Obama walks neighborhood street before appearance just after 10 a.m.

Update, 11 a.m.
Presidential hopeful Barack Obama kicked off his town hall meeting in Medford just half an hour late, after working crowds inside and out of the Kids Unlimited building where the event was held.

A stir rippled through the crowd gathered on Medford's Edwards Street at about 9:50 a.m., then turned to a cheer that grew louder as Barack Obama came into view walking west on Edwards.

Accompanied by campaign aides and Secret Service men, the candidate talked with a reporter as he walked. A slight man with a million-watt smile, Obama shook hands, working the crowd, smiling and looking people in the eyes as he headed down the line.

Gideon Rayburn, 28, who has lived in a house on the north side of Edwards for 15 years, left the porch to disappear into the crowd, then returned saying, "He shook my hand."

Richard Fowler, 52, Rayburn's father, shook his head. He said that's something you don't see every day. "Especially on this street."

“I was really surprised that he went into the back to see the people who couldn’t get in to see his speech,” said Loma Claus, a Central Point woman who was waiting behind the police barricade but got to see Obama.

Donavon Clark, who moved to White City from Pass Christian, Miss., in September 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, was glad to be able to see the candidate outside the venue, too.

Born in 1965 he said he could remember black people facing serious struggles. “We still are,” he added. “But to see someone with his background so close to becoming president is touching. It’s just phenomenal.”

The crowd also included protesters — Ron Paul supporters, anti-abortion advocates and lone Ralph Nader supporter.

Campaign volunteer Denise Cyr introduced the senator, then retired Gen. Tony McPeak offered opening remarks shortly after 10 a.m.

The stump speech lasted about 40 minutes before the candidate started taking questions from the audience.

Outside, crowds dwindled, perhaps limiting the money-making opportunity for enterprising businesses and neighbors who were charging supporters to use bathrooms. One neighboring lot was offering parking for $10.

— Bill Varble, Anita Burke, Paris Achen

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