On Saturday afternoon, July 28, along the portion of West Eisenhower Boulevard bordering the lake that shares its name with the City of Loveland, hundreds of folks lined up with no specific goal beyond sharing their fondness and admiration for President Donald Trump and America in general.
Steve Barlock, a onetime gubernatorial candidate who headed Trump's campaign in Denver, says the concept behind the event has some similarities to flash mobs, and he expects more gatherings like it will pop up with little notice throughout Colorado as the November 2018 election nears.
In his words, "Anything can happen in 48 hours."
This time frame differentiates get-togethers like Saturday's from other more organized endeavors. A so-called Rally for Our Rights, expressing support for the Second Amendment, had been held in the same location in April, but this time around, Barlock explains, a number of Trump fans communicating by email and social media wanted to express themselves in a more general way.
These casual conversations took place just a couple of days before the weekend, yet despite the brief planning window, an estimated 350 people turned out.
The results were inspirational, Barlock emphasizes. "After I parked my car, the first gentleman I saw was a Korean War veteran, and he was in tears. 'This is great,' he said. 'I can't believe how many people are supporting America and our president.'" The group was in place from about 1 to 4 p.m. and beyond, and a series of brief rainstorms did nothing to dampen any spirits.
While the photos and video provided by Barlock show most of the people on hand to be of the Caucasian persuasion, he stresses the throng's diversity.
"We had every race, color and creed up there," he maintains. "The youngest child was ten months old, and on the other end of things, we had a lady who was 93 years young. We also had a lot of bikers, and a lot of them were veterans. Every veteran was thanked by so many people, thanked for their service, which was a really cool thing. And we also had people from Maine to California — people from Houston, Texas, from Arizona, from Wyoming, from South Dakota. Some of them were on vacation and were coming down from Estes Park and saw what we were doing and stopped."
Among the impromptu arrivals, Barlock recalls, was "a lady who pulled up with her daughter and her husband, and she said, 'When I drove by, I started crying. It's wonderful to see so many people who support our president and our values.'"
The results, in his view, were "very family-oriented. Just regular America. Almost everyone had some red, white and blue on. And there was this one little entrepreneur woman selling shirts and pins that said 'Trump 2020' and 'Women for Trump.' A lot of people were wearing them."
Nonetheless, Barlock doesn't consider the event to have been political in nature even though it attracted a handful of politicians, including Peter Yu, who's running as a Republican for the congressional seat Jared Polis gave up to make a bid for Colorado governor, and "the chairwoman of the Republican Party in Boulder. She was wearing a 'Free Boulder' shirt."
In addition, he notes, "Some people from the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners showed up and pushed their political agenda. But people weren't very responsive to that. It wasn't really about being a Republican or about guns. There was no political message. It was a celebration of our president for the great summer he's had so far."
This last statement is unexpected given all the bad press President Trump has received for his summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, among other things. But Barlock considers such negative perceptions to be mere mainstream-media spin. "He's really used his negotiation skills to give us leverage to help the American people and protect the free world," Barlock believes.
And that's not to mention reports that the nation's gross domestic product grew at a rate of 4.1 percent during the second quarter of 2018, the highest number in four years. One of Barlock's Facebook friends "put up this meme that had a photo of President Trump working behind his desk and something that said '4.1 GDP' beside a photo of President Obama with his feet on his desk that said '1.4 GDP,'" he points out. "And I was really surprised, because he doesn't seem like that political a person."
Then again, he continues, "most of the people there on Saturday aren't really political people. They just love their president and love America — and they're getting more comfortable about showing it. I'll go into the metro area and see people in a store wearing a 'Make America Great Again' hat, and it's not because they're political. They're just shopping with their kids at Save-A-Lot. But they're also showing how they feel."
Such Coloradans would love more opportunities to display their pride in President Trump and America, Barlock contends — and that's one reason that he expects the Loveland rally to be replicated all over the state in the weeks and months to come.
To what end? That's a question put to Barlock after the fact by one political insider who saw the event as an old-fashioned honk-and-wave rather than a flash mob variant.
"He told me, 'Honk-and-waves don't get votes, Steve,'" he recounts. "And I said, 'This wasn't an event to get votes. It was to get people to find out what they've got in common.'"
Here's a Barlock video that captures the scene in Loveland.
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As a bonus, the short period between the idea for an event like the one on Saturday and it actually happening makes disrupting matters more difficult. "That's good for families, too," Barlock argues. "They don't want to go to something where they know there's going to be a confrontation."
Granted, there were a handful of counter-protesters on Saturday, but they were vastly outnumbered. According to Barlock, "One man had been laid off, and he was wearing a suit. We went up and talked to him, very cordially, and all he said was that he didn't like the president. And there were three women who I guess were for LGBTQ rights. We said to them, 'Great. What rights are we taking away?' But they didn't say. They just held signs from some other rally, which didn't really make any sense, and they didn't really say anything. I guess they didn't want to talk."
For Barlock, the two-day turnaround time for events like the one in Loveland reminds him of Trump's 2016 campaign, when volunteers would learn The Donald or his surrogates were on the way with very little notice. "We'd just drop everything and get going," he says. "And if the President wants to come here again, to campaign for Mike Coffman or Walker Stapleton or George Brauchler, everyone in Trumpland would be there."
Even without a Trump appearance, however, Barlock is confident that those who believe in him will show up at a moment's notice to salute their country and their commander-in-chief. "It's a lot of fun and it's a great outlet," he says, adding, "God bless this state."