A presidential handshake

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President Gerald Ford's passing on Tuesday was noted by many people who met the man, a group that includes a number of Craig residents who were members of the high school band in 1974.

Three months after Ford's inauguration, the president visited Grand Junction to campaign for Republicans Sen. Peter H. Dominick, Gov. John Vanderhoof and Congressman Jim Johnson.

A number of bands were asked to represent Western Slope towns, including Glenwood Springs, Gunnison, Steamboat Springs and Craig.

Liane Davis recalls that Nov. 2 as if it were yesterday.

Davis, currently a Moffat County High School US History teacher, played a piccolo in the band but took up a flag to twirl when the

band went to marching events.

Liane's father, Vern C. Davis, was the band director. He was asked by school district superintendent Marvin Grimm if the band could play "Ruffles and Flourishes," the song that accompanies presidential introductions, for the president's arrival.

Vern Davis asked his band students if they approved the music selection -- asking the band for its input was a practice he always followed. They approved, and when it was time to play for the president, Davis and the Craig band were placed

up front next to the presidential podium on a baseball field.

"The Secret Service had everyone behind the backstop, and we were right at third base near the podium," Liane Davis said. "The other bands were back in the outfield."

The band marched in and set up just as the presidential motorcade arrived.

Davis doesn't remember what Ford's speech covered, but she remembered clearly what happened afterward.

"There were Secret Service men on both sides of Mr. Ford, but most of the whole band got to shake his hand," she said. "One girl wouldn't give back her glove that shook hands with the president."

A number of members of that high school band currently call Craig home, Davis said. Scott Cook, Buddy Bower, Kris Smith and Rich Tyser were all in the band which saw the president.

Jim Stoddard recalled first hearing about the president's trip to Colorado. The then 14-year-old was one of 10 trumpet players in the band.

"It was an exciting day at school when we were advised by band director Davis that we would play for the president," he said. "Afterward, President Ford walked right over to us and shook hands with the band."

A flyer in Davis's scrapbook proclaims the visit to be the first to the area by a president since Eisenhower came to fish on the Western Slope while in office.

For the 120 members of the Moffat County High School Band, the banner girls and baton twirlers, the day that President Ford shook their hands will always be in their minds.

At least that's what one U.S. History teacher tells her students each year when they finish up the section on President Richard Nixon and move on to the 38th president of the United States.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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