Gifts packed for first family

By MIKE WIGGINS
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Before President Barack Obama steps into the Central High School gymnasium this afternoon to discuss health care, he and the first family will be on the receiving end of a bit of Grand Valley hospitality.

A large contingent of Grand Junction city officials, business leaders and Mesa County Democratic Party members will greet the president, first lady Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia as they step off Air Force One at Grand Junction Regional Airport.

The president will be whisked off to a town hall meeting at Central High to discuss his administration’s proposed health-care bill. But the rest of the family is expected to linger in a VIP tent at the airport, where they’ll be presented with a number of gifts unique to the Grand Valley.

Those gifts, according to Visitor and Convention Bureau Executive Director Debbie Kovalik, will include Enstrom’s toffee, Palisade cherries and peaches, jam, a wine set consisting of a stopper and bottle opener, and jackets from Loki, the Grand Junction-based outdoor clothing manufacturer and retailer. Sasha and Malia also will receive clothes from Grand Junction-based Mountain Sprouts and mouse pads featuring a picture of Colorado National Monument.

Local Democrats will present the first family with locally made wine and beer.
“I’m just really thrilled,” Kovalik said, adding the VCB and other greeters will serve as liaisons for the media.

Beyond simply greeting Obama and the first family, Kovalik said she and the VCB have the opportunity to market the president’s visit to other communities, businesses and organizations.

She said the VCB has hired a photographer to take pictures of Air Force One. Those will be displayed prominently at a reception the VCB is participating in next week in Denver to recruit conventions.

“I’m very enthused about the thought that we can promote the visit,” Kovalik said.

Mayor Bruce Hill, who attended Obama’s inauguration in January, will be part of another group that meets Obama prior to the town hall meeting.

“My goal is to make sure he knows how pleased we are that he chose to stop in Grand Junction and see a little bit of paradise,” Hill said.


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