What really happened at the Trump rally in Wildwood (Opinion)
While the crowds were unusually large, especially for a Trump rally in a 'blue' state, most of us didn't get to Wildwood last week. Many of you may have watched on TV or saw highlights in the media. Exact estimates of how many people went down to that usually deserted island on a chilly January Tuesday vary, but it was YUGE, as Trump would say.
Wildwood's mayor says the president is welcome back anytime. If some of you wished you were there just to see what it was like, one of our listeners put it into words better than any video account could capture.
Here's our listener's full report if, you want a ground level feel for what it was like. -- Dennis
Monday Evening: I drove down to our house in Wildwood Crest Monday evening (everything is winterized since it's a summer town) to open up the house and get it ready for my in-laws, who were accompanying me.
Around 6 p.m., I donned my Trump gear and biked over to the convention center to scope out the situation. It was a festive atmosphere. There were already a few thousand people braving the cold temps camped out in line. The first two and a half corrals were full of people already. The bars across the street were all decked out in Trump everything, and there were smiling people singing classic American patriotic songs and reveling in the atmosphere. There were food trucks set up all night and into the next day for people to grab some food.
I hung out for a bit to take it all in because I still couldn't believe that this was all happening. I eventually biked back to my house to meet the in-laws, pack my gear for the upcoming long night, and try and get a few hours sleep so we could get in line by 3 a.m. There was no way I was getting sleep. I was too excited and also worried that we wouldn't get in as the crowd numbers on a rally Facebook page were rising quickly.
Time to Go: Around 2 a.m., running on no sleep, I gathered my gear and went outside to get our chairs, American flag, etc. ready to go. My in-laws and I walked over to the convention center to get in line, and it was a little more quiet than earlier, since people were trying to get some sleep. It was cold, around 31 degrees with an ocean breeze. We got into line, which was in the fourth corral at this point, and set up camp to get ready for the long wait. People just kept coming after us, filling the fifth corral by 5 a.m.. We passed the time by talking to the people around us, who were all so friendly and excited. Around 6 a.m., I left the line to go home and get some blankets and coffee (despite seven layers and sitting still, the cold creeps in). It was easy to leave and come back -- people saved your spot, and even moved your chairs when the line would move. At this point, everyone was spread out a little bit with chairs and tents.
COMPRESS THE LINE!!! Around 9 am, all the corrals were full. Everyone was awake and the excitement for what was to come was intensifying. The line of people was out of the corrals, down the convention center parking lot, across the street and around the block with more and more people coming. If you came at this time, you weren't getting inside. We started moving up in the line as they compressed everyone into a tighter area so that more people could get into the corral. We slowly moved our chairs and bags around the corral and got nice and close to everyone around us to allow more people in. Everyone was helping each other break down tents and move gear. We eventually came to rest in corral two with the remaining corrals filling up quickly with people, 10 yards thick. The lines still went across the street and around the block. I never was able to see the end.
In line: We were now pretty much where we were gonna be for the duration, other than a few small moves. We got to know the people around us very well. The people in front of us, a large family of Russian Jews, were fun and hilarious. Behind us was a large group of black people, all decked out in MAGA gear. The Jewish people kept appearing with boxes of coffee and donuts and handing them out to everyone around them (some Grey Goose vodka as well!). Everyone was finding out where each other was from and bonded over our love of America and what Donald Trump is doing. I've never experienced being around so many diverse, yet like minded people, who came together like this. I always craved it, but I never though it would actually happen. It was happening and then some. Many people were singing God Bless America and America the Beautiful. I had my giant American Flag on a pole that was very useful to people looking for a landmark in a shifting line.
Noon: The street outside the area was full of people still arriving to show support. The line was still massive and kept growing as they tried to continue to compress the corral. People in MAGA gear were all over the streets as far as the eye could see. For those not in line, the baseball fields across from the convention center was packed with people hanging out and watching the videos on the jumbotron in that area (we had a jumbotron in our lot as well). I was starting to get worried that we might not get in to the rally. We were all doing our own brand of math as we looked at the sea of supporters, trying to figure out around about where we stood. People were cold, tired, uncomfortable, yet still smiling and excited. It just kept getting better.
Protests: The designated protest area was well away from the main location, and had a pathetic group consisting of local older white people ... not very diverse. I don't know what they were protesting, other than their dislike of Trump, the man. It was quite silly, but we never saw or heard them. I just saw photos on Facebook.
I saw a few random protesters who had the b-lls to come around the main area, mostly walking around the sidewalk. As they tried to shout bulls--t, they were ignored, or drowned out by singing or chants of USA!
