Heavily guarded, Michelle Obama makes her way to Park City
July 26, 2011
First lady Michelle Obama appeared at a fundraiser in the Snyderville Basin on Tuesday, traveling along the S.R. 224 corridor in a heavily guarded motorcade as a small crowd of fans gathered at the turnoff that she used to reach The Colony.
The motorcade, traveling at a fast clip, turned right from S.R. 224 onto White Pine Canyon Road. Motorcycle officers led a motorcade that involved other law enforcement vehicles in front of and behind the first lady. It was not clear which vehicle carried Obama.
The supporters at the turnoff spent more than an hour waiting for the motorcade to arrive. The police presence increased substantially in the 30 minutes before her arrival. Within minutes of the motorcade appearing, the police sternly ordered a bicyclist off the road as he pedaled close to the intersection where the motorcade was to turn.
The first lady’s motorcade climbed into The Colony on its way to the vacation home of Mark and Nancy Gilbert. Mark Gilbert is the deputy national finance chair of the Democratic National Committee. People who attended were required to donate at least $1,000, with checks payable to the Obama Victory Fund 2012.
Invited guests like Mayor Dana Williams were also scheduled to attend. Glenn Wright, the chairman of the Summit County Democratic Party, said beforehand he had given a donation to allow him into the event.
The first lady is the highest-profile figure thus far to visit Park City on a fund-raising trip during the 2012 presidential-election cycle. Before Election Day 2008, Park City was the site of fund-raisers by President Bush, Rudy Giuliani and Barack Obama, who at the time was an Illinois senator seeking the Democratic nomination.
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In an interview after the first lady’s remarks at the Gilbert house, Wright said she was an "inspiring speaker." He said more than 200 people were inside the house listening to her.
"She’s a very good speaker. She’s every bit as good a public speaker as the president is," Wright said.
He said Obama spoke for approximately 25 minutes, telling the crowd the economy is improving under her husband’s policies and troop levels in Iraq have fallen since he took office. Wright said she mentioned the killing of Osama bin Laden in her remarks. She received repeated applause, he said.
"The message is the Obama administration had a lot of accomplishments," Wright said.
Laurie West, who lives in Snyder’s Mill, was one of the people who gathered along the side of the road waiting for the motorcade. West, who rode her bike, said she was in the crowd when Barack Obama addressed a 2007 rally close to Kimball Junction while he was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. She said she voted for Obama in 2008, but it is too soon to declare whether he has been a successful president.
"I can catch a glimpse of her. I saw her come by. It’s as close as I’ll come to seeing her," West said as she waited for the first lady’s arrival, adding that the president’s position is the only one more challenging than the first lady’s. "I respect her for all she’s doing. Probably the second hardest, worst job in the country."
Dan Borelli, who lives in Silver Springs and bicycled to the turnoff, said he is not a supporter of the Obama administration but said he wanted to watch the motorcade. If he had met the first lady, Borelli said, he would have told her she was visiting a beautiful part of the U.S. and that the Obamas should spend more time in Utah.
"It’s definitely an interesting event nonetheless," Borelli said.
At least one person in the crowd on the side of S.R. 224 held an American flag. Another person was at the scene early on with a sign attached to his van calling for health care reform.