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WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 02: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton smiles as her husband former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea look on during a ceremonial swearing-in for Sec. Clinton at the State Department February 2, 2009 in Washington, DC. Clinton is the 67th Secretary of State of the United States of America. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Hillary Clinton;Bill Clinton;Chelsea Clinton
Never mind that the details about Chelsea Clinton's wedding are being guarded like state secrets. The postcard-pretty town of Rhinebeck is ready for its close-up.
The former first daughter and her parents have not even confirmed that her wedding is being held in Rhinebeck. Still, signs congratulating her hang in shop windows, residents are talking to TV crews and officials are bracing for crowds.
Clinton, 30, will wed investment banker Marc Mezvinsky on Saturday, and this little Hudson Valley town of upscale boutiques and pricey homes north of New York City is expecting an influx of A-List guests, reporters and rubber-neckers.
"I think this will put us on the map in an entirely different way," said Ira Gutner, owner of Samuel's coffee shop, which featured a sign in the window congratulating the Methodist bride and Jewish groom with "Mazel Tov, Chelsea and Marc."
"People will say, 'Oh, let's go to Rhinebeck, Chelsea Clinton got married there.' ... We'll forever be known for this," he said.
It's all but certain that the couple will wed Saturday evening at Astor Courts, a secluded estate along the Hudson River built as a Beaux Arts style playground for John Jacob Astor IV more than a century ago. The estate features the sort of commanding view that once inspired Hudson River School painters, as well as 50 acres of buffer space to shield the party from prying eyes.
The spot is a bit more than an hour north of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton's home in suburban Chappaqua and about 90 miles north of New York City.
The Clintons — and the Mezvinskys — have been Sphinxes when it comes to wedding details. The cone of silence appears also to cover contractors, who are as reluctant to talk about their dealings with the Clintons as characters in Harry Potter books are about uttering Voldemort's name.
The agent at the front desk of the Beekman Arms, which reportedly will put up wedding guests, politely said Wednesday he could not comment on anything related to the weekend. The story was the same at nearby Clinton Vineyards — unrelated to the former president — which has in the past bottled special "Victory White" wines for the Clintons during their political campaigns.
"We've been inundated with so many requests," said Rita Flood, who works at the vineyards.
The silence has hardly stopped the media. The gossip website TMZ reported that the couple's wedding playlist includes Abba's "Dancing Queen." Wedding planners not involved in the ceremony have quoted cost estimates as high as $5 million. Two Norwegian journalists were arrested last week for trespassing at Astor Courts.
On Wednesday, locals shared the sidewalks with camera crews conducting interviews. People were generally supportive, whether it was merchants expecting a boost in business or residents caught up in the buzz.
A number of shops posted signs like "Congratulations Marc and Chelsea." One shop posted pictures of the Clintons, and a sign on a cosmetics store read: "Oprah! Please make my soap one of your favorite things." (Winfrey was reportedly invited.)
"We're excited, and we're respecting their privacy as much as we can," said Julie Turpin, as she walked her dog Coco.
The official secrecy didn't appear to bother residents too much, mostly because few doubted the wedding was going to happen here. A couple of people said they felt bad that Chelsea went through tumultuous times when her father was president, and said they didn't begrudge the family a little privacy now.
"If this was my kid getting married and I was as well known as the Clintons, I think I'd do the same thing," said Nancy Amy, of the Rhinebeck Area Chamber of Commerce.
The reaction wasn't totally positive. Some worry about traffic jams; others wonder why the details are being kept secret so close to the wedding. One man waiting to get his hair cut at a barber pointed disapprovingly to a tabloid headline Wednesday referring to residents as "local yokels."
Anthony Bruz, smoking a cigar along the main street, said he'll be "a little relieved" when it's over, though he already had plans to be out of town this weekend.
A theory that the Rhinebeck activity is an elaborate feint designed to shake off the press faded this week as state police referred calls to the Secret Service and the Rhinebeck Town Council authorized spending $2,500 for an extra 50 hours of police coverage.
Town Supervisor Tom Traudt said they "expect this event to happen."
"People are very excited," he said. "We're getting used to the TV cameras."