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HEBRON

Obama daughter lost in fairyland

Nothing to see at girls camp

It's confirmed. At least two fairy princesses, part of the Fairy/Gnome House Festival, are in Hebron this weekend, seen emerging from thick woods yesterday.

Wings and all.

Malia Obama? That's another story.

News reports out of Boston this week claimed the president's 12-year-old daughter is attending Camp Wicosuta, a camp for girls along Newfound Lake in Hebron.

The camp offers soccer, lacrosse, swimming, gymnastics, dance, drama, horseback riding, waterskiing, tennis, arts and crafts, and a lot more.

The town's residents? They offered nothing.

Some said they hadn't heard anything about Malia. Some said they knew nothing, then smiled that smile that tells you they knew something, or at least

thought they knew something. Some said they couldn't care less.

And one woman, speaking in a charming English accent, told a reporter she was disturbed by questions trying to find the truth about the elder first daughter.

'The girl is on a private holiday,' said the woman, packing books into a hatchback. 'Leave her alone. Leave me alone. This disgusts me.'

Meanwhile, Hebron resembled a typical New England town, quiet with lake views of rolling green hills, small coves and speedboats.

There were no Secret Service agents visible, no police cruisers cruising, no helicopters buzzing, no protesters out front, rallying against health care and immigration.

In fact, none of the camp's four exits along West Shore Road was blocked, in any way. The main parking lot was wide open, inviting you to drive in, near kids playing tennis and walking around.

Eye-rolling and sighs from the staff inside the main office communicated the news media had been there before. Camp director Justin Dockswell quickly got the call from a walkie-talkie. He'd give the statement. Or at least he'd say there was nothing to say.

'We don't comment at all about any of our campers, no matter who it is,' Dockswell politely said.

Surely the Hebron Village Store, across from the gazebo in the center of town, would provide some reliable gossip. Bill Nugent, the new owner, served breakfast yesterday, hoping his business becomes part of the town's charm. He wore an apron showing a moose cooking a steak. He's heard little about Malia since Thursday, when the news rushed north from Boston like a weekend camper.

'I haven't seen anything,' Nugent said. 'Just one reporter, a lady from Manchester. She had blond hair.'

Dan McElreavy sat at the counter, ready to order. He wore shorts and work boots, and he needed a shave. He said he knew nothing, not even that Obama's daughter was reportedly in town.

'News to me,' McElreavy said. 'But that doesn't mean anything. Maybe I'm the Secret Service in disguise. You'll never know what we look like.'

Any information gathered came secondhand. Nugent, through word of mouth, says Secret Service agents were spotted at a nearby store in Newfound recently. He heard something about helicopters in the area.

Josiah Wolcott of nearby Groton worked the cash register and told what he knew.

'I heard about it a few weeks ago,' he said. 'Someone came in and mentioned it. But I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Someone mentioned that there were staties moving around, but I didn't see anything.'

Then Ryall Meyer, sitting with his wife and eating pancakes and eggs, took the story in an entirely new direction. What if we've all been duped? What if the news media got it wrong? What if the White House pulled a fast one, diverting our attention here so Malia could sing around the campfire there?

'They tricked us all,' said Meyer, who owns a summer home in Alexandria, the next town over. 'I think she's somewhere on Lake Winnipesaukee. She's not here, or maybe she left already. You're not going to be allowed to just drive in there like that.'

On it went, all over town, skepticism mixed with ignorance mixed with indifference. Bob Kelley and his wife sat at a table near the front window. He crossed his legs and wore sandals.

'Unless she invited me for tea and coffee, I'm not interested,' said Kelley, who owns a summer home in Bristol. 'And I wouldn't be interested in meeting her if I had to wear socks.'

Hebron police Chief Bill White pulled into the store's parking lot and told a reporter to wait while he went to his house, a two-minute drive. He came back with a phone number.

'Public relations officer for the Secret Service,' White said. 'I can't give you anything.'

Neither could the Secret Service public relations guy in Washington, D.C., who said the story wasn't a story.

Maybe, maybe not. Maybe Malia is in Hebron, was in Hebron, or never came to Hebron. Maybe the folks in Hebron know more than they're saying, or maybe they know nothing at all.

At the Fairy/Gnome House Festival, a fantasy land of magic for kids one mile from Camp Wicosuta, women with volunteer tags greeted the public, their smiles adding warmth to the day.

They were asked about recent events in their town. What did they know? When did they know it? What have they seen?

'It started today, and it runs through tomorrow' director Carol 'Ralph' McQuilkin said. 'We have fairy houses and fairies.'

Two fairies, young girls with wings and magic wands, walked by from an open patch of land in front of thick woods, where the fairy houses are hidden.

'There they are,' McQuilkin said.

She was told the topic was Malia Obama, not fairies. McQuilkin smiled, like the Cheshire cat.

'Oh,' she said. 'That's a secret. I don't know.'

(Ray Duckler can be reached at rduckler@cmonitor.com.)