Virginia's Republicans poured rhetoric with a thick foamy head here last night and folks in this little farm town in the Shenandoah Valley drank it down with glee.
Ostensibly it was a nonpartisan occasion to celebrate the construction of what will be the Adolph Coors Company's first East Coast brewery on 2,000 acres of pasture, a mile from the Shenandoah National Park.
Nearly 1,500 locals and political luminaries were called in to cheer the event, tailor-made for one of the primary planks in the state Republican Party's election-year platform: bringing a new industry to Virginia. "We need the industry for our young people," said local landowner Hazel Crider. "All our young people are leaving the valley."
Last night the crowd gathered under an acre of tent on the future site of the huge $500 million plant's waste-water facility to feast on 4,400 pieces of chicken, 1,400 pounds of roast beef, 120 gallons of potato salad and 325 cases of Colorado brew at Coors' expense.
The state's republican chieftans would not be denied their moment of revelry. While Virginia Democrats were fighting at a convention in Virginia Beach, Gov. John N. Dalton and Sen. John W. Warner took full credit for bringing one of the country's wealthiest -- and politically influential -- conservatives to one of the country's most conservative states.
"All I can say," said a grinning Dalton, "is they're my kind of folks."
Virginia's Independent senator, Harry F. Byrd; Jr., was there too. Greeting his friend, Coors' president Joseph Coors, the white-haired senator bounced with glee as he shook the lanky westerner by both arms.
Later the two would exchange remarks on their shared philosphy of fiscal conservativism. Although the brewery has decided to buy the site, it has not officially announced it will build there, Coors said, because it does not have enough ready cash for the project.
"We don't like debt," said the beer baron.
Byrd, reminding followers of Virginia's "Pay-as-you-go" method of government financing, quipped: "I think this is one time the Coors company could go into the market and borrow a little money and start to build."
No one was willing to admit that Democrats were more than conveniently indisposed to attend a pow-wow second only to the Virginia's shad planking in political drawing power.
"I'm not purposely turning this into a Republican campaign party," winked Coors, whose past support for Virginia candidates has followed a straight Republican line. "This was a terrible coincidence."
Dalton and Warner drew up the guest lists, and they seemed to have filled them with GOP faithful from the valley. "I don't know why we're here. We're nobodies," said John Ritchie, an employe of a local muffler manufacturer and a staunch Republican. "They [the Republican Party] did call us for a survey once," added his wife, Dolores. "Do you think that means anything?"
One of the few Democratic notables not in Virginia Beach was Richmond's Ed Lane, whose defeat in the bitter race for state attorney general four years ago shook many conservatives of the Byrd persuasion. The Republican who beat him then and who aspires to the governship now, J. Marshall Coleman, had flown in by helicopter to press flesh in the food lines.
Even Coleman, looking weary on his home turf, got no more than a perfunctory nod from the Dias. "Virginia believes this to be a No. 1 goal of this administration: to get Coors here," Coleman said.
Nowhere in sight were the local preservationists who had fought the brewery, fearing it would permanently alter the quality of life in Rockingham County. A round of laughs greeted Dalton's recollections of secret meetings with Coors executives during the early planning states.
"It's really been a suspenseful three years," said Rockingham Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Sipe, who sold 144 of his farm acres at up to $3,000 an acre.
But few were more pleased than the bystander who lifted his can of Coors high and remarked, "As far as I'm concerned, they can't get enough beer in this county."