BOBBY ARDOIN and KAREN COX
It was a historic moment Monday as The Town of Sunset vaulted briefly onto the national stage.
Spectators lined the streets early and cheered as a motorcade carrying Vice-President Kamala Harris behind a squadron of motorcycles, thundered off Interstate 49 and into the town of several thousand shortly before noon.
The security teams that accompanied Harris’ visit were characteristically tight and became more restrictive shortly after Harris’ Air Force 2 touched down in Lafayette. About 20 minutes later a Louisiana State Police helicopter began circling the town overhead as sirens from the motorcade proclaimed Harris’ arrival.
Side streets leading to the Sunset Community Library and Community Center where Harris later spoke about broadband Internet access for rural areas were blocked off by a Secret Service detail and local law enforcement officers.
Local television crews and media were distanced by security details about 100 yards from where Harris spoke before a small audience comprised of state and local officials after Harris viewed the library.
Despite their detached view behind the media’s cameras, many of those who watched Harris enter the town, stood in the street behind security officers and waited for about an hour, hoping to catch a glimpse of the vice-president as she moved from the library to the Community Center.
“This is historical. It’s so exciting. Just think, this is putting Sunset on the map. This is something good for the town,” said Yvonne Malbrough.
Kay Herpin, who owns an Air B&B two blocks from the Community Center, spoke with several television reporters about Harris’ visit.
“This is a great chance for our area of get high speed Internet. Some people are not able to afford Internet right now and the schools need it,” Herpin said.
Former St. Landry Parish school teacher Marvel Guidry, who now owns a Sunset business, walked from her shop and waited curbside where Eric Neilson was reading an Ernest Hemingway short story.
“It’s just so exciting for us,” Guidry said.
What Harris Said
Harris said her visit celebrated a recently passed bi-partisan infrastructure bill which will spend $200 million to provide affordable broadband Internet access for rural communities like Sunset.
About 30 percent of the households in the areas around Sunset don’t have high-speed Internet at this point, Harris said during her 10-minute speech.
The $30 million from passage of the infrastructure bill will give St. Landry and adjoining parishes more broadband access which is affordable, Harris pointed out.
“Most rural areas are not connected (to the Internet) by fiber optic cable. This community is all too familiar with that challenge,” said Harris.
Visit to Palmetto
Parish officials said Harris also planned to later visit the town of Palmetto as an extension of her trip to southwest Louisiana
It was unclear on Monday who Harris planned to visit in Palmetto.
According to a story published on Yahoo.com, Harris considered Louisiana native Regina Shelton as a “second mom,” when Harris was growing up in Berkeley, Ca. Harris and her sibling Maya were placed in Shelton’s care as youngsters as Harris’ mother, then recently divorced, did graduate work at UC-Berkley, according to the Yahoo story.
Shelton, who died in 1999, also regularly brought Kamala Harris to a church in West Oakland, Ca. Harris, the Yahoo story also indicated, used Regina’s Shelton’s Bible when she was sworn in as vice-president in 2021 in addition to other public offices that Harris has held.