First family visits Palisade peach orchard
By KENT MINCER and PATRICK BAHR
While President Barack Obama was in the Central High School gymnasium Saturday explaining his health care reform package to concerned citizens, the rest of his family was visiting another part of the Grand Valley.
The president’s wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, continued their Western vacation with a tour of a Grand Valley peach orchard.
The three were given a tour of High Country Orchards in Palisade by the High family, who own and run the orchard.
“Special guests made a request. We provided that,” High Country Orchards owner Theresa High said.
High and her family gave the first family a quick tour of the operation. The Obama motorcade used C 1/2 Road off 32 Road to reach and exit the orchard.
High’s son Matthew said the Obamas were given the same type of tour any other visitor to the orchard would be given.
“There was nothing different about it,” he said.
The idea, he said, was that the family wanted to continue their vacation and enjoy a visit
to one of the amenities western Colorado has to offer.
“They wanted to get away,” he said, joining other family members in saying they wanted to respect the Obamas’ privacy concerning details of the tour.
It was brief, although none of the Highs took note of how long the tour lasted.
“I think they had a really nice time,” Theresa High said.
Asked if the Obamas picked any peaches, she said, “I think they did.
“I think it’s a good thing to have Palisade peaches in Washington, D.C.,” High said, although the Obamas were headed to the Grand Canyon after their brief stop in the Grand Valley.
“It was an exciting day,” she added. “I think we represented Palisade well.”
The events planned for the trio were under wraps to the public. There were rumors that they might make a trip to Colorado National Monument. Lynda Herrera works at the south entrance gate of the monument and said Secret Service had entered the park Friday, saying they were coming for a workout.
Herrera thought that was the sign of a Saturday presidential visit.
“It was very exciting,” Herrera said. “That’s what we were looking forward to today.”
There was also the thought that the Obamas might make a trip to Main Street. Paula Hawkins owns Gelato Junction on Main Street and said she’d seen Secret Service agents visiting her business all week.
“It was indicated that there was a good possibility that they would stop and possibly get an ice cream,” said Hawkins, who owns the business with her husband, Jim. “They were going to recommend it because the girls love ice cream.”
With the hope that the group would come in, Hawkins said she made sure they put their best scoop forward.
“We were all so excited,” Hawkins said. “We did fresh Palisade peach, we did fresh blackberry, and at 4 p.m., the case was all brand new.”
But it was not all fun and games during the Obama visit, as Talbott Farms, which is adjacent to High Country Orchards, was forced by Secret Service agents to halt its picking production Saturday afternoon. The president of Talbott Farms, Charlie Talbott, said the Secret Service instructed the Talbott pickers to exit the orchard for a few hours.
“They kicked them out, and I have three trucks to fill today,” Talbott said. “We are going to have to hold our crew late today in order to pack what we needed earlier to fill the trucks.”
Talbott said he was frustrated about how the Secret Service handled it and wished there would have been more communication to him before the visit.
“We had our crew in there like we’ve had them there for weeks,” Talbott said. “All I needed was the courtesy of saying, ‘We are going to be here, and would you not schedule your people in that part of the orchard that day.’ ”