June 20, 2018 10:29 PM
Joe Bergeron and his family arrived in Duluth at 11 a.m. Tuesday to be at the front of the line to see President Donald Trump in Duluth Wednesday night.
He and his family took turns keeping place in line, while other slept in the cab of his truck.
"Seeing President Trump is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Bergeron, a resident of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.
Trump visited Duluth Wednesday to rally his base in northern Minnesota at the AMSOIL Arena. During the event, the president spoke on a variety of topics, including the upcoming mid-terms, North Korea and American jobs.
A majority of those in line to see Trump Wednesday afternoon — many clad in "Make America Great Again" apparel — shared Bergeron's sentiment.
Bergeron and his family's diligence paid off, as the line to get into the arena twisted through the Duluth skyways into downtown.
Toward the end, some were concerned about their chance of entry. But they said they were just excited to be in the city at the same time as the president.
Many supporters said their reason for attending had to do with the excitement and entertainment of hearing the president speak.
"It's just fun," one said. "I go to see these for the same reason middle-aged people go to see the Doobie Brothers at Treasure Island."
"I'm not expecting a doctoral thesis. I'm expecting something fun that causes leftists to feel angry."
Front Row Joe
Fun is what brought out Randal "Front Row Joe" Thom.
Thom received the nickname after traveling see Trump four times and appearing in the front row.
What keeps bringing Thom back?
"The joy of attending the Trump Love Fest," Thom said. "We don't call them rallies, we call them love fests."
While supporters like Simones and Thom attended for the energetic scene, many were there to hear Trump's policy messages.
For Gary Diede of Eveleth, Trump's talk of American jobs was very important.
"I was laid off for a year, and when Trump came into office, business picked back up," Diede said.
Diede, a metal fabricator, said he supports Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. During the president's speech, he spoke briefly about copper nickel mining in Superior National Forest, which was met with applause and the waving of "Make America Great Again" hats.
Other supporters said they came for a non-traditional approach to politics and no-holds-barred speaking.
"I feel like he doesn't filter stuff and he delivers it to us," Mary Ann Mozey of Mahtomedi said. "We were getting kind of tired having a handler. I don't need to be treated like a child. Give me the information and we'll make a decision on it."
When speaking of Trump's non-traditional approach to politics, Sara Bornes of Carver echoed a phrase heard often during the 2016 election cycle.
"I don't want anymore swamp-dwellers," Bornes said. "The swamp is deep."
Opponents make voices heard
While a majority of those outside the AMSOIL Arena were supporters, some came to speak out against the president and his administration.
Inside the skyway, a group of protesters, some wearing masks, came through.
After shouts like "Get a job" or "Show your face" were hurled, one demonstrator tossed an energy drink, hitting supporters and others.
Those inside who tried to protest were quickly shown out. Twice during the rally, supporters chanted "Trump, Trump, Trump," drowning out protesters. As both were being led out, they were met with boos.
Following the rally, a number of demonstrator stood outside, attempting to have cordial conversation with those in red hats.
"We chose to come down here after the rally just due to the fact that there are so many people here who are hating on our opinion, but there are 10 or 12 of us here to tell them their opinions are OK and we should have a right to our opinion," Caden Dudek of Duluth said.
Upset with the president and his policies, Dudek said Trump doesn't represent Minnesota values.
"When it comes to Trump's things, I feel like he just listens to himself, he doesn't listen to the people," Dudek said.
While Dudek hoped to sway some supporters' opinions, most said they plan to remain loyal to Trump no matter the circumstance.
"Not everything is going to be perfect rose petals across the board," Thom said. "But when you look at the bigger picture and understand the bigger picture, to get there you may have to accept some things that taste a little crappy to get to the best part of the steak.
"And the best part of the steak is America being first."
Updated: June 20, 2018 10:29 PM
Created: June 20, 2018 10:18 PM
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