Secret Service Presence: I love looking for the stuff that other people don't notice. I made a game of "Spot the Secret Service" with my father-in-law. Other than the two guys in tactical gear standing on the roof of the convention center, I didn't see any obvious Secret Service people until around 2 p.m., when I saw two serious people in black just walking around the outer area of the corral scanning people. The female was absolutely beautiful and could have been a model. Other than the pole with a bunch of fancy cameras on it, The only other time I saw Secret Service on the outside was when we eventually got close to the Secret Service security screening around 6:30 p.m. The guys on the roof pulled out their rifles and assumed a more aggressive stance for the 7:45 p.m. arrival of the president.
The Final Push: I can go on and on about how crowded it was, and how awesome people were. It was like Disney World for Patriots. You get the picture. Around 2 p.m., they really compressed us to where we couldn’t use chairs. They started letting people up through Secret Service screening, at which point they put up on the Jumbotron everything that wasn't going to be allowed through the checkpoint ... which was just about everything we had. The crowd of thousands had to leave behind chairs, tents, backpacks, hand warmers, lighters, vape pens, food, water, blankets, flags, signs and just about everything else we brought to survive the night. Just heard that all that stuff was collected and given to the homeless.
The line compressed more as everyone pushed forward. The lines outside the corral were even still growing with people hoping they might get in. Apparently those lines snaked around blocks and down the main street where the motorcade came in. They didn't get in, but they did see Trump waving to everyone!
Around 3 to 4 p.m., as people got into the convention center, we were only at the top of the second corral of people, with a serpentine of one and a half corrals in front of us, filled with thousands of people, all excited to get out of the cold and to see Trump. The faces showed concern that they wouldn't get in. I shared that concern as well. At one point, the line totally stopped moving for about an hour. Everyone's spirits dropped a bit because we figured the rally was full. We endured this hardship, only not to get in. The sun starting to drop, and the return of the bitter cold only added to the frustration. Some people, convinced that they weren't getting in, left the line. Most stayed. Around 4:30 pm, to everyone's relief, the line started moving again! The whole corral remained full with hopefuls, as well as the line around the corner. We slowly made our way to Secret Service screening and as we got through, everyone was filled with joy ... kinda like Charlie getting into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. We immediately beelined for the seating area, which was pretty much 95 percent full. Luckily, we found five seats close to each other at the upper-right side. Shortly after, the limit was reach and the sad souls who remained outside could only watch on the jumbotrons. Those people didn't leave, they all stayed until Trump ended his speech.
After we got our seats, we ran to the bathrooms and got in line. I peed like a racehorse and used the sink to wash my hands and face. I almost felt human again, despite being tired and sore all over. The excitement of what was about to happen kept building as we sat down again.
For the short time we had cell phone service, we got alerts from friends on the outside that the "The Eagle has landed" in AC and was taking the helicopter to Cape May airport. Shortly after, our cell phone service was intermittent -- no texts or Internet.
TRUMP Arrives: 7:45pm ... long day. No one really knew the speaking schedule. I thought we'd be hearing from a few people, and end with Trump. To our surprise, it was ALL Trump, with a quick speech from Van Drew and Kellyanne Conway, while Trump stood next to them.
The best way I can describe this was a "Religious Experience." I know it sounds corny, but this is what most of these Americans were waiting for their whole lives. I know I have. A president who truly loves America and isn't afraid to show it. The man is amazing in person. His presence is unlike none I've ever experienced. The crowd was at a near frenzy at each opportunity for applause, with chants of "USA!" and "Four more Years!" whenever Trump noted an accomplishment. It was electrifying and I, along with thousands of others who experienced history in our little town, are still basking in the afterglow of this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not in a million years would I have expected to see people this united and passionate about our country, all behind one man who we know has our best interests at heart and will fight the devil himself to Keep America Great!!!
After Trump walked out, I quickly tried to get out of the building to see the motorcade, but I just missed it. There were still thousands outside in a very festive atmosphere, no problems whatsoever. Planning and execution of this was perfect. Police from every local shore town were there providing help. All the excitement and looks of amazement were still on everyone's faces as they milled about, or walked to where ever their cars were parked. I walked around a bit sad that it was ending, but fully energized by what I just experience. I went home to get warm and lie down, but my brain wouldn't stop. I watched hundreds of videos from the rally on Facebook, reading about other's experiences, and just trying to keep the experience going in my own way.
Some reports say there were 50,000 to 60,000 people on that little island, all in support of America and what Trump is doing. Something like 175,000 tickets were requested. There's so much I've left out, from the actual speech and all the fun we had in line freezing our a--es off, but I think you get the general vibe of what went down.
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