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Obamas on the Rock

By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / August 16, 2011

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For the third summer in a row, President Obama and his family are vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard, and for the third year in a row, the White House is mum about his itinerary while on the Rock. But if the past is prologue, the commander in chief will be doing as little as possible during the 10-day trip, which begins Thursday. Depending on the weather, Obama will spend a lot of time golfing, playing at least one round at each of the island’s four courses: Farm Neck Golf Club (Oak Bluffs), Mink Meadows Golf Club (Vineyard Haven), Vineyard Golf Club (Edgartown), and Edgartown Golf Club (Edgartown). Soon after he arrives, there’s also the requisite stop at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, where the president likes to peruse the shelves for something to read. (Last summer, he walked out with Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom,’’ “To Kill a Mockingbird’’ by Harper Lee, and John Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony,’’ among other books.) The first family is again staying at Blue Heron Farm, the secluded 28-acre estate in Chilmark that includes a Victorian farmhouse, barn, swimming pool, and basketball court. Unlike Bill Clinton, who used to frustrate the Secret Service by taking impromptu strolls in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown, Obama and his family remain largely out of view of the public during their visit to the Vineyard. If they go for a bike ride, as they did last year in the 5,100-acre Manuel Correllus State Forest, crowds are kept miles away. And when Obama, wife Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia want to take a dip in the ocean, it’s not at the Menemsha public beach, but at a super-exclusive stretch of private beach in Edgartown. Food? Getting the seal of approval from the president is a big deal for local restaurants. Just ask the owners of the Sweet Life Cafe in Oak Bluffs, where Obama and his wife dined last summer and the summer before. (During their last visit, the Obamas also snuck out for lunch at Nancy’s Restaurant in Oak Bluffs, and for dinner at State Road and the Beach Plum Inn, whose owner is filmmaker Bob Nixon, son of “All My Children’’ creator Agnes Nixon.) The first family has many friends on the island, one of whom, Harvard professor Charles Ogletree, has talked about wanting to take the president fishing with celebrated Menemsha-based angler Buddy Vanderhoop. Maybe this year? Of course, the president is a politician, so some of his Vineyard vacation is spent raising money. On Thursday, a host of writers and academics, including Ogletree, Geraldine Brooks, “Precious’’ director Geoffrey Fletcher, Richard North Patterson, and Rose Styron are taking part in a fund-raiser at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, and the president may do a meet-and-greet afterward at the home of Ron and Judy Davenport.