I wrote a post earlier this week featuring true-life accounts of what it’s like to attend Trump rallies from Facebook friends. Dozens of comments came in with even more fascinating stories, photos and videos describing the experience and explaining exactly what it is about our President that makes him so lovable in person.
A Navy veteran (1980-1986) who was stationed at NAS Barbers Point Hawaii and deployed throughout the Pacific, Steve Ramsay, 57, of Clearwater, Florida has been to nearly a dozen Trump rallies, and he shared some photos with us in my earlier post. Then he got to work writing the details of his adventures with Trump, and I knew everyone would want to hear his tips and tricks for attending a rally.
Ramsay says that it all began with an invitation from the Trump Campaign to a rally in Tampa, just after the former businessman won the Republican primary. “I arrived at the venue about two hours early; made it past the protesters, through the T-shirt vendors, to a line that formed a couple of football fields from the entrance, and through the TSA. Once in, I was lucky to find a seat in the crowded arena. The music was loud. The mood was festive. I took the Trump campaign sign that was carefully placed on my seat and watched a half-dozen or so local government officials take turns pumping up the crowd; then the Pledge of Allegiance, the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, and the introduction of Donald J. Trump. The place erupted.
“Not knowing what to expect, I learned from this rally and every other one, that it takes one hour from the time the first speaker takes the stage to when the Rock Star himself comes out,” explains Ramsay, noting that as he took the stage, Trump “was in the habit of connecting with the people. He would look right at you. He would point right at someone, and he had this an unmistakable gesture where he would point at everyone; moving his arm from left to right as if to acknowledge and connect with everyone in a particular row.
The second rally Ramsay attended was in Sarasota. “It was hot. The line went about two blocks, then around a corner for another two blocks,” Ramsay describes, going on to say how connected people were with each other. “We all had something in common. An unmistakable camaraderie existed with a diverse line of slow sidewalk progress. Either you were in a conversation, or you were listening in on someone else’s.”
While he was standing in line, Ramsay heard someone yell, “Are there any Veterans here?”
Ramsay said yes and was handed a unique poster/campaign sign. “He only had a few of them,” recalled the veteran who stayed in his seat until he was only one left in the nose-bleed section. “I saw Trump slowly walking to his exit after signing a bunch of autographs, and then he glanced up me; and I’m this skinny guy in the upper deck with my hand in a fist holding it in the air and the other hand holding up my unique campaign sign. The glance was more than a second, and I sure wish I could have read his mind at that moment. The sign hangs in my living room.”
Taking what he’d learned from the previous two, Ramsay prepared meticulously for his third rally. Here are his ways of getting ready:
- Get there 5 or 6 hours prior to the rally; try to be one of the first in line.
- Pack bottled water and some few snacks.
- When TSA opens up, there’s a mad rush to floor level. The best seats are behind the podium.
Ramsay notes that arriving early and nabbing this prime location probably made him a “person of interest” to the Secret Service. “There were large sections of black canvas covering the front row bleachers, and I sat behind them. It was an area where no one was, except for me. Then a man comes over and sits down next to me,” he recalls, adding that the guy began asking a lot of questions, although he seemed friendly. “He claimed to be a sub-contractor who went after fugitives. We traded business cards. I think he was Secret Service checking me out with my early arrival, close proximity to the would-be President, and bizarre location in which I was seated.”
As Trump began speaking, a protester broke the silence in the audience. “A large man began yelling, arms flailing and throwing his weight around. He had to be restrained for the safety of those around him, but the ruckus worked its way over to where I was standing with a drink and cheese nachos. As three officials tried to contain him, he knocked into me, spilling my food and putting me on television!” recalled Ramsay, who enjoyed seeing himself on the news that night.
The events just got better for Ramsay, who was actually acknowledged by Trump at a rally held at the University of South Florida Sun Dome. “While giving his speech, Trump was trying to convey his thoughts on the military, but he couldn’t seem to find the right words. Suddenly, he looked directly at me, pointed and said, ‘But there’s a military man!’ Everyone there turned around and looked directly at me. I wasn’t in uniform, yet he called me out. How was that possible?”
Ramsay notes that while you’re waiting in line for hours, at one point you will notice a helicopter approaching. That’s Trump. “You can easily tell his helicopter from traffic or police,” he says, adding that Trump apparently likes to get a feel for each event by circling around and checking out the crowd lines.
“Guys in the front row of the venue are the ones Trump appreciates the most,” Ramsay says, adding that the President acknowledges the fact that those early birds have been on their feet for eight hours after traveling from who-knows-how-far-away.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a ticket. “I have never seen anyone collect a ticket at any rally whatsoever,” says Ramsay, noting that once he called the Trump campaign and immediately received a ticket.
Ramsay once saw Trump at a Town Hall at the Tampa Convention Center, where he appeared with Sarah Palin. “No one (in my opinion) is better suited to intro Donald Trump than Sarah Palin (except Pam Bondi),” says Ramsay, noting that the former Governor of Alaska is larger than life in person. “I was a few feet away from her and had no idea what a presence she was. Unfortunately, she had just received word of her husband Todd having been in a snowmobile accident. The news was delivered to her as she was speaking, but she didn’t falter, and her smile and spark was there the whole time.”
Palin went on to endorse Katrina Pierson in her bid for a Congressional seat in Texas. Pierson would later become a spokesperson for then-candidate Trump. “I saw Pierson as key to getting Trump elected,” notes Ramsay, admitting that he toyed with asking the dynamic woman on a date but then decided against it.