MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - As planned, the mayor of Glenn Beck's hometown in Washington state presented the Fox News personality with a ceremonial key to the city Saturday evening, an event preceded by weeks of protests and petitions calling for the cancellation of the visit.
Beck received a boisterous, minute-long standing ovation after receiving the plaque-mounted key from Mount Vernon Mayor Bud Norris, who had proclaimed Saturday "Glenn Beck Day" as a way to mark the conservative commentator's success as a nationally known broadcaster.
Beck spoke for about an hour, remembering his childhood in Mount Vernon, an agricultural city of 31,000 people 60 miles north of Seattle that he described as magical and connected to the values of small-town America. He cried as he reminisced about going to a local theater with his mother.
"Now, I would give my right arm to live in a town like Mount Vernon. And I discovered today that there are a ton of people ready to cut it off," he said, jokingly referring to protesters gathered nearby. "It doesn't bother me, because I have the key to their house now."
Demonstrators outside the city's McIntyre Hall numbered close to 800 - the largest protest anybody could remember in Mt. Vernon's history, Fire Department spokeswoman Erica Work said. The demonstrators appeared evenly split between those who supported Beck and those who opposed his visit.
Police arrested one man who they said ignored repeated warnings to get off the street. The man was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and booked into the Skagit County Jail, authorities said.