Vice President Joe Biden visits Peoria

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Vice President Joe Biden visited Peoria March 31 accompanied by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Keynote speaker for 16th annual Partners in Peace Celebration sponsored by The Center for Prevention of Abuse at Peoria Civic Center. Biden's visit was significant because he wrote the landmark 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The measure led to creation of the Peoria County Family Justice Center in October 2004.

Democratic Chairman Billy Halstead said Biden’s appearance proves Peoria’s importance on the national map, also noting President Barack Obama’s visit last year.

“The president comes one year, the vice president the next and we’re still a long ways from election. It’s not like they’re stumping for votes. I think it’s huge,” Halstead said, noting how the general public was invited to attend the event. “He’s not only coming to our city, but he’s coming here for a very important issue he feels deeply about.”

After departing the Civic Center, Biden made an unscheduled shop at George’s Shoeshine, a favorite stop of Secretary LaHood’s and local downtown institution. Owner George Manias, in his 63rd year of shining shoes, refused to accept payment for the five-minute shoeshine service that thrust his otherwise quiet business into the national spotlight — again.

In his shop, Manias boasts pictures with President Barack Obama, who stopped for a shine in 2009 and former presidents George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, all of whom stopped at the shop at one point or another.

“It was exciting, because I never thought he would stop by my shop. He’s a real nice man. He talks just like an ordinary person, a nice guy,” Manias said following Biden’s visit.

A second unscheduled shop took place at The Spotted Cow ice cream joint and cafe in Central Peoria, where owners Frank and Donna Abdnour renamed their homemade chocolate chip ice cream “Chip off the Old Biden” in his honor.

At that location, vice president Biden, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin sat with several small business owners and workers in the Peoria area.

One of those people was David Hill, who, with the help of Workforce Network funded by Recovery Act investments, has been able to transition his management experience into a retail grocery management position with The Kroger Company. Biden noted situations similar to Hill’s are taking place throughout the country.

Peoria resident Duane Greer took a guess Biden would visit Spotted Cow and managed to snag a front-row seat in the comfy cafe before the vice president arrived. “We live in the same neighborhood as Abdnour’s and I’m driving around here and I start seeing a lot of guys in black suits and dark vehicles I knew something was going on. So we walked down here from our house to have some lunch.”