Rushford residents among thousands at Trump rally

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Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America, paid a visit to Rochester last Thursday with a rally slogan of “Promises Made. Promises Kept.”  The President was stumping for GOP candidates in several hotly-contested races one month before the midterm election.

When the event was announced on September 26, word quickly spread that an early arrival time was prudent for those hoping to get a seat inside the Mayo Civic Center Auditorium. There was a planned overflow area, as well as a gigantic monitor outside for those who weren’t able to get a seat inside.

Enthusiastic supporters began camping out well in advance.  Some, nicknamed “Front Row Joes” even spent the night in front of the Civic Center. There were more than two thousand people lined up in taped-off areas ten deep well before noon, with doors slated to open at 3:30.

Meanwhile, a crowd of an estimated two hundred protestors also gathered at Soldier’s Field to hold a “Greater than Fear” Rally in conjunction with the President’s visit. They marched peacefully through downtown Rochester, blocking traffic for about fifteen minutes before returning. Very few protestors came near the waiting throngs outside the Civic Center.

As the rally start time drew near, the lines extended well past the designated area, looping around the block and down Broadway Street. It was later reported that supporters lined the street all the way from the airport to the Civic Center. News crews, bloggers, merchandise tables, GOP staffers and police were everywhere. The mood in the line was positive and energetic, and no one complained about the wait. People were chatty and respectful, sharing stories and snacks with strangers-turned-friends.

The doors opened in advance of the scheduled 3:30 time, and the crowd progressed in a fairly orderly fashion through one of six metal detectors, emptying their pockets and purses for the security personnel. With more than three hours before the President was expected to arrive, there was plenty of time to find a seat, get a snack, chat with a neighbor, and people-watch, which was definitely not dull.

Though there was still standing room on the floor, entry into the main hall was eventually cut off and thousands more filled the overflow area or watched on the monitors outside, despite the weather turning drizzly later in the day.

The packed house grew silent before rising to sing the National Anthem. The crowd, which seemed equally comprised of men and women, was populated by people of every race and ethnicity, young and old, many sporting the iconic red “Make America Great Again” hat.

Free signs were distributed, and those sporting slogans such as “Women for Trump” and “Drain the Swamp” were highly sought after.

When the President made his long-awaited entrance, the crowd went wild. In the several minutes it took for him to reach the podium the audience continued to cheer, breaking into chants of “USA!”

 Responding to the crowd’s enthusiasm, Trump opened his speech with, “I thought this was supposed to be a Democrat state,” which received a chorus of boos. “They have a very big surprise coming, don’t you think?” he continued, referring to the upcoming election. “We’re just five weeks away from one of the most important congressional elections in our lifetime. You see what’s happening in Washington right now, so you know how important it is…I need your support to stop radical Democrats and to elect proud Minnesota Republicans.”

Trump’s speech included  support for First District candidate Jim Hagedorn and Second District Representative Jason Lewis. Trump also welcomed Karin Housley to the stage. Housley is challenging DFL candidateTina Smith in a special election for the Senate seat vacated by Al Franken, who resigned amid scandal.

Also endorsed by Trump were Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer, AG Candidate Doug Wardlow, and Gubernatorial Candidate Jeff Johnson, running against Tim Walz.

Throughout his speech, frequently interrupted by people shouting, “We love you,” Trump touted many of the accomplishments of his administration, including the recent USMCA trade deal replacing NAFTA.

Trump addressed bringing jobs back to Minnesota and to the nation at large, and cited rising wages and historically low levels of unemployment among Hispanics, blacks, and women in particular. He spoke of health care, and the differences between plans being promoted by both parties. Border security, one of Trump’s primary platforms enroute to his election, was discussed as was the progress of the wall. 

Another hot topic was the controversy surrounding the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and the crowd expressed support for the now Justice Kavanaugh.  After referring to media bias, Trump gestured to the press box at the back of the arena and lamented, “If we could ever get them on our side, we’d win for a thousand years.”

Rochester city officials said the President drew a capacity crowd, with an estimated 10,000 attendees, plus several thousand more watching from outside.

Among the crowd were many Rushford area residents, some willing to speak with the TCR about their experience. Bryan Lee, formerly of Rushford, enjoyed VIP seating behind the President. Due to his tall stature, Lee was moved right next to where the President was to make his entrance. “(The organizer) said we would be the closest to Trump in this whole building,” Lee recounts, and his photos confirm that. Lee was also seated near the Karin Housley family, who he described as “super nice. It was a great experience.”

Rally attendee Tony Heiden viewed the rally as a historic learning experience. “How often will you get to see a sitting President in person? It was a great opportunity,” said Heiden, who brought his thirteen-year-old daughter to the arena.

Also in the VIP seating area were members of the Rasmussen family. Josh, Jeff, and Grace Rasmussen were all visible at the President’s shoulder throughout the speech to anyone watching on television.

At the close of the rally, supporters filed out of the auditorium to see a handful of protestors lingering. Fortunately, ‘Minnesota Nice’ was the order of the day, and aside from a few isolated incidents, folks on both sides of the aisle were civilized and respectful. “People were very well-behaved,” observed Rushford resident John Campe. “Minnesota shone like a great Northern Star. Other parts of the country could take a lesson.”