ESTES PARK, Colo. – President Bush chatted with 5-year-old Sam Marich about life in the White House and the president's pets during a barbecue lunch at a YMCA camp.
Catherine Marich, Sam's mother, was pleased Bush spoke directly to her son. "Some adults would feel like they need to only talk to other adults," she said.
Catherine Marich and her husband Gregory, and their family of four children, all of McLean, Va., were among dozens of YMCA campers who lunched with Bush after he helped in a fire-prevention and trail-building effort in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park.
Although skies were overcast, rain held off during the picnic. Participants sat at long tables covered with red-and-white checked plastic tablecloths, dining on barbecued beef brisket, corn on the cob and fruit salad.
Stacy Rodgers and her 11-year-old daughter, Molly, of Fredricksburg, Texas, helped Bush with the trail project. Stacy Rodgers said her family and Bush share similar values.
"I think it's wonderful that he cares about a place that cares about family," she said of the YMCA camp.
Later Tuesday, Bush returned to Denver and greeted a group of Boy Scouts and other supporters at City Park.
Politics seemed a world away, but Bush looked ahead to next year's elections as he headlined a fund-raiser Tuesday night for two Republicans, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and Sen. Wayne Allard.
While he was soft-spoken in the park, Bush got fired up before the audience of donors, shouting as he praised the two Republicans, listed his accomplishments and defended his education, energy, missile-defense and Alaska drilling plans.
Mindful of the narrow Democratic majority in the Senate, Bush told the contributors, "I need somebody I can count on in the United States Senate."
He also threatened to veto any "budget-busting" spending measures. "The so-called surplus is not the government's money. It is the people's money."
The event raised $1.4 million for the Republicans, a White House spokesman said. Attendees were served Colorado beef and peaches. The tables were graced with butter carved into three-inch-tall elephants.
Neither Owens nor Allard has announced re-election plans, but Democrats, believing Allard is vulnerable, have targeted his Senate seat.
NAACP members urged Bush to cancel his appearance at the fund-raiser at the Adam's Mark Hotel. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been boycotting the hotel chain, claiming it discriminates against blacks.
NAACP-Denver President Menola Upshaw said the president could provide an enormous boost to the boycott if he avoided the hotel chain.
Fred Kummer, vice president and chief executive officer of HBE Corp., parent company of the Adam's Mark, insisted the chain is a leader in diversity. He said the chain will be exonerated when its case is heard in court in November.
Bush arrived at Denver International Airport at mid-morning, greeting Owens, Allard, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., and GOP Reps. Tom Tancredo and Bob Schaffer.
He traveled first by helicopter to the Fort Collins-Loveland Jet Center, where his entourage formed a motorcade for the trip through the winding Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park.
In town, the vehicles passed thousands of people lining the main streets. Some of the visitors and residents were disappointed because they couldn't spot Bush among the vehicles in the group and because he confined the picnic gathering to a small group.
"We didn't even see his face. We didn't get to see what car he was in," said Beth Costello of surburban Chicago, who was staying at the YMCA camp.
One man was arrested on charges of disturbing the peace when witnesses told police he handed out toilet paper and urged people to throw it at the President's motorcade, Estes Park police spokesman Eric Rose said.
One environmentalist group raised an inflatable oil drilling rig in the downtown area in protest of Bush's energy policy. The group's members contended Bush's energy plans would unnecessarily endanger sensitive wilderness through increased drilling and would roll back a Clinton administration plan to limit the number of new roads in national forests.
Louise Ptacek of Milwaukee, Wis., echoed their sentiment, saying, "He shouldn't have even bothered coming here."
Before Bush arrived, Linda Rodgers of Fargo, N.D., and her daughters, Karli, 14, and Cassie, 16, waited in line to play miniature golf in the area. "Maybe we'll catch him at the 18th hole," Linda Rodgers said of Bush.
Mary Machnik of Chicago said her 5-year-old son, Andy, "could pass on the president but he wants to see someone from the Secret Service."
Bush's visit comes one day after Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was in Colorado to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate Tom Strickland.
Their visits underscore the importance both major parties have attached to the race, seen as one of the keys to control of the U.S. Senate.