DANVILLE, Ky. — Company’s coming, and residents of this central Kentucky hamlet can hardly wait.
On Thursday evening, Danville's cultural epicenter, private Centre College, enrollment 1,340, will be the setting for the country's only chance to see vice presidential candidates Paul Ryan and Joe Biden debate during the fall election season. People in this city of 16,000 are preparing for a phalanx of media, political operatives and spectators.
"We're thrilled! Why wouldn't we be? This is grand, and we're just tickled to death," said resident Jan Nallinger.
Danville is sprucing up just as any hospitable host would.
This weekend, windows in the Maple Tree Gallery were decked out in bunting, patriotic merchandise and a poster promoting the debate, "Thrill in the 'Ville."
Next door, at Karamel Kreations Gourmet Caramel and Gifts, owner Beth King and her husband, Jeff, were dipping caramel-covered apples in red, white and blue chocolate.
Down the block, Chris Corman and another worker were putting a fresh coat of paint on a structure supporting an overhead street sign.
Pots of mums with small American flags decorated street corners. Fire hydrants were painted red, white and blue.
“We’re trying to clean everything up and make it look real pretty for our visitors,” said Corman.
Thursday's spotlight on Danville is sure to be especially intense as the undercard debate of presidential running mates attracts heightened interest.
That should come after Republican Mitt Romney's surprisingly assertive performance against a subdued President Barack Obama during last week's presidential candidate debate in Denver. National polls show Romney and Obama in a close race.
Inside the Maple Tree Gallery, the campaign is unfolding symbolically - and fragrantly - as owner Julie Nelson sells slices of red, white and blue soap. For $8, customers can express their political loyalties by choosing a donkey or an elephant.