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Rhinebeck's all abuzz for Chelsea Clinton's wedding

RHINEBECK - This picturesque town off the Hudson River is more than ready for its close-up.

On the eve of the Clinton-Mezvinsky nuptials, it was all wedding-mania all the time Friday - from the Clinton-themed food on menus to entrepreneurial souvenirs to a daytime visit by the former president himself, who strolled the streets and dined at a local restaurant.

Saturday, the 42nd president and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will hand off their only child, Chelsea Clinton, to Marc Mezvinsky at a private ceremony at the historic Astor Courts.

The event is literally the talk of the town.

"Did you see him?" one small child asked his mom as they strolled a town street Friday.

Outside Pete's Famous Restaurant, a greasy spoon on East Market Street, Wayne Brandes sat on the back of a pickup truck hawking freshly silk-screened T-shirts for the occasion.

"The wedding. Rhinebeck, NY. July 31," say the shirts, which went for $25 a piece and feature intertwined wedding bands. "Get your T-shirts!" Brandes shouted. "You can't leave Rhinebeck without 'em!"

One of his customers was Nancy Chando, a local who spent part of Friday taking friends out on the Hudson on her Jet Ski to spy a peek at the riverside mansion where the ceremony's set to take place.

"I'm still waiting for that invitation to come. But at least I'll have my shirt," she said.

Down the street, Deb Belding, the proprietor of the Rug Garden shop, served cake and Champagne in the street.

"Should we raise a toast?" she shouted.

"Rhinebeck! A great place to get married!" answered Barbara Markell, a passerby and financial planner, originally from Queens.

The Beekman Arms Inn, one of several Rhinebeck establishments where wedding guests were staying, kicked the public out of its dining room at 8 p.m. Friday.

In walked an army of sky-blue-shirt-wearing party planners and black-suit-clad security. A spiral-bound book contained the guest list, laid out yearbook style with accompanying photos for identification. Those allowed into the pre-wedding reception wore a "Welcome" wristband and blue lapel pin.

"Is the motorcade here yet?" one of the peppy planners whispered as cops stood sentry on nearby streets.

Late Friday night, still hundreds packed the streets hoping for a peek at the spectacle.

Earlier, Zachary Seman, a 21-year-old college student, rode his bike to work across the street from the Beekman in anticipation of the traffic nightmare.

"I feel good that I'm not here to see it. I'm here cuz I have work," he said, craning his neck to see what all the fuss was about.


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