MANCHESTER, NH — Lucy Lu Kilgore was disappointed that she and her family didn’t make it inside the SNHU Arena to see the President on Thursday. They were among the thousands of Trump supporters who were turned away after the arena reached capacity for the Presidential campaign rally.
“My wife is mostly disappointed because she’ll be sworn in as a U.S. citizen tomorrow,” said Doug Kilgore, a commercial property manager for Brady Sullivan.
They were accompanied by Jade Joensson, who came all the way from Sweden to celebrate her aunt’s citizenship in Concord Friday, and had hoped to see the President of the United States as part of the All-American festivities.
“I’m so proud to be an American and I love this country. It’s a great country – it’s the best country in the world,” said Lucy Lu, who is a native of China.
Her husband explained that they had waited about 90 minutes outside the arena, but they were making the best of the rest of their night on the town.
“We did get to meet a lot of great people while we were in line, joking and laughing, everyone was in great spirits,” Doug Kilgore said. He reflected that they didn’t have any trouble getting into Trump’s post-election rally in 2016. “It was a big crowd, back then, but nobody was turned away.”
Secret Service said 11,500 people filled the arena while a Manchester Police officer on detail outside the arena estimated the overflow crowd was about 6,000 or 7,000.
Rick and Barbara Blais were also left on the outside looking in after three hours waiting in line.
“We did see Trump pass by in the limo,” said Rick Blais. “He waved,” added Barbara.
“Even the protesters weren’t bad,” added Rick Blais. “It seemed like a New Hampshire event, like the old days of New Hampshire politics, when people got along despite their differences.”
John Donaldson and his mother, Joan, of Berlin, were commiserating at Veterans Park with Judy and Peter Turner, of Nashua, whom they had just met as the Turners took a few minutes to rest on one of the stone walls outside the park, tired from all the walking and waiting.
“Yeah, we’re disappointed – but good for him,” said Judy Turner, of Trump’s ability to draw such a huge crowd and fill the SNHU Arena.
John Donaldson said he picked up his mom after he got off work and made the 2½-hour drive from Berlin in record time, but it wasn’t fast enough.
“We drove around for an hour just looking for parking,” John Donaldson said. The Turners said they were going to head home and watch the rally on FOX News, while the Donaldsons were going to head north, after grabbing a bite to eat. “My son has to go to work in the morning,” Joan Donaldson said.
As the human wave of Trump supporters shifted from south to north on Elm Street once the arena doors closed, John Paolini of Piccola Italia stood outside drinking it all in.
“I love to see the city when it’s like this,” Paolini said. “People everywhere – even if they don’t come into the restaurant, it’s alive.”
He and his daughter, Fabiana were just taking a breather from the dinner crowd, and getting some fresh air. A few regulars stopped to say hello and shake John’s hand as they made their way into the restaurant.
“I wish it was always like this down here,” Paolini said. “August was better than July – July was dead.” Next week he will send his twin daughters, Fabiana and her sister, Lorena, back to UNH. “They’ve been working all summer at the restaurant, it’s been great to have them here.”
Among those milling around carrying rally signs were Brian Chick and his wife, Jean Thibierge, of Manchester. Chick’s sign featured a picture of President Obama, and read, “Remember when America was Great.”
“I’m here with this sign because I didn’t know if I’d have another opportunity to express myself. I don’t know if Trump’s coming back to Manchester again before the election,” Chick said. “Trump’s riding the wave Obama started – and he’s starting to screw it up now,” he added, mentioning dismal gains in the stock market. “We’re heading for a recession. I’m tired of his bullshit and lies.”
One guy who said he wasn’t tired of the Trump years yet was Joe Gilmore, of Columbia, SC, who was enjoying brisk sales at his MAGA hat (and other Trump swag) cart. He was parked at the corner of Merrimack and Elm.
“I’ve been doing this since the inauguration,” Gilmore said. “Yes, I’m a Trump supporter. Since he became president all my people are getting jobs. He’s the leader of the free world. You can’t just go talking him down all the time. How would you like it if you were the leader of the world and everyone was saying negative things about you?”
“I like him because he says it like it is,” added Gilmore, excusing himself to make a sale on a $20 MAGA hat, which he said that he prints in his South Carolina-based Trump Gear 2020 printing company. The guy down the street selling them for $10 “doesn’t have the flag sewn on the side like mine do,” he noted with pride.
Also looking to make a few bucks on the Trump crowd Thursday night were Mikey and Alan, two of the city’s familiar faces who can often be seen sitting on the public space outside Bunny’s Convenience, or this night, just beyond Congressman Chris Pappas’ downtown office door.
In front of them were a couple of cardboard signs with Styrofoam cups lined up. The sign read, “Put a buck in the box of who you want to win,” and the cups were labeled “Trump,” “Joe,” and “Undecided.” The other sign read, “Homeless, anything helps,” and “Thank you, almost 5 yrs clean + sober, just need a helping hand, god bless.” Alan wanted to make sure the “sober” part was noted.
Each of the three cups had a few dollars and a couple of pennies, and it looked like the Trump cup was winning.
“Nope,” said Mikey, “actually, the homeless are winning. Alan got some big bills in his pocket tonight.”
Although Mikey made a point of saying that he “didn’t give a damn” about the election, or who wins, there was a third hand-written sign in front of them on the sidewalk, in red-and-blue lettering on white cardboard, which read, “The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who commit it,” a quote attributed to Albert Einstein, “an immigrant scientist.”