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Pence makes surprise parade stop in Grandville

Richard Burr The Detroit News

Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to Michigan Tuesday as he walked in Grandville’s Fourth of July parade with Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican Congressman Bill Huizenga.

Vice President Mike Pence, center, and U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, talk on Tuesday to a youngster during the Grandville Fourth of July Parade.

Huizenga, R-Zeeland, said Pence walked the entire parade route with Snyder and himself down Wilson Avenue in the Grand Rapids suburb. This did not thrill Secret Service agents but it allowed the vice president to stop a few times during the parade to shake hands and talk briefly with residents, including a woman who will turn 104 next week, he said.

“We’re walking this whole thing,” Huizenga quoted Pence as saying, discarding a prior plan to walk just a portion of the route.

Vice President Mike Pence waves to parade-goers during his visit to the annual Grandville Fourth of July celebration on Wilson Avenue in Grandville, Mich

Pence walked the parade in a navy blazer with an American flag pin on a lapel, a light blue shirt and khaki slacks, while his wife Karen wore royal blue slacks and a sleeveless white blouse. The vice president received a mostly warm welcome from the crowd as he waved and smiled at paradegoers, according to the Grand Rapids Press.

“Thanks to all in Grandville for a patriotic 4th of July parade,” Pence tweeted early Tuesday afternoon. “Karen & I loved visiting. Happy Independence Day! #VPinMI

“And thank you to all those who have fought and continue to defend the liberty and freedom we celebrate today.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder waves to the crowd of parade-goers during the annual Grandville Fourth of July celebration.

Pence visited Michigan because the administration of President Donald Trump realizes the state is important not only politically but economically, Huizenga told The Detroit News. “It is the heartbeat of America,” he said.

Trump and Pence made six total stops in out-state Michigan — mostly in west Michigan — in the last eight days of the 2016 presidential campaign in a bid to generate excitement among conservative Republican voters who previously were wary about the New York businessman. Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes or about two-tenths of a percentage point.

Huizenga said he spent a few minutes talking to Pence about the importance of funding the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program the administration has targeted for elimination.

The 48-year-old congressman said he also discussed the importance of preventing the invasive Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes, especially after a silver carp was caught more than a week ago about nine miles from Lake Michigan and well beyond an electric barrier network. It is a development that Huizenga said brings “new urgency” to the issue, a position shared by Democrats and Republicans alike in the state’s congressional delegation.

Vice President Mike Pence talks with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder as wife Karen Pence looks on at the Grandville Fourth of July Parade.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was scheduled in late February to make public a tentative plan of options, but the White House has delayed it after lobbying from the shipping industry and some Illinois and Indiana members of Congress. The so-called Brandon Road study is supposed to outline a way to stop Asian carp at a critical choke point in the Illinois River.

“Anytime we can elevate these conversations, it is good,” Huizenga said, noting he has a relationship with the former Indiana governor going back to his days in Congress. “I chose to select in on the Great Lakes. His office has always been very good to us. Hopefully, it will make an impact.”

Snyder representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Snyder wore a dark blue Pure Michigan shirt and khakis at the parade.

The second-term Republican governor has a good relationship with Pence stemming from the vice president’s four years as governor of Indiana. Pence hired Snyder’s chief of staff Jarrod Agen and Deputy Press Secretary Josh Paciorek to head up his vice presidential communications operation.

Vice President Mike Pence waves to people as he leaves the annual Grandville Fourth of July Celebration.

But Snyder has a tense relationship with Trump after he didn’t endorse in either the Republican presidential primaries or the general election. At a mid-March auto event in Ypsilanti Township, the president invited the governor to pose for a photo with him “even though you didn’t endorse me.”

Pence vacationed in northern Indiana before participating in the Grandville parade, according to Huizenga. Pence’s plane landed at South Bend International Airport in Indiana Saturday, according to the South Bend Tribune.

Pence arrived in Grandville Tuesday morning on what he called a “picture-perfect day” ahead of the 11 a.m. parade.

“It was a good day and a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July,” Huizenga said.

Twitter: @RichardBurr_DN