Rick Frazier drove more than 750 miles from Ohio to Tulsa to be one of the first campers in line for President Donald Trump’s first rally in months, undeterred by a days-long wait in the searing Oklahoma heat.
The 64-year-old is among scores of supporters who have brought their vans, tents, campers and Trump flags to the parking lots and sidewalks outside the 19,000-seat BOK Center, and who say what matters most is being there to see the president take the stage on Saturday — and to be sure he knows they have his back.
“The big thing is to go in and support the president,” said Frazier, who arrived Tuesday for what will be his 21st Trump rally. Frazier said he feels safe, noting that he and other campers are using hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Trump rallies are known for being big events with a festive atmosphere, and have always drawn die-hard supporters who camp outside for days to secure a spot and pass time at a kind of political tailgate party.
The groups gathering in Tulsa are taking that loyalty to a new level.
Temperatures in Tulsa have reached the 90s, and the Trump faithful are camped in areas with hardly a spot of shade. Trump said Thursday that he picked Oklahoma partly because “you’ve done so well with the COVID.”
Trump said there had been “tremendous requests for tickets” and that there will be “a crowd like I guess nobody has seen before.”
Trump’s campaign added language to the event registration stating that guests assumed risk for expose to COVID-19.
But meeting with Trump at the White House on Thursday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt pledged the state is ready, noting that its rate of positive COVID-19 tests is lower than many other states.
“It’s going to be safe,” said Stitt, a Republican. “We have to learn how to be safe and how to move on.”
Trump has taken a hiatus from the rallies that have been a centerpiece of his campaign, halting them since March because of the virus.
But he has been eager to return to the events, which allow him to rally his base and build the campaign database of supporters.
Rainey Strader, 48, who traveled to Tulsa from Iowa with her husband and 75-year-old mother, said she brought a mask but isn’t sure if she will wear it once she gets inside the venue.
Strader said she isn’t worried about COVID-19, which she considers to be “like the flu.”
“It’s just a new thing and everybody’s worried,” said Strader, who was doing a word-search puzzle while she waited Thursday with her mother while her husband slept in their van. “It’s exaggerated.”
Strader’s mother, Catherine Pahsetopah, said she’s seen presidents come and go — all the way “back to Eisenhower” — and Trump ranks among the best.
“He’s great. He’s wonderful,” Pahsetopah said, adding that “If John Kennedy knew what happened to the Democratic Party he wouldn’t want them” because of their support for abortion.
Delmer Phillips, 41, of Tulsa, described himself and others that showed up early for the rally as “front-row Joes” excited to get a glimpse of the president.
He said he won’t wear a mask this weekend because he believes he may have already had the virus and has built up immunity.
“I’m personally not so worried about it,” he said. “I believe in God, and I don’t live in fear.”
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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