Village Yoga Kennebunk Virginia

February 11, 2021
Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

This item has been updated.

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine - “Hey, which way to the Bushes' house?” a man asked this week as he drove by H.B. Provisions, the local general store.

Five ladies sipping coffee outside laughed and didn’t answer. The exchange was consistent with the general vibe around here: The Bush family is well-liked - and should be left alone.

But this weekend, it shouldn't be too hard to find a Bush in town.

The extended clan is descending on this coastal village to mark Barbara Bush's 90th birthday and the 91st birthday of former president George H.W. Bush, which is Friday. Golfing, tennis and some yoga is likely in order, though the former president isn't expected to jump out of an airplane this year, according to a spokesman.

Instead, the formal celebration includes a lobster luncheon on Monday to mark Barbara Bush's birthday. Her literacy foundation also has been raising money to mark its 25th anniversary.

This year's celebrations are drawing more attention than usual as Jeb Bush, the family's second-oldest son, prepares to launch his presidential campaign on June 15. His plans mean this coastal town is likely to endure a new wave of political tourism - the third wave in roughly three decades.

"It’ll be phenomenal for business, " said Steve Kingston, owner of the Clam Shack, a lobster and clam restaurant and market located on the bridge connecting Kennebunkport to neighboring Kennebunk.

Walker's Point, the Bush family compound, is what visitors come to see. It's about two miles south of the town center along Ocean Ave. and has been in the family since the late 19th century, when the 41st president's maternal great-grandfather, David Davis Walker, and grandfather - also named George Herbert Walker - purchased the estate.

Primary residents George and Barbara Bush are usually in town six months every year, flying the Texas flag below Old Glory to signal their presence. Back in the day, the former president would be frequently seen out on the water aboard his beloved cigarette boat, "Fidelity." Former president George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush are also frequent visitors.

As president, George W. Bush visited here 11 times spanning all or part of 43 days, according to records kept by CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller. His most notable visit came in July 2007, when the Bush family hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at a rocky moment in U.S.-Russian relations. Locals dubbed the meeting the "Lobster Summit."

Kingston catered the summit - and is also preparing lobsters for Monday's birthday lunch. Reporters visiting town for the Bush-Putin summit were so intrigued by the seafood menu that Kingston agreed to sit for live interviews with Russian television and Al Jazeera.

During the first Bush presidency, Kingston's ice cream shop up the street was a popular choice for visiting reporters. "I used to serve [then-ABC News White House correspondent] Brit Hume coffee, " he recalled. "It was horrible coffee, absolutely old terrible stuff and he said it was just like it came from the newsroom."

During the second Bush presidency, then-NBC correspondent David Gregory visited frequently. "We used to ship lobsters to his wife’s doctor after she gave birth, " Kingston said. "He was a good customer during that period."

"It's kind of fun to think that more of you will be coming up again, " he said to yet another visiting reporter.

But Kingston - and many other locals who didn't want to give their names - said they don't know much about Jeb Bush. Kingston said he knows Bush's children better.

Share this Post