.”

Willoughby is optimistic that President Biden will be able to return frequently to find an escape from the rigors of his new job.

“I just hope that he does keep coming home and finds that as peace, the comfort that got him there,” she said. “I do see the potential of getting out of Washington, and Delaware’s small enough and Delaware has this kind of way of, ‘It’s Joe.’”

Even when he was Vice President Biden, she said, most people treated him like they would anybody else. “You leave Joe alone.”

Willoughby once ran into Biden in a Walgreens pharmacy when he was VP and remembers making eye contact, nodding and moving on.

“’You’ve been in the spotlight enough, let’s just let you be,’” she recalled thinking of the brief interaction, to which Biden responded with a grin.

Though it’s unlikely that anyone will ever run into President Biden at the local pharmacy, the media coverage whenever he returns home means the impact on the local economy is likely to carry on.

“That’s huge coverage that we could never afford,” Willoughby said.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau will work with the Delaware Tourism Office later this spring to launch an advertising campaign designed to draw more visitors to Biden’s home state, she said.

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