A young girl holds a flag during a campaign rally Tuesday morning for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. About 2,000 people, or more by some estimates, attended the event at Alice Pleasant Park in downtown Craig.

Michelle Balleck / Courtesy

A young girl holds a flag during a campaign rally Tuesday morning for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. About 2,000 people, or more by some estimates, attended the event at Alice Pleasant Park in downtown Craig.

2,000 turn out for Romney's speech in Craig

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Mitt Romney speaks to Craig

— The line to enter Alice Pleasant Park in Craig grew quickly Tuesday morning, winding its way around the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

As the morning wore on, the line would only grow longer as more residents gathered to catch a glimpse of the first presidential candidate to visit Craig.

“I think this is a piece of history,” Craig City Council member Ray Beck said before Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s speech Tuesday. “I think this is monumental, I really do. This is history in the making.”

An estimated 2,000 people filed through metal detectors staffed by Secret Service agents at security checkpoints before entering the park.

For many who came to see the GOP nominee, energy development and coal were top concerns.

Beck said the country has an abundance of natural resources that he thinks President Barack Obama’s administration isn’t promoting.

Beck’s primary question for the Romney campaign: “What would (Romney) do under his leadership to promote energy independence?” he said.

Craig Mayor Terry Carwile brought similar concerns to Tuesday’s rally.

He said the most crucial points of Romney’s speech related to energy development and “getting ourselves independent from foreign energy sources.”

Randy Baumgardner, Colorado House District 57 representative and a candidate for Senate District 8, also said energy is a top concern.

Baumgardner came to Tuesday’s rally to “see what (Romney) had to say and see where he’s going to stand on the energy policy for Northwest Colorado,” he said before the event.

The significance of Tuesday’s rally for Craig and Moffat County wasn’t lost on the state legislator. He saw it as a sign Romney is “interested not only in the urban areas and cities but also in rural Colorado,” he said.

Ron Schnackenberg, of Craig, said the same.

“It shows his willingness to pay attention to the little people, not just the big people,” he said.

He and his wife, Kim, also said they were interested to hear what Romney would say about energy generation and coal.

“It’s the economy in Northwest Colorado — a big chunk of it,” Ron Schnackenberg said.

Michael Samuelson, 18, also came to the rally with concerns about energy and the economy.

Although his family isn’t directly connected to the mines — his parents, Mark and Shannon, run Samuelson’s True Value Hardware & Lumber — mining does have an indirect impact on the family business.

Coal mining helps drive employment, Michael Samuelson said.

“The more people here, the more business,” he said. “It all adds up.”

More than anything, however, Samuelson went to the rally to get a taste for the political system now that he’s old enough to vote.

“I’m just here to see what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s a big opportunity for our town.”

Jack Reed, a Craig resident and Twentymile Coal Co. employee, was pleased by what he heard Tuesday.

“I’ve been a Republican forever, but I liked his stance on giving energy a chance,” he said.

He also appreciated the candidate’s positions on the economy, deficit and education.

“I mean, heck, it’s everything I wanted to hear,” he said.

Apart from policy issues, Reed also resonates with how Romney presents himself personally.

“I haven’t always agreed with everything he’s supported, but he has wonderful character, and I think we need that,” he said.

Audrey Danner introduces Mitt Romney

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