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Meeting Barack Obama in Grand Junction

The "me" in this shot is Arn McConnell.

Barack Obama's appearance this week at the Colorado School of Mines was preceded by a stop in Grand Junction -- and as documented in the photo above, Arn McConnell, a good friend of mine, got the opportunity to meet and pose with the Hopeful One himself. Arn is a TV-graphics producer and editor -- and he regularly appears on Grand Junction public-radio station KAFM/88.1 FM and writes music columns for the Grand Junction Free Press under his pseudonym, Craven Lovelace. (Visit his personal website here.) I asked him to write a few words about his experiences in the Obama-verse and he happily complied. Click "More" to read his take.

I got involved with the Obama campaign back during the caucuses, and ended up becoming captain for my precinct, since there seemed to be, like, four Democrats in the Orchard Mesa area at that time. When Trey Nix and Ari Hershey, field coordinators for Obama's Mesa County campaign, arrived in town a few months ago, and told me over coffee at Enstrom's that they wanted to win Mesa County, I felt like patting them on their heads and saying, "How cute."

Now I think we have a shot. I believe we'll at least be surprisingly competitive. Trey being a very persuasive (and funny) young cuss, I was enlisted to be a "Neighborhood Leader," and have been doing canvassing, voter registration and phone banks for several weeks now, thereby stretching my comfort zones in ways I couldn't have previously imagined. ("You want me to walk up and knock on trailer doors in Meth Town? Sure, why not?") I was already feeling honored that they gave me a ticket to go see Obama's acceptance speech at the DNC a couple weeks ago, but things got even better when they asked me to be one of the 200 or so volunteers they had working on Obama's appearance here on Monday, just an incredibly positive experience. The day of the rally, Trey found me and told me I would get to meet the man after the event, as a reward for my efforts as a Neighborhood Leader. My ridiculous expression in the photo is because I was so twitterpated after Senator Obama looked me in the eye, shook my hand and said, "Thank you for all your hard work."

It was a great day. You shoulda seen Gary Harmon's face as 6,000 people filed in...

Gary Harmon, by the way, is a columnist for Grand Junction's largest daily newspaper, The Daily Sentinel. But pretty much any longtime resident of GJ, a community known for its conservatism, would have been surprised. Has there been a seismic shift in Mesa County? Or did folks simply show up to see what all the fuss was about? We'll know come November. -- Michael Roberts

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