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​First families: A reunion of presidential relatives

Every spring, at the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival, the descendants of U.S. Presidents descend on the quaint town of Marshfield, where they mingle with stars of classic movies and sitcoms
A reunion of presidential relatives 05:03

Our nation's First Families have particular reason to celebrate President's Day tomorrow, even as they anticipate the REAL party just a couple months from now. Mo Rocca looks ahead:

Welcome to Marshfield, Missouri -- home of the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival. And what exactly IS the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival, you ask?

"It's a hodgepodge of American history and culture," said Rev. Nicholas Inman.

"Everything from football to 'Hee Haw,'" said Lulu Roman.

And actress Dawn Wells describes it as "a slice of America that will surprise you."

For starters, it's the annual meeting place for relatives of past U.S. Presidents. Every spring, presidential descendants descend on this quaint town.

In attendance: Jennifer Coolidge Harville, the great-granddaughter of President Calvin Coolidge; and Jill Campbell, whose great-great grandfather was the first cousin of James K. Polk.

"I'm the ninth generation descendant of President Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings," said Shannon Lanier.

And as Marie Clinton Bruno explained, "President Clinton's stepfather, Roger Clinton, is my grandfather Roy Clinton's little brother."

And Donnie Kendrick shares a resemblance with relative Mary Todd Lincoln.

They all come to celebrate their heritage -- and partisanship is put on hold.

"So this is really the one day a year that a half-brother-in-law of President John F. Kennedy can rub elbows with the niece of President Richard Nixon?" asked Rocca.

"Yes!" laughed James Lee Auchincloss. Lawrene Nixon Anfinson added, "I think it's pretty special, all of us here."

In Marshfield ALL presidential progeny are welcome, and old grievances are set aside.

Rocca found the descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings friendly with Bertram Hayes-Davis, a great-great-grandson of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America. "We got to know each other," said Shannon Lanier. "We were just talking about him coming up to visit us in New York. We were like, 'Come on, when are you comin'?' So hopefully soon!"

Shannon Lanier, a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, with Bertram Hayes-Davis, a great-great-grandson of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America. CBS News

Of Grover Cleveland, his grandson (also named George Cleveland) remarked, "Rumor has it he was very fond of pastry."

"Okay, Grover Cleveland is our 22nd AND 24th President," said Rocca.

"That's right. It screws up the whole account," said Cleveland. But, "It IS unique."

Rev. Inman isn't a presidential descendant, but he is from Marshfield; this event was his idea. "There's something about being a Presidential descendent that only Presidential descendants can understand," he told Rocca. "They found a camaraderie between one another that is pretty amazing. It was kind of the story of 'My grandpa beat your grandpa. But hey, we can be friends now.'"

He was in the fourth grade when our 41st President came to town: "President George H.W. Bush visited Marshfield, Missouri here in July of 1991, and I really became interested in the Presidency," he said.

But wait a minute: Who's that over there? Why, it's Karolyn Grimes -- Zuzu in "It's a Wonderful Life"! She's here because the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival ALSO honors stars of classic films and sitcoms. (Just go with it.)

Look, there's Maggie Peterson! She played Charlene, the girl who had a crush on Sheriff Andy on "The Andy Griffith Show"!

"Pa, can't I even look at the pretty man?"

Over there is Lulu Roman from "Hee Haw" -- which once had a U.S. President (Jimmy Carter) as a guest.

And yes, that's Mary McDonough and Kami Cotler, two of the daughters from "The Waltons"! But "The Waltons" were in Virginia, which is not even contiguous with Missouri. Just sayin'.

"But the Ozarks are hills, and the Blue Ridge Mountains are hills," Cotler said in defense.

Rocca said, "It's kind of like you took U.S. history and culture and Missouri and put them all in a blender."

"And they exploded!" added Rev Inman.

And adding to the excitement: Marshfield has its own Walk of Fame, which is where we caught up with none other than Dawn Wells (Mary Ann from "Gilligan's Island").

"I'm not on Hollywood Boulevard, [but] I'm right here. It's pretty good, isn't it?" she said. "It means a lot more. Who am I next to?"

"You're two stars away from Charles Lindbergh," said Rocca. "And you're diagonally away from Amelia Earhart. That's pretty great. So you like flying, I hope?"

"Better than sailing!" she laughed.

Actress Dawn Wells at the Marshfield Walk of Fame with Mo Rocca. CBS News

And this April, it'll happen all over again.

"They've become a family now," Rev. Inman said.

And who knows what new connections might be made. "Well, maybe I'm related to Thomas Jefferson, too," Rocca said hopefully.

"He did have a lot of kids -- you never know!" laughed Lanier. "You're part of the family. Come on, cuz!"

"Here we are," said Hayes. "We're all one big family."

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