VIENNA, OHIO — Trump supporters came to Vienna for a rally. They ended up in an endurance contest.
First, many supporters drove directly to the rally’s location, the rural Warren-Youngstown Regional Airport. But when they arrived, they were told to turn around, and drive to a minor league baseball stadium about 15 minutes away.
When they got to the stadium, they parked, and joined a line of what looked like at least 2,000 people waiting for shuttle buses back to the airport. It was hard to tell how many people there were, really — the line looped around the parking lot, through rows and rows of parked cars.
There appeared to be no more than seven or eight 60-seat charter buses making trips from the stadium to the airport and back, and the line moved slowly. The rally began at 6 p.m., and people who had been waiting since 4:30 p.m. were still nowhere near the front.
“Can you believe this?” a woman near the center asked her friend. A man walking by her said lightheartedly, “Instead of making us all go to the airport, why couldn’t he have just come to the baseball stadium?”
CREDIT: Emily Atkin
There were probably a couple of reasons why Trump didn’t just go to the baseball stadium.
One, Trump was coming to Ohio directly from a rally in Florida, and the airport location made it easy to just land, rally, and jet off to the next event.
Two, there was no public parking at the airport. There was no place for protestors to gather outside. If protestors wanted to attend Trump’s rally, they would have to wait in line for hours, eight miles away, with thousands of Trump supporters. If protesters weren’t found out while standing in line, they would have then had to take a packed bus to the rally, which would have been a rather intimate experience.
More on that later. Despite the long wait at the stadium, spirits did not appear to be dampened. Not even at 5:45 p.m., when a police officer walked through and informed the crowd that the buses would soon be cut off. Many — at least 1,000 people — would not make it to see Trump.
When 5:55 p.m. rolled around, it became clear that the hundreds of people still on line would have to leave. One man shouted across the lot: “Let’s walk! C’mon everyone! We’re walking!” People held up their homemade “Make America Great Again” signs and began to chant: “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”
Then the line broke up, and people started walking to their cars. That’s when the protesters made themselves known. A group of young black women and men revealed signs that said “Dump Trump” and “Down with Donald.” One man from Pittsburgh ripped off his long sleeve shirt to reveal a white shirt underneath, reading “Donald Drumpf has tiny hands.”
No protestors here at the rally, but at the shuttles 15 mins away … pic.twitter.com/Ovw2vESfw6
— Emily Atkin (@emorwee) March 14, 2016
After some near-altercations in the parking lot, the disappointed Trump supporters and protestors left, except for about 100 people who continued to wait.
The waiting paid off. At around 6:30 p.m., three buses came back and told the remaining supporters to hop in.
“It’s a miracle,” a woman said as she got on the bus. “A gift from God.”
The bus ride itself was like a summer camp trip to Six Flags adventure park. Supporters chanted Trump’s name, held up their signs, and waved out the windows. People turned around in their seats to tell strangers why they were excited to see the next President of the United States. “I’ve liked him for years,” the woman seated next to me, a self-proclaimed born-again Christian, said. “I always wanted him to run.”
The rally itself was calm. Unlike many of his recent events, Trump’s speech went uninterrupted by protesters. All the people inside Trump’s event — who sacrificed hours of their time to be there — were only there to listen.
They would eventually sacrifice hours more. After Trump’s speech ended at round 7:30 p.m., about a thousand supporters lined up outside to wait for the bus rides back. At around 8 p.m., they watched as Trump’s jet took off above them.
At around 9 p.m, with temperatures dropping and hundreds of people still waiting outside for a ride back to their cars, the sky broke open, and rain began to pour.