UPDATE 6:17 P.M.
President Barack Obama arrived back at the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport at 5:41 p.m. today.
The president trotted up the stairs, turned and waved to the TV cameras still on the tarmac and disappeared into the plane, which lifted off at about 5:51 p.m.
In total, the president was on the ground in Central Virginia for three hours and 17 minutes
UPDATE 5:53 P.M.
President Barack Obama caused a mild pandemonium Wednesday evening when he made an unannounced visit to his campaign office on the Charlottesville’s heavily trafficked pedestrian mall.
Obama walked into the Downtown Mall office at about 5:10 p.m., as throngs of shoppers and diners looked on from behind a rope line on the mall, created decades ago when the city chose to brick over its Main Street.
Inside, he greeted staff members and took a group photo.
When asked what she did, one campaign worker told him she worked with data.
"That’s what we need," he replied. "We’re data-driven.”
Another staffer told the president it was it his first day on the job.
"Anytime we hire somebody, I try to welcome that person," Obama said.
As staffers gathered for a group photo with the president, he helped organize the lineup.
"Shorties, you know who you are," Obama said.
After about seven minutes inside, Obama re-emerged to loud cheers and shook hands on the rope line, where he wasn’t the only celebrity.
Actress Sissy Spacek, who lives in Central Virginia, was in the crowd.
UPDATE 4:54 P.M.
President Barack Obama laid out his case for re-election Wednesday in front of a crowd of thousands gathered in downtown Charlottesville.
In a 32-minute speech at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion at the end of the Downtown Mall, Obama ticked off a list of his accomplishments in front of an estimated crowd of 7,500.
"Go Hoos!," Obama shouted as he took the stage just down the road from the University of Virginia. "I still don’t know what a Hoo is. But I know we got some here today."
Obama’s visit was part of a two-day tour of college towns in battleground states, and he repeatedly mentioned his efforts to keep higher-education costs down.
"You can decide whether we keep making college affordable," he said. "Or we can follow my opponent’s advice and just have your parents lend you money."
The president also defended his controversial health-care overhaul and its provisions to allow young people to stay longer on family insurance plans.
"He calls my plan Obamacare," the president said. "I call his plan Romney-doesn’t-care."
Obama also mentioned his recently announced push for more ambitious fuel standards, saying Romney had called the idea "extreme."
"I don’t know. It doesn’t seem extreme to want more fuel-efficient cars," Obama said. "Maybe the steam engine is more his speed."
Obama made brief mention of the ongoing Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., calling it a "pretty entertaining show."
When someone in the crowd booed, Obama interjected: "Don’t boo. Vote!"
The president stressed how important Virginia is to this year’s electoral map and why young voters should turn out to the polls.
"You guys have more at stake in this election than anybody," Obama said, adding that he knows that’s a "pretty heavy idea" to drop on them on only the second day of class.
The audience was a mix of UVa students and an older crowd.
Obama’s speech was briefly interrupted by an unintelligible heckler, who was drowned by shouts of: "Obama!"
As the speech ended, Obama was joined onstage by former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.
After shaking hands with audience members for about five minutes, Obama walked out of the pavilion at about 4:10 p.m.
UPDATE 3:40 P.M.
The presidential motorcade arrived at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion at 3:10 p.m., about 15 minutes after leaving the airport.
The motorcade traveled south on U.S. 29 through Albemarle County, turned off on the 250 Bypass heading east, then turned onto High Street to head toward downtown Charlottesville.
Drivers, blocked from crossing U.S. 29 for about 45 minutes prior to the motorcade, lined the roadway, kept back off the sidewalk and away from the street by Albemarle County police, sheriff’s deputies and Virginia state troopers.
Several people along the route were carrying various signs in favor and opposition to the president’s re-election.
As the motorcade passed, motorists cheered.
An estimated crowd of 7,500 has gathered in and around the pavilion, according to Charlottesville Fire Chief Charles L. Werner.
The pavilion is essentially an enormous outdoor tent, typically used as a music venue.
The president will speak before a blue backdrop, with an American flag hanging from the rafters over his right shoulder
UPDATE 3:09 P.M.
President Barack Obama touched down at Charlottesville Albemarle Airport under bright skies at 2:34 p.m. today.
He emerged from Air Force One 10 minutes later and was greeted by the entire Charlottesville City Council.
Mayor Satyrenda Huja presented Obama with a ceremonial key to the city. The president greeted each councilor individually.
Obama then walked over to a crowd of about 40 onlookers gathered on the tarmac to pose for pictures.
Also on hand to greet Obama was Linda Perriello, mother of former congressman Tom Perriello, for whom Obama campaigned in 2010, his last visit to Charlottesville.
UPDATE 2:25 P.M.
U.S. 29 in northern Albemarle has been closed to traffic in anticipation of President Barack Obama’s motorcade making its way from the airport to downtown.
Obama is expected to speak at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion at approximately 3:05 p.m. today.
Meanwhile, the Jefferson Area Tea Party rallied in Lee Park earlier this afternoon.
Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, said constitutional protections are looking shaky in the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions.
Anti-war activist David Swanson helped to organize a second protest. His group gathered as close to the Free Speech Wall as they could get. The wall itself was behind the barricades around the pavilion. He said, regardless of whom they’re going to vote for, people shouldn’t act as cheerleaders the rest of the time.
In the pavilion itself, a bluegrass band was entertaining the crowd before the program began.
Former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and former congressman Tom Perriello will warm up the crowd for President Barack Obama today at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, according to the Obama campign.
The president is expected to speak in Charlottesville shortly after 3 p.m.
The two popular Virginia Democrats are scheduled to be a part of the pre-program for today’s campaign event geared toward college-aged voters.
Obama will be introduced by University of Virginia student and local volunteer Mathias Wondwosen, a fourth-year from Alexandria.
The national anthem will be performed by the Virginia Gentlemen, an all-male a capella group based at UVa.
The invocation will be delivered by the Rev. Andrew Willson, senior pastor at Salem United Methodist Church in Palmyra.
Kaine, who did a stint as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during Obama’s presidency, is running for U.S. Senate against former Gov. George Allen.
Obama campaigned in Charlottesville in 2010 on behalf of Perriello, but the Ivy native lost that year to Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham. Despite no longer being in elected office, Perriello has been an active surrogate for Obama this year.
This will be Obama’s 12th trip to Virginia this year.