WASHINGTON — Mainer Jennifer Benner first got an inkling she and her family were on an extraordinary White House public tour when they spotted the video cameras in the Blue Room and were told by a guide to prepare themselves for a “nice surprise.”

But it was still quite a jolt when the family from Cushing walked into the Blue Room earlier today and saw First Lady Michelle Obama and first dog Bo.

“It was very cool,” Benner said in a phone interview this afternoon. “She couldn’t have been more pleasant or more welcoming.”

The White House public tour – arranged through the office of Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District – was part of the Washington stop on a family road trip to Florida in celebration of the recent 13th birthdays of Benner’s daughter, Casey Benner, and her nephew, Zach Jones. Also on the trip: Benner’s sister, Sarah Jones, and her step-mother, Alyson Jones, also both of Cushing.

The first lady has popped into public tours a few times before to greet visitors. No photographers were on hand for this occasion, but the White House live streamed video on WhiteHouse.gov.

Mrs. Obama chatted with people for more than an hour as tour groups moved through, according to CNN.

When she found out Benner and her family hailed from Maine, Mrs. Obama said the first family enjoyed their summer vacation there in 2010. And when Mrs. Obama found out that Casey and Zach were on a birthday trip, high-fives ensued between the kids and the first lady.

“When we went in there I was kind of nervous and shaky and I didn’t know what to think,” Casey said. “But we started talking to her and she was so friendly it seemed like I knew her. Then she went to give me a high five and by that time I was totally comfortable with her.”

And like any normal teenagers, Casey and Zach were quick to pull out their phones as soon as the excited family walked out of the White House.

“As soon as we were outside, I was like, I have to tell my friends,” Casey said. “I texted quite a lot of people.”

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at: [email protected] Twitter: Twitter.com/MaineTodayDC


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