LITITZ, Pa. – They began to arrive more than 40 hours before President Donald Trump took the stage in this stretch of rural Pennsylvania where horse-drawn buggies remain a common sight. By 10 p.m., a small group had set up an overnight camp on lawn chairs as a cold drizzle set in.
“I am the crazy Trumper,” declared Kyle Terry, 33. He had been the first to arrive at the IMAX parking lot — at 8 p.m. Saturday for a Monday afternoon rally, his fifth of the fall. “I love it. I’ve been having the most fun of my life. And I really just don’t want this to stop."
As President Donald Trump faces an uncertain future, so too does a fixture of the American political scene over the last five years: the Trump campaign rally, a phenomenon that has spawned friendships, businesses and a way of life for Trump’s most dedicated supporters. His fans have traveled the country to be part of what they describe as a movement that could outlive his time in office.
Some have attended so many rallies they've lost count, road-tripping from arena to arena like rock groupies. They come for the energy, the validation of being surrounded by like-minded people, the feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves. Sociologists and historians see elements of a religious following.
They are people like Cynthia Reidler, 55, who has been a Trump supporter since he announced his candidacy. She has been to nearly 20 Trump events, from rallies to Fourth of July celebrations on the National Mall.
“The feeling — like it just grabs you," she said as she waited near the front of the line Monday morning, dressed in a red poncho and headband with tinsel and lights that no longer lit up because of the rain. “I always say it’s better than a rock concert. And it’s free.”
Reidler, who lives in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, arrived at Lancaster Airport around 2:30 p.m. the day before the rally and camped out overnight so she could snag her favorite spot up front. The waiting game, for her, is part of the fun.
“It’s just a whole lot of excitement that I don’t think you can explain. It brings back a time when our country was just so happy and so positive," she said, comparing the feeling to the time she marched in a bicentennial parade as a Girl Scout when she was 11.