By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – In one of the few visible signs locally of the upcoming presidential debate, AIDS activists walked along the Highway 7 bypass Monday on the last leg of their 175-mile trek from Jackson to Oxford.
The “Walk against AIDS” group will converge with other activists from all over the nation to call on the presidential candidates to commit to a national AIDS strategy within their first 100 days in office.
Once they arrive in Oxford, the group may find that walking may be one of the few ways to get around as University of Mississippi officials block off roads and close parking lots in preparation for the presidential debate on Friday.
Gertrude Ford Boulevard and Old Taylor Road from Highway 6 to University Avenue are already closed as well as portions of University Avenue and the Lyceum Circle. Bicycles and pedestrians will be allowed until 5 p.m. Thursday.
Late Thursday evening officials will close the Student Union parking lot and the Tad Smith Coliseum parking lot.
Finding a place to stay will also present problems according to Oxford officials who said that hotels within 50 miles are booked. However, there are still rooms available at the Valley Motel, according to the owners.
Although the debate is being held on the campus, only 80 tickets have been set aside for students with many of the 1250 seats going to media representatives from all over the world.
However, at least one Water Valley native will be in the crowd. Cory Williamson, a first-year law student at Ole Miss, won a ticket to the debate in the university sponsored political quiz bowl last Thursday.
The quiz bowl followed a game show format and tested the political knowledge of two teams of students.
Williamson was excited about the win. “I get to hear a couple of world class figures,” he said. “I get to see them in person.”
He added that he was interested in hearing their comments on three issues important to him: energy policy, the economy, and the war in Iraq.
Seventy million television viewers are expected to watch the first presidential debate beginning at 8 p.m. Friday.