MAGA Rallies: What They're Really Like
On June 27, 2018, President Donald J. Trump was scheduled to appear at the Scheels Hockey Arena in Fargo, North Dakota to campaign for Republican Kevin Cramer. My family and I were visiting my mom’s sister across the border in Minnesota when we heard of this upcoming event, so we drove over to see what it was all about.
By the time we arrived around 2:30 PM, parking lots had already been filled.
The president was scheduled to speak at 7:00 PM.
In total, 20,000 tickets were given away because the event sponsors knew that not everyone would come. Part of this was because protest groups, those against the president, had been arranged to claim tickets to take up seats. Despite this total, however, the designated stadium only had room for 6,000 occupants. There would be a screen set up outside to accompany 9,000 in overflow. The Secret Service would be doing the counting while the local police department was on crowd control.
Although it was 90 degrees outside, the wind was a pleasant gust (blowing at 10 MPH) that would pick up every once in a while so, if you had a shade-giving umbrella, the weather was quite lovely.
From the moment we arrived the line was moving pretty consistently so, with a new acquaintance to talk to, the wait passed quickly.
The question of the day was, “Where is the end of the line?” And our answer changed every few minutes because of the rapidly growing queue. “They need a flag,” my mom suggested, thinking that a marker indicating the end of the line would be very helpful. “Just pass it down.” Even as she spoke, laughter arose down the line as those waiting attempted to direct the soon to be newest additions to the line.
The second question of the day was “do you live in North Dakota” as several people were walking around with a handful of clipboards, each collecting signatures in hopes of passing a law through legislation.
At 2:59 PM, the crowd near the front of the line began to chant, “USA! USA! USA!” Though they soon ceased, the shout returned for the same length of time at 3:40 PM.
There were several vendors advertising hats, shirts, and buttons to those in line, but it was those who were selling water that gathered the largest crowd. When the water boy, if you will, ran out of his product, he refilled his cooler and then marked out the words “ice cold” on his sign after being jokingly accused of false advertising.
At 4:00 PM, the doors to the stadium finally opened. Every few minutes afterward, our section at the back of the line maintained a steady walk for several moments. Two and a half hours after our arrival, we were on the home run.
The line was near its maximum when we joined, twisting and turning as it wove about the parking lot, but somehow it double and remained so. While we were a mere three rows from the entrance to the stadium, the end of the line was just to our left, and still people were adding themselves to it.
From the beginning of our wait, we had been wondering where the “anti-Trump” party was. With the front door finally in sight, we spotted them: a slim line of protesters in the distance, silently moving along the horizon.
As my family and I came under the front awning, we found the front of the now-familiar line to be bordered with tossed umbrellas and camping chairs. The piles continued inside all the way to the area around security. The local authorities standing nearby supposed that people assumed that those belongings of theirs would not be allowed inside, so they left them outside. No one was sure whether or not the owners would be returning for their possessions.
Inside the front doors, five security stations had been set up to check belongings and scan ticket holders. My family and I ended up going through three different stations: my brother and me, my dad, and my mom and my sister. My brother and I were the first to pass through. Dad was next followed later by my sister. Mom went back to the van. Turns out that the Secret Service was not allowing hard water bottles, so Mom was returning her and my sister’s to our vehicle. For whatever reason, my brother and I were allowed to keep ours.
Mom returned from her mission a few, long minutes later just as the gates were closed. Maximum capacity had been reached. Every spot in the line outside and more was still full.
She recounted her story to the officer outside before explaining that she had already been counted and that her family was just inside the door. The kind sir escorted her in to find out if her tale was genuine and my mother joyfully pointed us out, waiting for her at the top of the staircase just beyond security. My mom’s security guard identified her, and she was allowed to pass through.
Finally together, it was discovered that no one needed their tickets to get in. The vouchers were merely handed out to keep track of people. Cards were gained via phone number so that the Secret Service could run a background check on their holder. This discovery explained why security at the front door was as light as it was.
The last spokesman to take the stand before President Trump said that the arena in which we found our seats felt more like a rock concert than a pep rally. Even more so from 6:30-7:00 when our ears were filled with all sorts of music including country, rock, and opera. The event organizers were trying to play familiar songs for their broad audience. Although my family and I did recognize two or three, the volume was a little too high for the experience to be enjoyable. Something that was intriguing to watch was how “the wave” caught on around the arena and then died.
At 7:07 PM, a male voice filled our ears. “Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.” God Bless the U.S.A. came over the speakers, and President Donald J. Trump stepped out from behind the central American flag.
I have often seen video clips of the president at rallies like these, but I had no idea just how vast his audience was. The arena was packed. True, not every seat was filled but, for every empty place, someone was standing around the top of the stadium. 6,000 people were inside while 15-18,000 more were outside.
Of all the updates the president gave, only two stuck out in my mind. First of all, construction on the wall has already begun and will cost just over a million dollars. “...it's beautiful,” he said. Second, President Trump said that he’s “directed the Pentagon to begin the process of creating a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces, called the Space Force.”
Provided by the Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., every person present had a sign that read “make America strong again,” “make America safe again,” “drain the swamp,” “women for Trump,” or “Trump/Pence.” While President Trump shared statistics on how African American employment has risen, a handmade sign joined those that had been mass produced. It read “blacks for Trump.”
“My friend,” President Trump called, spotting the sign and its owner in the crowd directly before him.
To watch the full campaign, click here.
As soon as the president disappeared behind the enormous American flag, one might have felt like they were watching a time lapse of the arena emptying. While the crowds cleared, the music returned even louder than before. To hear each other, my siblings and I had to place our mouths two inches from the other’s ear and yell as loud as we could. The act was quite entertaining, but we were not sad when the noise stopped two or three songs later.
By this time only the media, those they were interviewing, a few VIPs, event staff, and local authorities remained. My family and I milled around for forgotten belongings, but only strewn popcorn and empty soda cups remained.
Back outside, we were surprised to find that all of the tossed items were gone. Some had been retrieved while the rest, a nearby police officer informed us, had been collected for lost and found. Nevertheless, my dad, brother, and I walked around the front parking lots looking for Yetis and t-shirts while my mom and sister returned to the van. We found one Yeti and one hat, but the rest of the parking seemed as if it had hailed, only the hail was thousands of water bottles (most of which had been run over). The bottom of every trash can in sight was hidden by a pile of disposed water bottles. When we finally returned to the van, my dad, brother, and I had also collected a box of abandoned potato chips.