Fans Flocked To Trump Appearance At Gateway Airport - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Fans Flocked To Trump Appearance At Gateway Airport

November 6th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Fans Flocked To Trump Appearance At Gateway Airport

By Jason Stone

Staff Writer

Congresswoman Martha McSally doesn’t yet know if President Donald Trump’s support will help send her to the U.S. Senate.

But there’s no doubt the Oct. 19 presidential appearance at a Mesa airport hangar proved East Valley Democrats have their work cut out for them in next week’s election.

Mesa Police Spokesman Steve Berry said he estimates about 20,000 people came to the International Air Response hangar at Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport to hear Trump rally for McSally on Oct. 19.

However, only about 6,000 people made it inside.

Among his fans were South Carolina-resident Diane Dee, who decided to catch Trump in Arizona while visiting her daughter, an Arizona State University student, and her cousin, who lives in Mesa. “I just try to get involved,” Dee said. “And my daughter is interested in it.”

Her daughter, Taylor Christie, an 18-year-old nursing student, wore a “Trump 45: Suck It Up Buttercup” T-shirt.

“I’m on the Trump Train, choo-choo!” she yelled.

Rebecca Hasson, along with her 14-year-old son Eric, watched intently against the gate in front of the video screen that was showing Trump speak to the outside crowd.

She and her husband, Darryl, have owned Yakity Yak wireless, a small cellphone store in Mesa, for the last 17 years. Darryl is a Republican, but Rebecca said she’s independent and goes into every election with an open mind.

“It’s my responsibility as a voter to get as much information as I can,” she said. “We came out when (President Barack) Obama was here too. I just want to be more educated.”

Carol and Peter Wehle were hoping to get inside the venue because they figured they showed up early enough. The couple’s Mesa home at Power and Baseline is only about a ten-minute drive away – but that’s on a normal day.

“We got here at 3 p.m., and I thought that was early,” Carol Wehle said.

The couple actually met Trump around the same time way before he was even a reality TV star. It happened at a gathering for the 1991 Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York.

The Mesa rally might one day be remembered for what didn’t happen, than what did. The rally was a mostly harmonious event. And that was great news to law enforcement after a violence-marred appearance at Trump’s visit last fall at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Nobody was arrested, and police said the only medical problems were a few heat-related issues.

Gilbert resident Susan Myres was one of those who showed up with tickets early but never got inside the hangar. Not that she minded.

“It kind of feels like Woodstock out here” said Myres, who attended with her husband Jon.

Traffic jams forced road closures hours before the 7 p.m. scheduled arrival of Trump.

Attendees who arrived after 3 p.m. were forced to walk at least a mile just to get to a line that stretched by most estimates about two miles around the airport and north up Sossaman toward Ray Road.

“When we got here, we couldn’t even see the end of the line,” Susan Myres said.

The presence of protestors was minimal compared to other Trump events in Arizona over the last couple years. A group of about 20 protestors silently held signs near two pens of people where police were holding attendees near the front of the line as a crowd control measure.

This was no doubt Trump Country for the day. It felt like part rock festival, part tailgating at a football game, except the revelers were standing in a line and not drinking a cold one on the back of their trucks.

“It’s perfect out here,” Jon Myres said, soaking in the 80-degree weather just before Trump arrived. “I wouldn’t expect that.”

The path to the hangar itself was lined with food trucks, featuring barbecued chicken, tacos, Indian fry bread and homemade items. It was hard to walk 10 feet without passing a T-shirt stand. The choices of pro-Trump or liberal-bashing styles were endless.

The ubiquitous Trump “Make America Great Again” hats dominated the line, with at least half the people waiting wearing one if not more.

Instead, organizers handed out placards to those lucky enough to get inside the hangar. The slogans ranged from “Keep America Great Again” to “Finish the Wall.”

Those protestors who were visible outside the venue mostly refused to give interviews to the media or even acknowledge people were speaking to them. One Trump supporter who was waiting in line walked up to a woman holding a sign that read: “You can’t fix stupid but you can VOTE it out!”

A number of people left the venue after finding out they wouldn’t be getting in around 6 p.m. A big video board outside the hangar allowed those who stayed to watch what they were missing inside. Some people in the outside crowd began leaving just minutes into Trump’s speech, figuring there was no point hanging around just to watch TV.

San Diego-resident Paul Marthaler, who was coincidentally vacationing in Arizona, was one of the attendees waiting in line for hours with no guarantees he’d get in. Marthaler questioned why organizers booked such a small venue.

“Well, the silent majority is still alive,” he said with a laugh.