They came by the hundreds, many with tickets in hand, to hear Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican Party presidential candidate, speak at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
The number of people that arrived at the fairgrounds exhibit hall, however, exceeded the 900-seat capacity of the building, leaving more than 400 spectators outside.
A plane flew overhead, trailing a banner that read “Welcome Back Mitt, now release those returns,” and a handful of Romney detractors was visible on street corners near the fairgrounds.
Around the exhibit hall, the crowd appeared to be solidly GOP.
Many who couldn’t get into the exhibit hall, including Willene Grady, of Denver, found shady spots under a nearby tree to wait, in hopes of seeing or hearing Romney.
“We’re supporters of what he believes in. We hoped there would be a lot of turnout, and our prayers were answered,” Grady said. She used her paper admission ticket as a seat on the damp grass.
Grady said that, as an entrepreneur, she, along with her husband, supports free enterprise and smaller government.
“The struggle isn’t about who sleeps with who, but freedom from government control,” she said.
Jackie and Juanita Gibbs, of Littleton, also showed up with tickets, but were turned away. The two said they came to show their support.
“We just love America and want God to protect us,” Juanita Gibbs said as the crowd erupted in cheers as the former governor of Massachusetts greeted the outside crowd. He grabbed a microphone and thanked them for attending.
“You heard Obama say if you own a business you didn’t build that?” Romney began, drawing boos from the crowd. “Well President Obama said he’d fix the economy, but he hasn’t owned up to that.
“I’m here, I’m happy to be with you. And I’m excited to talk about how we’re going to get the middle class working again,” Romney said, waving as he turned and went inside the hall.
Most of the outdoor crowd drifted away, aside from a few who said they hoped to catch sight of Romney again as he exited the building.
One of the early departures was a man from Nebraska, who asked that his name not be used.
In town for a wedding, the man said he wanted to gauge the area’s level of interest in Romney. He said the overflow crowd was “a pretty good sign.”
“I think it was a nice touch that he came out to see the people that didn’t make it in. I’ve been to events where that didn’t happen,” he said.
Terri Miller, of Buffalo Creek, was among those who waited by the barricades until the event ended.
She said she managed to get her 93-year-old father inside the hall and expressed frustration that the speech wasn’t moved to a bigger venue.
“I’m really annoyed they didn’t turn the speakers on,” she added, heaping blame on local and state GOP organizers. “I’d gladly sit in the dirt to listen to Romney.”