Local organizers of a free, public event this month to bring U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann to Bluffton figured about 200 people would come to see the Tea Party leader and potential presidential candidate.
That number is now expected to climb to 2,000 or more.
Originally scheduled for outside the Old Town Dispensary at Carson Cottages, the April 16 event has been moved to Buckwalter Place and morphed from a small gathering to a block party with multiple bands, vendors and speakers.
Thomas Viljac, a co-organizer and owner of the Dispensary, said he'd been told local hotel rooms are being booked by out-of-towners who want to hear Bachmann speak. That prompted the need to find another location, he said.
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Town manager Anthony Barrett, who is in charge of special-events permits for the town, said in an email the venue had to be changed because the crowd was expected to grow due to Bachmann's possible 2012 presidential bid.
Speakers will take over a stage set near the Buckwalter Place roundabout starting at 2 p.m. April 16. Vendors will sell hot dogs, hamburgers and apple pie. Bands will play patriotic songs, and an inflatable kids zone will entertain the younger set, according to organizers.
The organizers say the event is nonpartisan and not a campaign platform or political rally. Viljac and co-sponsor Kimberly Tatro of the Lowcountry Business Circle said they are paying for the event, which is billed as an all-American celebration of the right to vote.
"Our forefathers have fought and protected it, and the right to vote has prevailed," Tatro said. "We want to bring some enthusiasm back into our community about being an American."
Bachmann spokesman Andy Parrish said the Minnesota congresswoman's speech "certainly is not going to have any 'vote for me' or anything like that."
Bachmann has hinted at forming a presidential exploratory committee, but Parrish said she won't make a decision until summer.
The rumors have been sparked by Bachmann's visits to key primary states, such as Iowa and New Hampshire. She will appear at three events in Bluffton during her visit to South Carolina this month, beginning April 15. Her trip to the state ends April 18 in Columbia at a Tea Party rally, where Gov. Nikki Haley is also scheduled to appear.
Tatro said she knew the drive would be a success but didn't think it would grow so large.
"I do believe it's going to be something that Bluffton has never seen before," she said.