HOLLIDAYSBURG - It was business as usual in the Blair County seat on Wednesday afternoon, despite a large gathering outside the Blair County Courthouse to hear what a presidential hopeful had to say.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum spoke to a crowd of more than 300 gathered on the patio of the courthouse for a "Rally for Rick" that spilled over onto nearby sidewalks and grassy areas.
Just before 3 p.m., when Santorum was scheduled to appear, the crowd deepened, but they would wait about 50 minutes for him to make his way to a podium on an erected stage set up on the patio.
The Altoona Area Advanced Jazz Band played lively music while people gathered under the warm sun.
At one point, a sport utility vehicle honked at the crowd filled with men, women, children and dogs. Some sported pins reading "Don't Believe the Liberal Media," and others held signs supporting Santorum, or held the American flag.
Not everyone was there to support Santorum, though. Two young men near the front of the crowd held homemade signs in support of Ron Paul. One read "Don't Pick a Puppet" on one side.
Some courthouse employees joined the crowd, while employees from the JJAN Financial Group Inc. watched the action from inside the business' doorway across the street.
In addition to local media, representatives from National Public Radio, ABC, NBC, CNN and the Los Angeles Times also covered the event.
Business owners welcomed the extra people to the downtown.
Doug Rhodes, who owns Doug's Dawgs and serves the courthouse traffic throughout the week, kept his hot dog stand open hours later than he normally would, he said. He even called for a backup of supplies.
"But business is good if you want me to be frank," the hot dog vendor said jokingly.
Before the rally officially started, Liz Figurelle, co-owner of the nearby Diamond Bridal Collections and Special Occasions on Allegheny Street, said it was bringing more traffic their way.
"Anything that brings people through our doors, we welcome,"she said.
"It's exciting for him to come to Blair County," store manager Holly Claar said.
"It's exciting to have a candidate come to downtown Hollidaysburg, to our cute little picturesque historical town," Figurelle said.
As for security, about seven sheriff deputies were dispersed throughout the crowd and standing guard on either side of the courthouse, near the Hollidaysburg Laundromat and at the intersection of Union and Allegheny streets.
Blair County Sheriff Mitch Cooper said nobody was called in for extra duty with the courthouse having a light schedule Wednesday afternoon. Hollidaysburg Borough Police were also on alert.
The courthouse was open and doing business as usual, Cooper said. Law enforcement kept the pathway leading up to the courthouse doors clear.
Two state troopers made an appearance at one point, and Santorum's security detail was also present.
Sean Burchfield of Altoona sat in a chair on the porch of Keller Engineers Inc. across the street from the courthouse before Santorum arrived.
Santorum has a "good connection with the American public," Burchfield said. Americans know Santorum has a "good heart" and he "wants the country to do better," he said.
"He believes what he says, he says what he believes," Burchfield said. "A presidency of his would look a lot different than most."
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.