Faithful, curious: Trump's Harrisburg rally draws thousands

Greg Gross

Tom Smith wanted to make sure he got a good position to see Donald Trump in Harrisburg on Thursday.

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump speaks during his rally at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg Thursday. Amanda J. Cain photo

So the West Manchester Township resident showed up at the Farm Show Complex four hours before the Republican front-runner was slated to go on stage.

“It's exciting to finally get to see the person who stood up to both parties and who will make America great again,” Smith said.

The early arrival was well worth it. Smith was down in front, standing a few feet from Trump's podium.

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He beat out a crowd of several thousand people that filled up about half an arena in the complex. The line to get in, at one point, stretched the length of the complex and back again.

“They were lined up at 12:30 (p.m.) when I came by,” said Fred Jenkins of New Cumberland.

Trumpeting: Trump's stump speech mostly centered around his promise to bring back business and jobs and was inner-spliced with his other campaign promises to build a wall on the Mexican-U.S. Border that Mexico will pay for, and create a military so large “nobody will mess with us.”

“We're gonna knock the hell out of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria),” Trump said.

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No one was safe from Trump's wrath as he took aim at his rivals in Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary. Neither Texas Sen. Ted Cruz nor Ohio Gov. John Kasich have a chance at winning the GOP nomination, said Trump, who also fired a few verbal shots at Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Even the media received a tongue lashing from Trump.

“They are the worst. They are the most dishonest people,” Trump said.

At various points during his roughly hour-long speech, Trump doubled back on topics, repeating himself numerous times.

But the crowd loved it and responded with spontaneous applause every few minutes and chanted “Build that Wall” and “U-S-A” every chance they had.

As usual, Trump promised that America will win so much that people will beg him to stop winning.

And no Trump rally is complete with protesters. About 10 or so were quickly pointed out by Trump and his supporters before they were carted off by police and state troopers to the cheers to the crowd.

“We love our police,” Trump said, as officers removed one of the protesters. “They are running him out. I love this.”

Sharp-dressed man: Jenkins, the New Cumberland Trump fan, was likely the sharpest dressed man at the rally. He was clad in a white suit and shirt, blue vest, red tie and one blue and one red scarf slung around his neck. He also had gold rings on his fingers and a gold bracelet around his wrist.

It was all in hopes of catching Trump's attention.

"He's coming in this door," Jenkins said, motioning to a side entrance to the arena floor. "That's why I'm standing here."

Trump ended up walking on stage via a different route.

The rally also attracted the curious.

Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, stood in the back of the crowd during Trump's speech, checking out the candidate and gauging the crowd's reaction to him.

Wagner, who once backed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for the Republican nomination, said he's not endorsing any candidate now and wanted to see the tone of the crowd. But Wagner said he can see how people have been drawn to Trump, who has tapped into anger Americans have about the direction the country is going.

There are some parallels between Trump and Wagner. Both have lots of money, an ability to reach voters who aren't happy with the status quo, and neither man can be called a career politician.

“He was a lot more money than I do,” Wagner noted. “I got elected in a special election because people were angry."

Party: The rally had a carnival-like atmosphere, complete with merchants' tables packed with Trump gear lining the sidewalk.

With gold teeth shining and dreadlocks sticking out from under his hat, Adrian Robinson pushed his Trump merchandise-laden cart, calling out to anyone who would listen: “Get your Trump gear here.”

“I like Trump,” said Robinson, who's been following the candidate from rally to rally since December. “You know what you're getting with the Donald.”

T-shirts dangled from his cart and buttons were pinned to a large piece of cardboard. Red foam fingers, tucked between the popular “Make American Great Again” caps, stuck out from the top.

“It's always like this,” Robinson said of the crowd, pausing to sell a couple of the caps at $20 a pop. “We can't keep them.

Katie, 8, and her brother Wesley Kriner, 9, of Chambersburg, hold up Trump signs Thursday, during the Donald J. Trump for President Rally at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg. Amanda J. Cain photo

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.