By Harley Nefe
President Donald Trump stopped in Hickory to speak at a ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign event on Sunday, Nov. 1, which will be one of his last election rallies during his presidency.
Trump Campaign officials made the announcement of the rally just a day before it took place.
This event followed Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Boone to attend a Sunday worship service at Alliance Bible Fellowship on the same day.
As Pence arrived at the Hickory Regional Airport at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, there were already Trump fans lining up to get ready for the rally that was scheduled for 5:45 p.m., which was nearly 10 hours in advance.
The crowds gathered at the L. P. Frans Stadium, which is the baseball field where the Hickory Crawdads play. People also gathered at the Resurrection Church’s parking lot.
By the time that Pence returned from his trip to Boone at around 10:30 a.m. cars were starting to fill up the parking lots.
There were Trump paraphernalia booths set up in the parking lots as well as live music and food trucks. The scene could be compared to a football tailgating atmosphere or people getting ready to go to a concert.
Many of the Trump supporters were dressed in Trump gear such as shirts and hats. They could also buy additional paraphernalia from the retail booths.
There were a number of people on the site cheering and socializing with other Trump supporters.
By 1 p.m., the crowds started swelling and lines were beginning to get long. People were waiting to get on buses that would transport them half a mile away to the Hickory Regional Airport where the rally was taking place. They also had the option to walk from the parking lot to the airport location.
By 2 p.m., the wait time to load the buses and the walking line to get to the airport was reported to take over an hour.
Once Trump rally attendees reached the airport properties, they were led to a security check where there were about a dozen of entry points with security personnel scanning and checking bags and belongings. Some people were disappointed to find out that items like umbrellas and chairs weren’t allowed into the site, so those items had to be deposited in a location where they could later be retrieved.
Once inside the venue, people were able to see the set up including the stage and a couple of wide screens on the edges.
Trucks were positioned on the perimeter for security purposes.
By 3 p.m., the venue continued to fill up and people kept coming.
Around 4:40 p.m., a few speakers started making some remarks, and the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner were performed.
Some of the speakers included the Republican NC Attorney General candidate Jim O’Neill as well as Senator Thom Tillis.
National media including Fox News and CNN were at the event along with local press. The candidates visited the press area for on-camera interviews.
While the crowd continued to wait for Trump to arrive, they were entertained with music throughout the event. There was a wide music selection being played including songs from Michael Jackson and Queen. There were also T-shirts being thrown out to the audience.
As the sun went down, the cold front that was forecasted to come through started kicking in and the wind picked up causing the temperatures to drop.
There were few people wearing masks throughout the crowd.
When it started to get dark, the lights came on and the venue was well lit.
There was also a lot of security at the event including snipers on top of rooftops and law enforcement and U.S. Secret Service agents among the people doing crowd control and keeping watch.
Crowd members could see helicopters overhead that were doing security sweeps. Each time an aircraft would be on the horizon, attendees thought it was Trump and would get excited.
The presidential helicopter flew in around 6:30 p.m. and pulled up behind the stage. The doors opened, and Trump walked out and went directly to the podium where he immediately started talking.
As Trump welcomed all the people at his rally, he commented on how big the crowd size was.
It was reported that over 30,000 people were estimated to be in the crowd. An additional 5,000 people were still standing in line hoping to get in, but the venue was at capacity.
Trump went on to speak for 45 minutes to the crowd with a political campaign speech.
Upon the conclusion of his remarks, Trump turned around and walked back to the helicopter to leave to attend another campaign event in Rome, Georgia.
The following photos show how the day went:
Photos by Ken Ketchie