WOLFEBORO, N.H. - The Romney family vacation hit a peak today as several of its members paraded down Main Street here in the picturesque New England town, where residents flocked to catch a glimpse of the presumptive GOP nominee. Some had set up chairs at dawn to get a good seat along the route.
Romney, accompanied by his wife, Ann, their five sons and more than a handful of their grandchildren, marched through the Wolfeboro town center, greeting supporters with handshakes and an occasional sweaty hug. Romney has been here since Saturday enjoying a weeklong vacation. Today marked his first public event.
"Happy Fourth of July!" Romney wished supporters as he criss-crossed the street, his Secret Service agents in tow, to shake as many hands as possible. "Happy Birthday, America!"
When one supporter yelled, "Save our spirit," Romney responded with an emphatic "You bet!"
"Get out and vote next year, this November, I mean!" said Romney, wiping beads of sweat off his brow. At one point, stopping to guzzle a glass of lemonade, Romney was asked how it tasted, to which he replied, "Lemon. Wet. Good."
The parade ended in a park overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, where Romney stood alongside New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte to make brief remarks in honor of the holiday. While Ayotte is rumored to be a vice presidential contender, members of the crowd were convinced that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal would show up here today with Romney. Jindal, who was in Baton Rouge, according to an aide, did not make an appearance.
"My heart is full this morning as I see you and know of your patriotism and passion for the future of this country, and I think of all that has been sacrificed so we can enjoy the liberties we have here," said Romney on a stage decorated with American flags.
"The world needs a strong America. It needs an America that is convinced that its values are right, an America with strong homes and families, an America with an economy that's bustling, creating jobs and supporting a military so strong that no one in the world would ever think of challenging it," said Romney. "That is the America we must have and we must build!"
Romney, whose family arrived in a trolley to accommodate all the small children, joked that he and Ann had woken up this morning and marveled at the sheer size of their family.
"One of the reasons I love being here so very much is I have Ann with me. We looked at each other this morning and with the 30 of us running around the house - we have 30 of us - we looked at each other and said, gosh, our love really started something, didn't it?" he said.
Politics weren't lost here today on Romney, who commented on the Obama supporters he met along the parade route, some of whom had signs that read "Obama: Invest in America."
"I love the fact that as we walked in the parade today, I realized that a number of people were thinking about voting for someone else besides me. I know they were," said Romney, chuckling. "A few of them in that crowd. But you know what? They were courteous, they were courteous and respectful and said 'good luck to ya' and 'happy Fourth of July.'
"This is a time for us to come together as a people. We have different views on political issues, but with regards to our conviction that this nation is unique and exceptional, we must come together and show respect for what it is that makes us such a great nation," said Romney.