DENVER, Colorado - As Stefan Kuhn and Jenny Crabtree strolled onto the University of Denver campus for Tuesday's presidential debate, they spotted a group of five "hippie chicks" - Greenpeace - wrapped in a massive quilt making political statement that was about 20 yards long.
Yup, they were in the right place - America, where the Body Politic was expressing itself with unbridled enthusiasm.
The two Eagle Valley High School senior journalism students scored media credentials to Mitt Romney's and President Barack Obama's semantic smackdown.
Eagle Valley social studies teacher Ashley Weaver knew a guy who knew a guy and they applied for media credentials. They got the green light last Friday and jumped in the car Wednesday afternoon with journalism teacher Abbie Rittmiller. A few hours later they were up to their raised eyebrows in the DU Debatefest.
Front row seat to the political parade
"It was a pretty good party," Crabtree said. "Before the debate there was a band. People set up their lawn chairs and settled in for the evening. It was a good time, a little like going to a drive-in movie or a movie on the green,"
"It was an eye-opening experience," Kuhn said. "In Eagle County you don't really see people getting involved in politics. People did come together and were excited about change - no matter how they define it. It was great being in the action."
Both write for the Devils Advocate, Eagle Valley's school newspaper, and were in the media pit, at least part of the time.
The DU Debatefest was inside, but outside was where the Body Politic was having the most fun, Kuhn said.
Kuhn and Crabtree wandered outside where all the action was, and where people pretty much behaved themselves, even the media.
"People seemed happy to be there," Crabtree said. "Everyone was dressed in blue or red. I accidentally wore red without even thinking about it. All these Romney people were trying to stalk me. It was an unfortunate day to pick one of those colors."
They saw America exercising its freedom of speech in some of the most creative ways.
The Occupy people paraded down the street as Crabtree and Kuhn watched from behind the fence that surrounded the college compound.
"One guy called out to us to get out of our cage and come join them," Crabtree said.
A guy wore a T-shirt promoting communism.
Another guy's T-shirt declared him to be a member of the 1 percent and admonished people to vote Republican.
Then there was the guy dressed like a toilet, making some statement about water conservation.
The Fix the World guy had a tent filled with metal cans, each with a problem that needed immediate attention and implying that if it didn't get it, the world would go unfixed.
"There were lots of external issues that people were trying to get attention for," Kuhn said.
The University of Denver was prepped for political parties to party.
The band The Lumineers played. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock spoke briefly.
People milled around in front of television cameras trying to get on TV. Crabtree and Kuhn managed to get it done - MSNBC behind Chris Matthews.
The Romney faithful apparently got there first and pasted the place with Romney/Ryan signs along the sidewalk.
Obama had more T-shirts, Romney had more signs, Kuhn observed.
People from both sides did the Honk and Wave dance, waving campaign signs at passing pedestrians and traffic, and asking people to vote for Their Guy.
During the debate, people cheered when Their Guy said something pithy and important sounding. Both sides cheered when the candidates said something about Colorado or the University of Denver.
Capitalists from both sides tried to sell T-shirts and souvenirs, as police and security guards kept a close eye on everything.
"We didn't see much outright anger," Kuhn said.
Democracy goes mobile
As they watched the crowd disperse after the debate, Crabtree said she remembered how Aristotle described democracy as the tyranny of the majority. Maybe, maybe not.
Then there's Winston Churchill's observation that democracy is the worst possible form of government, except for all the others.
"I was excited and it made me really want to vote and get involved," Crabtree said. "It was democracy in action. It was a depiction about America itself in that small concentrated area."
Kuhn runs cross country and the Devils are having a great year, so he knows about setting long distance goals and running toward them. Presidential campaigns are like that, he said.
"It was a great experience, a ton of people all excited about the same thing, but from different perspectives," Kuhn said. "I got to see a whole different culture and what the future might hold."
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.