Braving inclement weather and rising temperatures, Donald Trump supporters flocked to Orlando Melbourne International Airport hours before a rally Tuesday night.
More than 10,000 Floridians clad in Trump memorabilia trekked from their cars to the airport’s Aeromod International Hanger. The snaking line continued to grow, forcing security to turn hundreds away after the facility reached excess capacity.
Although the Heath family only had to drive 15 minutes from their home in Melbourne, they waited in line for nearly three hours. Stephanie Heath, 50, said she was disappointed that her son Aaron Heath, 16, and his close friend Sean Hamilton, 15, missed an opportunity to learn more about the Trump platform and witness history in their own hometown.
“As students, they wanted to be here,” Stephanie Heath said. “They wanted to be able to listen, support and be part of this new age. These guys are going to be the ones that have to live through this. These guys are the ones that are going to make a difference.”
After being denied entry into the rally, the Heaths befriended the Waulberger family, who drove three hours from their home in St. Augustine. As loyal fans of the Michigan Wolverines, the Waulbergers playfully said they would be willing to disregard the Heaths’ love for the Ohio State Buckeyes in order to unite and advocate for Trump.
“We actually agree on one thing, and that’s who we want for president,” said Mike Waulberger, a University of Michigan alumnus. “See? Trump can even bring rivalries together.”
Dressed in red, white and blue, Terri Clendenin of Melbourne watched from the sidelines as throngs of people began running to the rally’s entrance and shouting repeatedly, “We want Trump!” Clendenin said it is not a mystrery why she and thousands of others support Trump.
“He’s not a politician,” Clendenin said. “He’s for the people and that’s what the people want.”
Even as attendees began to trickle back to the parking lot, vendors like Andy Staffer set up shop outside the Aeromod International Hanger.
For the last year, the Sarasota resident has packed his van with two for $30 hats bearing the slogan “Make America Great Again!” Traveling to 47 states has forced him to become accustomed to living on the road, he said with a chuckle.
“I love Donald Trump, and I hate crooked Hillary … You could be for Hillary and be on welfare or you could vote for Trump and make America great and make some money. I’m already making money because of Trump,” said Staffer, who makes about $800 a day selling hats.
Barbara Shaw, a Melbourne resident and senior citizen, managed to get through the entrance doors after waiting in line for three hours. Shaw’s back problems forced her to leave the rally early, but not before Trump touched on points that resonated with her beliefs.
“We can’t go with another Hillary,” Shaw said. “If we go with another Hillary, we go with another Obama. We have to have new and [Trump’s] new. This is the ‘new’ movement — new generation, new votes, new America.”
Kyle Stapleton, a Palm Bay resident who said he served in the army for six years, said Trump is the leader this country needs to “get back on its feet.”
“You want to be a part of history,” Stapleton said. “Things change — society changes, technology changes — but the same policies are still talked about every single election … What does it really boil down to? It has to do with one thing. If America and the world runs on money, I don’t understand how people don’t see somebody that has been so financially successful [as a viable candidate]. It sounds like Trump would be the person to get your vote.”