Donald Trump’s Wildwood NJ beach rally expected to draw thousands

WILDWOOD — In front of thousands of supporters, Donald Trump took the stage shortly before 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11.

Fans stood in a sealed-off section of beach near Lincoln Avenue, but the crowd and onlookers showed up hours before to take in the scene. Trump’s Boeing 757 touched down shortly after 4 p.m. at Atlantic City International Airport from LaGuardia in New York. The plane made a pass over the rally and circled back to AC, according to data from the flight tracking app Flightradar24.

7:45 p.m.: Trump finishes his speech, but the crowd had thinned out considerably before it was over due to the cold and wind.

6:24 p.m.: Trump takes the stage to cheers and “USA!” chants.

6:21 p.m.: New Jersey’s Joe Piscopo greets Trump supporters, minutes before the former president is expected to take the stage.

6:13 p.m.: “Y.M.C.A.” is playing. Trump should be coming out shortly.

5:40 p.m.: The Trump motorcade appears to have arrived. The crowd, which became quiet during the wait, has started to stir. There was a big cheer, but wait! It’s Doug Burgum, the governor of North Dakota.

5:17 p.m.: Music from the 1970s and ’80s continues to play at the rally. Currently it’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” by Elton John.

4:22 p.m.: “USA!” chants ring out from Cap’n Jacks in the Boardwalk Mall across from the beach rally. The line to get in is moving quickly as supporters flood the rally area. The wind near the water makes it feel like the temperature has dropped. The high was expected to reach 56 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, which predicted an afternoon wind from the ocean of about 10 mph.

4:10 p.m.: U.S. Rep Jeff Van Drew urges Trump supporters to vote early, noting “Democrats win with it.” Earlier, Drew Drew told a reporter, “This has got to be the biggest political rally in the history of New Jersey.” A dentist and former Democrat, Drew is wearing an American flag lapel pin in the shape of a tooth. The lining of his blue suit is made up of multiple U.S. flags

3:29 p.m.: After 90 minutes of music, the crowd cheers as a Donald Trump recording says, “This is the final battle.”

2:55 p.m.: Ocean County Republican Chairman George R. Gilmore, who was pardoned for tax and banking crimes on Trump’s last night as president, has a coveted seat in the bleachers behind the main stage. In 2020, Trump won more votes in Ocean County than any other in New Jersey: 217,740 to Biden’s 119,456. No Republican has won New Jersey’s electoral votes since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

2:42 p.m.: The single protestor who is holding the “No One is Above the Law” sign has been walking up and down the boardwalk for hours. While he won’t stop to talk, he has been yelled at, cursed at, and booed.

2:15 p.m.: The Donald Trump campaign rally began at 2 p.m. with the audience cheering a video repeatedly showing the American flag and drawing cheers for law enforcement. An artist took centerstage to paint a flag on a canvas, then pulled a covering away to reveal an image of Trump, with notably muscular arms folded, wearing a “47” T-shirt. A large American flag waved overhead, and a banner plane carried a political message across the sky.

2:02 p.m.: Among the many supporters of Trump at the rally is Republican Jack Ciattarelli, who is making his third run for New Jersey governor. “This crowd has been amazing today,” Ciattarelli said. “For so many to come and support President Trump, who I believe will win the election, has been great to witness.”

2 p.m.: Jen Reiss of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, was elated to be able to attend the rally today as she missed the last one Trump had in Wildwood in 2020. “It’s been an amazing experience with a lot of laughter and joy,” Reiss said. “You can feel the excitement swirling in the crowd and who can blame them? While I wasn’t at the last one, I could feel that people were happy and not as anxious about being able to get into the rally. As we know, the 2020 rally was a certain amount of tickets given out. This time, I believe everyone will be able to get in and see the former president.”

Crowds of people on the Wildwood boardwalk were wearing shirts supporting the 45th President. Ciattarelli could be seen meeting people and posing for photos.

1:18 p.m.: Gilmore said about 400 Trump supporters from the county were expected to attend the rally. He was on his way to the event before 1 p.m.

1:06 p.m.: Joe Sereday, the chairman of the Burlington County Young Republicans, is volunteering during the event and helping the crowd and supporters get to where they need to be. “This … is a once-in-a-lifetime event for some, and being able to see any president, former or future, speak is a gift,” Sereday said. “I think it’s just an amazing event to be apart of. My friend is a Democrat who is coming just for the experience. Like him, if I had a chance to see former President Obama speak, … I would jump on regardless of me disagreeing with some of what he has done.”

There is a group of Proud Boys at the event, wearing masks. Some Trump supporters were seen arguing with them. Police were in the vicinity so it did not escalate into anything serious.

Trump’s ticketed audience members waited on a section of beach not far from amusement parks with roller coasters and other attractions, and also not far from lines of portable toilets.

12:18 p.m.: The protest area is empty with not a soul in sight. Meanwhile, the Trump rally line continues to grow, Protest groups were to be restricted to an adjacent beach, separated from Trump and the crowd by an amusement park, according to Wildwood police.

11:51 a.m.: Alexander Costello, a waiter at the Cap’n Jack’s across the way from rally on the boardwalk, was pretty excited about the rally. “Usually Memorial day kicks everything off for this season, but with this event happening, it’s good to be back earlier than usual,” Costello said. Customers were lined up at the door before the restaurant opened. “The people have been really awesome so far,” Costello said. “You could say rambunctious,  but really kind and just having good time.”

One couple from upstate New York, who did not want to be identified, said “whether you support Trump or not, being able to see a former president speak is still a gift. We came down to support the people of our great country as they use their rights given by those who came before.”

A boardwalk stand sold Trump merchandise to the former president’s supporters, many of whom formed a long line in advance of noon admission to the beach rally. There’s also a car show going on.

By 10:30 a.m., people were lining up, laughing, sharing stories in anticipation of the rally. Someone costumed as a mythical figure held a placard declaring, “Wildwood Seaquatch for President.”

Flags for the United States, Israel and Trump flew in a cluster outside the Wildwoods Convention Center. Not far away, a SWAT team vehicle rumbled down a street. Some boardwalk access points were closed off by police.

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The rally will provide a big change of scenery for Trump, who has spent recent days inside a New York City courtroom for his trial on hush-money charges.

Trump’s appearance will be his second in Wildwood.

He spoke as president at the Wildwoods Convention Center in January 2020.

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That rally, which drew about 7,000 people, came shortly after the area’s congressman, Rep. Jeff Van Drew of Cape May County, changed his political affiliation from Democratic to Republican.

Van Drew, who is New Jersey chairman for Trump’s current campaign, announced plans for this weekend’s rally on April 17.

Jim Walsh is a senior reporter with the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal. Email: Jwalsh@cpsj.com.


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