Historic moment for 6,000 excited Obama supporters

Taryn Brahmsteadt, 13, of Grand Junction attends an Obama rally. “I’m interested in this stuff,” said Brahmsteadt, a student of Chris Prickett at Redlands Middle School.

Even before the sun rose, supporters of Barack Obama were on the road toward the presidential candidate’s campaign appearance, the first by a Democrat in western Colorado in decades.

About 6,000 people filed into Cross Orchards Living History Farm on Monday morning for a speech by the Illinois senator, the first by a Democratic presidential candidate in Grand Junction since 1960 and the first open-air address by a candidate to a Grand Junction crowd since Harry Truman in 1948.

In both of those cases, the Democrats won.

That’s exactly the outcome sought by supporters such as Cori Hailey, who took her daughters to see Obama as he stood against the familiar backdrops of Mount Garfield and the Cross Orchards barn.

“I liked it all,” Hailey said of Obama’s speech, who said she was particularly struck by his interest in the military and the economy.

Coming from a military family, Hailey said the armed services have suffered under the Bush administration.

“And the whole middle-class thing really appeals to me,” she said.

Star and Robert Jimenez likewise said they liked Obama’s values and his emphasis on the middle class over the wealthy. Obama has promised to cut taxes on the middle class.

For Erin Ginter of Fruita, the rally was the culmination of a decision-making process.

“I think you need to look at both candidates,” Ginter said. Her conclusion is that Obama “is the better of the two.

We need someone who represents us around the globe who is a progressive.”

Republican presidential nominee John McCain “promises to be an agent of change,” said Paul Light of Battlement Mesa. “But I don’t believe it.”

Even before the rally began, Judi Hayward of Parachute said she was convinced.

“I believe we have to have Obama as president,” Hayward said.

Students from elementary school to high school peppered the crowd. Linda Reeves, vice chairwoman of the Mesa County Democratic Party, said Obama’s message was reaching the youngest of observers.

She met an 8-year-old who was reading the Obama bumper sticker on her car, Reeves said.

“We had a good conversation and he’s ready to vote” in Kids Voting this year, Reeves said.

Mary Gerlock, a Grand Junction High School sophomore, said she was leaning toward Obama, but, “I want to see what he has to say.”

Gerlock wasn’t the only student who traded the classroom for the rally.

“I’m interested in this stuff,” said Taryn Brahmsteadt, a student of Chris Prickett at Redlands Middle School.

Prickett was first in line Saturday to get tickets for the rally.

Daniel Agoba of Steamboat Springs drove three hours to hear Obama speak, not because he needed to be convinced but “so I can hear why everybody else should.”

One Grand Junction resident who got to meet Obama said the candidate was outgoing.

“He asked me, did you order this weather?” said David Bailey, curator of history for the Museum of Western
Colorado, which rented Cross Orchards to the Obama campaign for $1,200. “He also said, thanks a lot for letting us use Cross Orchards.”

The farm is available to Republicans at the same price, Bailey noted.

Outside, supporters kept trickling into Cross Orchards even during his speech.

“No lipstick here,” shouted one as she marched through the gate, referring to GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s comments. “We come as we are, the real thing.”

Ellie Ames of Parker took her children, Lillian, 5 and Kayne, 8, to the rally with her brother, Russell Phipps, all of whom wore matching Obama T-shirts fashioned by Ames.

Her mother and grandfather were already inside, Ames said. “This is something very special,” she said. “We have four generations of Obama supporters.”

Paul Chenoweth, a former Grand Junction resident now living in Atlanta, said Obama was “quite dynamic” and that he was impressed to hear him “address the needs of the West Slope and of the world.”

The size of the crowd, said volunteer George Woolsey, was “proof of the inspiration that this man is capable of providing.”


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