Lines of people waited to see Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romneyat Seven Cities Sod in Davenport on Monday afternoon.
A large elephant statue draped with a red banner reading, "Vote Republican," stood at the entrance. A neighboring horse stable had a large "Obama/Biden" sign that couldn't be missed, and the line of vehicles entering Seven Cities Sod passed a handful of protesters with signs that read, "Rural Iowans for Obama" and "Honk for Obama."
No one was honking.
Inside hung a large red, white and blue "Victory in Iowa" banner. With country music in the background, vendors walked the grounds selling Romney/Ryan buttons, bumper stickers and T-shirts as servers from the Iowa Machine Shed handed out free cups of hot apple cider.
Jenny and Mark Halupnik, of Bettendorf, brought their three children, ages 12, 10 and 6."They're going to learn a lot more by experience here," said Mrs. Halupnik.
Their 10-year-old daughter, Grace, watched two of the three presidential debates and was excited to come to the rally.
"I want to show them their vote counts, to be actively engaged," said Mr. Halupnik. "It's important they vote their values."
Richard Golinghorst lives and farms near Seven Cities Sod. A Romney supporter, he noted President Barack Obama also has been a huge advocate of free trade, which helps farmers.
"I'm just concerned about the debt," he said. "But it's not his fault because Congress has to go along."
A red, white and blue bulldozer with "Romney/Ryan 2012" caught the eye of many. Ben Suitor, of J.J. Scheckel Corp., which owns the dozer, said it has made at least 10 Romney rallies, from Ohio to Florida to Iowa.
"The point we're trying to push is small business owners, and we did build this," said Mr. Suiter. "We'll be bringing the Romney-Ryan dozer to as many rallies in the next week as possible."
Before the former Massachusetts governor took the stage, his audience watched home movies of his five sons growing up, heard Mr. Romney talk about his father's influence and listened to an emotional message by his wife, Ann, about her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis.
Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable took to the stage first, followed by John Archer, of Bettendorf, a Republican congressional candidate, and National Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus.Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad rallied the crowd, saying Iowa doesn't want to end up bankrupt like Illinois, and Obama is a betrayal to Iowa's principles of a sound budget.
Thunderous applause welcomed Mr. Romney to the stage in his 11th visit to Iowa since May.
"This is quite a turnout for a sod farm," said Gov. Romney, prompting the crowd's laughter. He turned the tone somber, urging help for victims of Hurricane Sandy before promising a "new path" if chosen as president.
"This election is going to impact not just the next four years but for a generation," he said. "We've gone four years with 23 million people losing their jobs, and Jihadists are spreading across the world.
"I want to take a new path," he said.
The reviews of his address were positive and cautious.
"It was a wonderful speech," said Ruth Lovetinsky, proudly wearing a Romney sticker. "I'm more convinced than ever he has to win. We really believe he'll do what's he's promising."
"I just hope he can accomplish everything he's promising," said Richard Lovetinsky. "It's a difficult job."
Olivia Mancino said she was able to shake Mr. Romney's hand as he left."He was very engaging; he looked me in the eye," she said.
George Burnett, of Blue Grass -- who worked for Mr. Romney's father, George, during a 1968 Republican presidential primary effort -- also shook Mr. Romney's hand Monday.
"It was great because Mitt Romney will be president," Mr. Burnett said. "And I'll know I shook the president's hand."
Ted Grevas, who held a bumper sticker reading, "I don't believe the liberal media," said he came to hear Mr. Romney in person.
"I liked the personal touches, the humanizing stories the press fails to see in him," Mr. Grevas said.
As participants left, they drove past a lone protester, Dan Dugan, wearing an Obama mask and holding a "Honk for Obama" sign. Many gave hand gestures or shouted at Mr. Dugan, who said he'd been there since 1 p.m. A few threw objects.
"I'm here to show my support for the president and shed a little humor," said Mr. Dugan. "These people are staunch supporters of Romney. I can understand that."
Today is Wednesday, March 12, the 71st day of 2014. There are 294 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Soldiers from the barracks on the Arsenal manage to elude the vigilance of the guard nearly every day and come to town armed. In the hands of excited and perhaps intoxicated men, these weapons are dangerous. 1889 -- 125 years ago: Manufacturing's merchants and professional men of Moline were petitioning the Western Union Telegraph company to establish a telegraph office in the business area of the city. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Three Rock Island students, the Misses Eleanor Cleaveland, Dorothy McCabe and Ruth West, escaped injury when fire destroyed College Hall at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War gave a party for William H. Stremmel, the only survivor of John Buford Post 243, GAR. 1964 -- 50 years ago: The East Moline Grade School Board of Education last night granted salary increases totaling about $47,000 to teachers and staff members. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Five champion spellers from the Rock Island/Milan School district were selected after competition this week at Modern Woodmen of America. Winners are Sarah Cottay, Christopher Gilbrich, Jared Vogele, Kedric Roper and Kenny Stevenson.